Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Connecting With New Faculty, Or, Welcome to Our World


The new academic year is going to start any second now. Okay, it starts in a couple of weeks, but it feels like I've only got seconds left. That means, among many other things, that new faculty are showing up. In some ways, the relationships we develop with faculty are more important than with students. Faculty are here for the long haul, unlike students who are typically only here for four years, so we want to make the best first impression we can.

How do we do that? The first thing we do is to contact them before they even get to campus. Yup. You read that correctly. We get names, addresses, and degree (so we know whether to address someone as Dr. or Ms. or Mr. or whatever) and department information, at the end of the previous Spring semester, and then send them welcome packets. There's a letter from the director, a few information pamphlets, appropriate business cards, and some kind of swag like sticky notes.

We don't stop there, either. We have a guaranteed spot on the agenda for their orientation day - just a half hour or so, but that's all we need for that day. It's more a time to say, "Hi, we're the ones who sent you the nifty sticky notes and letter. We'll be in touch," than anything else.

And then there's the coup de grĂ¢ce: I take each and every one of them on an individual, personalized tour of the library building. Yes, it takes a lot of my time, but it's worth it. I can make sure each person gets the information they need. For instance, I show everyone the curriculum and children's literature collections, but my focus for an education professor (how the curriculum materials are organized and how to request new items) is very different from what I discuss with a new biology professor ("These materials are available for everyone, not just the education department, so feel free to bring any young relatives down here and check out books for them."). Similarly, I show everyone the archives but would make sure the archivist will be in her office at the time if the tour is for a new history professor.

These individualized tours also give me the opportunity to talk up our other services and to learn about the new professors. What was the topic of their dissertation? What kinds of classes will they be teaching? What kinds of electronic resources have they used at other schools? And then there's my favorite thing to do during these walks around the building. Here's a made up example: "Oh, you're going to teach a class about the art of grave stones? Did you know that Professor X teaches a class about death and dying? Also, I think Professor Y wrote her dissertation about memorial monuments. Would you like me to introduce you to either of them?"

As I mentioned above, this does take lots of time. There are actually 16 new people starting this year, so I'm talking about eight to 12 hours of my life over the first month of the semester. Everything else we've tried has been a flop, so I invest this time. Nothing else works quite as well as the personal touch.

How about you? How do you welcome new people to your community?

1 comment:

  1. I appreciate your professionalism. Although it seems a little overboard to spend so much time catering to professors, I know from experience that it makes a huge difference. As an undergraduate I worked at my campus library and had multiple professors openly disparage its selection and services during their office hours. I'm assuming no one took the time to show them around and make them feel welcome.