A post by Faculty Librarian Ben Taylorson
Welcoming and introducing people to the University Library during open days is one of the most enjoyable parts of my job. It’s always nice to see so many prospective students (and their families) coming onto campus for the first time, and looking to get a feel for both the university and the city. And being able to offer them guidance, information and – in some cases – reassurance (“don’t worry, you won’t have to read all of the books!) is particularly satisfying.
Earlier this month Durham hosted a couple of open days which were easily the biggest since Covid stopped such things. As always seems to be the case on open days, the sun was shining and Durham was looking particularly welcoming as 1,000s of people descended on Durham to take in as much as they could in the few hours they were here.
I was part of the team responsible for planning what we would be offering in the Bill Bryson Library this time around. This included:
- Creating a short self-guided tour, allowing visitors to get a feel for the building, our collections, study spaces and areas – without getting lost. Visitors were able to scan a QR code which linked to a map of the building and a recommended route. In addition, we had some physical signage to help.
- In addition to the tour, there were some other posters about our facilities dotted around the library, with QR coded links to more information. This allows visitors to take in as much or as little extra information as they would like
- Being on hand to offer guidance, support and advice. A mix of library staff and student ambassadors manned a welcome point (complete with freebies to give away!). In addition to the two most common queries – where are the toilets and/or where is the café – a lot of prospective students and their parents want to know where the physical book stock for certain subject areas are. This means directing folks all over the building, so if you don’t know where every subject area is at the start of an open day, you almost certainly do by the end of it!
The most important thing is of course to make the library – both the building and the service – as welcoming as possible. You can see by the expression of some visitors’ faces that they have never seen a library on this scale before. It almost seems to become a physical manifestation of the 3 years’ worth of work ahead, which understandably can be a bit overwhelming! So, reassuring people there is always help on hand and that it really won’t seem as daunting once you’re used to it becomes important. Having our mascot ‘Billy Bee’ around always helps to make things more relaxed!
The most satisfying part of the job is seeing and (over)hearing people saying nice things about the physical library spaces, the collections and the welcome they have received!