Being able to serve my community is all about building relationships. Not that I’m perfect, but building relationships is something at which I excel. Some of it is probably personality, I’m an extrovert, and some of it is my background, I was a waitress for years before and during graduate school. However, I do think that some of it can be learned.
Before I give you some pointers, I want to remind you that my frame of reference is academic libraries. My community is predominantly faculty, students, administrators, and staff. Even though I don’t know the major groups in the communities of other libraries, I do know that a lot of this will translate regardless.
Here are some techniques that I've used:
- Get to know their interests. This is a never ending process, but it’s worth all the effort and more. I spoke about this in my post about my collection development philosophy, but it goes beyond what books/journals/electronic resources I get for them. For example, there’s a member of our communication department who has a Godzilla obsession. When I saw a very cute, Godzilla-inspired comic, I sent him the link. I knew he’d appreciate it.
- Try to help with their projects. Last year, I helped gather greeting cards to send to the Red Cross, who sent them on to service members stationed overseas. This was one small part of a much bigger, grant-sponsored event that was coordinated by faculty in the English and education departments. They were grateful for the help and I had fun.
- Get outside of the library. I go to theater department productions, football games, student research presentations. I eat lunch in the dining hall, get coffee at the student center. Recently, I’ve been talked into refereeing late night dodge ball. Getting to know members of my community is much easier when I participate in that community.
Depending on the size of your community, you might not be able to use some of my ideas. Heck, you might not be able to use any of them. For me, it all comes down to this: you should try to meet your community members where they are, not where you think they should be. Be interested in what they’re doing and they might just return the favor.
How about you? What do you do to get to know your community members better?