At Loyola Marymount University, we promote the “education of the whole person,” recognizing not only the intellectual, but also the creative, affective, and emotional elements of one’s education. At the William H. Hannon Library, we develop evidence-based programs that give students the space to explore all facets of their personal growth. We recognize that there are essential needs which must be met before true, “sticky” learning can occur. Events like our fall Open House, Feel Good Finals, and Long Night Against Procrastination help reduce “library anxiety” at key touchpoints throughout the semester, giving students the mental bandwidth to focus on their intellectual and creative pursuits.
Library Open House: Reducing Library Anxiety
Library anxiety is especially detrimental to our first-year and transfer students, who have never set foot inside the library, let alone attempted to use our resources. In 2018, to help students overcome this anxiety, we hosted a Library Open House to introduce newly admitted students to the “places and faces” of the William H. Hannon Library. We gave students the opportunity to learn about library services, meet with library staff, and explore spaces in a fun, no-risk environment. They had the opportunity to play “archives trivia,” ask questions at the information desk, explore the book stacks, win library-branded swag, and take selfies with Iggy the Lion and Buster the therapy dog (two of our local mascots). Of course, we also had food (vegan burritos!). Attendees who successfully completed the activities at each station had the opportunity to enter a raffle for a wide range of giveaways, from Starbucks gift cards to Razor scooters (donated by a local vendor).
We surveyed students at the conclusion of the event. When asked, “To what extent do you feel comfortable asking staff for help in the library,” 79 percent said they felt “comfortable” or “very comfortable” asking for help. Based on the same survey data, we discovered that students also learned about our study room reservation system, 24/7 access to our online resources, how to locate books in the stacks, and where to start their research. As one student noted, “I am so glad that the library threw this event because it gave students a chance to ask questions that they might be embarrassed to ask on the daily.”
“We aim to prioritize library programming to be more intentional, integrative, inclusive, and interdisciplinary.” (Library Strategic Objective 5.1)
In 2019, we repeated the event and made significant modifications to the development process so that more library staff were engaged in the programming development process. In the previous year, the event was planned by four members of the outreach team. In 2019, each library department was asked to designate a team leader, who in turn, led their department in developing both an activity and a custom zine for their unit, explaining some of the functions and services of their area (e.g. reference, cataloging, circulation, etc). The zines from each department were collated into a publication that was given to every student attendee. This time, as much as 84% reported “comfortable or very comfortable” when asked “To what extent do you feel comfortable asking staff for help at the William H. Hannon Library?” Here are two comments from our 2019 attendees:
“It was a very well-organized event that was both informative and very engaging! I had lots of fun and I’m really glad that I dropped by for it. Thank you! Everyone was very friendly.”
“I thought it was a super engaging way to get people more knowledge!”
The 2018 and 2019 open house events were so successful that we plan to make this an annual event.
Feel Good Finals: Supporting Students’ Essential Needs
Our attempts to reduce library anxiety continue throughout the semester, culminating in various end of term events, including our “Snacks ‘N Swag Cart,” which travels throughout the library handing out healthy food and library giveaways; our Milk and Cookies night, where library staff bake more than 200 dozen cookies for our late-night studiers; and our Feel Good Finals programming, which includes coloring and origami stations, massage sessions, and therapy animals (thus far, we have hosted therapy dogs, cats, pigs, goats, and sheep).
One of our signature spring events is our Long Night Against Procrastination, a collaboration with LMU’s Academic Resource Center. For the past five years, we have invited students to attend this four-hour, late night event and enjoy all the comforts and services the library can provide in a private, intimate space: a quiet room, access to research librarians and writing tutors, healthy “brain food,” and a never-ending flow of coffee and teas. After a brief introduction—during which we talk about strategic goal-setting—the students get to work on the finals projects. We have scheduled breaks and raffles throughout the evening and order dinner midway through. We target outreach for this event to our most vulnerable student communities, including first-generation students, commuters and transfers, and international students.
