OK, I will admit that the title is a bit of a stretch. See if you can follow this train of thought.
I was intrigued by the article Campus Tours Go Disney by Eric Hoover. It is posted on Washington Monthly, though Hoover is also a senior writer for the Chronicle of Higher Education. The article discusses the influence Jeff Kallay has had on the evolution of campus tours and how this came about because of his near obsession with the Magic Kingdom.
Inspired by Disney's attempt to create a total "experience", he has consulted with hundreds of campuses on making their tours more authentic and to include as many of the five senses as possible to give the prospective students and their parents a day that they will truly remember. You can read the article to get an idea of some of the specifics, but what first got me to finish reading to the end was this:
In presentations, he has even suggested that tours should deemphasize their facilities, even if it means skipping the library. “Everyone’s got one,” he says.
Of course this got me frustrated. Especially in light of the recent discussion (see my previous post) on the value of libraries. One part of Dr. Oakleaf's recent report suggests that academic libraries need to research how libraries contribute to recruitment of students, but if the library is left out of the most important recruitment tool, then that would tend to belittle any contribution the library has.
So this then made me think if there is anything we can do to make a lasting impression and add to the "total experience" of the tour. A few ideas that I have had, in no means necessarily even feasible:
- Include a coupon in their tour packet for a free coffee or pastry compliments of the library, especially if you have a cafe in-house
- Create a video, a link to which would be included in the tour packet, of student experiences with the library
- Invite all of the tour guides in to a special gathering (you would probably need to include pizza) where they and/or other invited students would talk about the best things they have experienced at the library
Because of Jeff Kallay and the "total experience" movement in campus tours, the tour guides are usually encouraged to share personal experiences as they move around campus and seeding the minds of the guides with some particularly beneficial testimonials couldn't hurt.
Anyway, as I was thinking about this, I admitted to myself that there is probably not a lot I could do to influence the campus tour. I am in a smaller unit library on a large campus. So this made me focus on what could be done in my own library. We rarely get prospective students to take on tours, but we do get a wonderfully semi-mandatory group of new students (first years and transfers) to tour around the library every semester. It is often their first "experience" with the library. So, then, how do you make it memorable?
Well, for me it remains important to make sure that when anyone comes for the tour, we do incorporate as much or more in anecdotes as we do in straight "and here is where the books are" kind of information. For instance "Yes, it is generally acknowledged that we have the most comfortable chairs on campus." or "We have actually had complaints from people about others typing too loud in the quiet study room, so if you like it quiet this is the place for you." Another lesson learned might be to think about training current student assistants to be library tour guides, and have them relate the 'inside information' so it is more believable than it is now since it is coming from an old guy like me. Maybe have an external person act as "CLXO" that can audit the tour and report on the general "experience" that new students or really anyone, well, experiences when visiting your library. Do library employees smile and acknowledge visitors and tours? Are there particular areas of the library that just look uninviting, dirty or in need of maintenance? Was the tour guide memorable or did they just seem to recite facts and figures from a (probably) outdated script?
So, what do you do to make your library "experience" memorable?