After midnight, we ask students to reflect on the goals they set at the beginning of the evening and determine how successful they were in achieving those goals. Some of the tasks students completed this past year included: finishing a biology lab PowerPoint presentation, completing a six-page paper, creating a game plan to finish finals, organizing 19 pages of exam notes, and completing a full revision of a philosophy term paper in consultation with a writing tutor.
The feedback from this event has been consistently positive over the past half-decade and it is always one of our most popular student events. When asked “What was the best part of the Long Night Against Procrastination in 2019?” many students appreciated the use of structured breaks throughout the evening. Most of all, the students valued the ability to focus in a distraction free environment. As one student noted, “It was supportive and everyone was there hustling and it was a great place to be in the work.”
Pub Night: Building Community around Faculty Research
Of course, we have not neglected the “purely intellectual” events. Our Faculty Pub Night series, now in its twelfth year, promotes faculty research to a diverse campus audience that includes students, faculty, staff, and community members. Each Faculty Pub Night has the potential to educate about the research and publication or creative process, build collegial and interdisciplinary relationships across campus, showcase our faculty research and creative work to the community, and expand the boundaries of traditional academic programming in the library.
Begun on a shoestring budget in 2009, we have broadly expanded our outreach strategy to promote Pub Night and have more than doubled our average annual attendance, safely bringing in between 40-60 attendees on average, and in recent months, more than 80 attendees per event. While the primary goal is to promote faculty research, Pub Night has become more than just a lecture:
- A professor of art history curated a local show and published an exhibition catalog about the San Fernando Valley art scene during the mid-to-late 20th century. Around the same time, a close friend of his (unaffiliated with the university) published a critically regarded novel that took place in “The Valley,” and the art history professor approached us with the idea of his event as a dialogue between the two of them. The program, which could have easily been presented as a straightforward lecture, ended up being a lively, personal conversation between two talented scholars and writers, all through the touching and entertaining lens of decades-long friendship.
- The timing for one of our speakers coincided with his family preparing to launch a new study abroad program in Argentina. The Pub Night was the last of the spring semester, and the theological studies professor and his wife (also on the faculty at LMU) took the opportunity to use the program not only as a celebration of scholarship and publication but also as a going away party, supplemented with homemade food and favorite Argentinian wines. The audience was treated to a thought-provoking academic lecture and left with a feeling that they were a part of a community send-off for this LMU family.
- A journalism professor published a biography of the all-girls punk band The Runaways. We approached our campus independent radio station KXLU (an award-winning station with a long history and cult status in the city) and an unforgettable program resulted. We brought in a KXLU DJ (and LMU alumna) to interview the professor from our library’s event space, and the conversation was broadcast live on the radio station. After the program, the crowd of nearly 100 adjourned to an outdoor plaza on the bluff overlooking the city. While the professor signed books, we were treated to a sunset concert by the all-girls contemporary punk band Upset.
At each Faculty Pub Night event, we ask attendees what they learned. Typical responses from students include: “Our professors at LMU are doing things other than teaching!” and “That despite our different backgrounds, we are deeply connected in our human experiences.” and “What it means to be an activist and an academic.”
The library coordinates with the work of other units that prioritize the onboarding of new students, including the writing center, housing, and First Year Experience. Students feel welcomed, seen, and supported in an environment that meets their needs in a variety of ways, including the physical, emotional, and intellectual. As a result of our work, faculty, students, and staff at LMU view the library as a marketplace for creative and intellectual work, one which centers the voices and experiences of our campus community.
This article was first published in our 2021 ACRL Excellence in Academic Libraries Award dossier. Part of this article was also published in Hazlitt, J., & Jackson, J. (2016). Faculty Pub Night at the William H. Hannon Library: Highlighting Faculty Works Through Creative Programming. Public Services Quarterly, 12(2), 164-171. For more information about the William H. Hannon Library, please contact John Jackson, Head of Outreach & Communications.