Shelf Development: A Look at the Library Student Ambassadors

by Christopher Clark

Imagine what it was like during your first visit to the library as an undergraduate. Maybe it felt overwhelming; learning a new classification system to find books, interacting with unfamiliar librarians, or learning how to navigate different and varied collections.

When you are encountering new experiences, often you look to peers within your orbit as guides. We know that students often listen to other students first, relying on first-hand experience within their peer group for instruction and direction. The Raymond H. Fogler Library is committed to making sure that students have some sense of ownership over the Library.

Students are a vital part of our community. Take a stroll through the Library on a typical day in a fall semester, and you’ll see students using our computer lab, working in study groups, scanning the aisles for research materials, or hanging with friends in our Information Commons or one of the reading rooms. The Library has always centered students and their research needs as its primary focus.

However, Fogler Library extends its reach beyond this, looking to engage students in other ways. Since 2016, the Library Student Ambassadors (LSA) group has worked with librarians to provide input on student needs, marketing and communication among student peers, and education about the functions and services of the Library.

I have had the privilege of being part of LSA for the Shelf Development: A Look at the Library Student Ambassadors by Christopher Clark Students meet in Fogler’s Reserve Reading Room. Photo courtesy of the Division of Marketing and Communications | 54 | Raymond H. Fogler Library Magazine 2023 last year, and it has been an enriching experience as a longtime library professional. Having worked in several academic libraries throughout the years, I can tell you that LSA is something uncommon and special.

In addition to student outreach, the LSA often looks to other libraries as a way of augmenting library knowledge. Recently, the Student Ambassadors were able to get a peek into the special Archives at the Bangor Public Library. LSA does its best to promote awareness of other libraries, both academic and public, to give students better insight into the unique issues faced by different libraries.

I recently spoke with Lindsay Decker, Science Reference Librarian and current coordinator for the LSA and its associated activities. In describing the mission of LSA, she mentions that “[t]he student ambassadors are a group of exceptional undergraduates who volunteered and applied to be student ambassadors Department.

When asked about what makes our student ambas- sadors special, Decker high- lights “[t]heir enthusiasm and their ideas.” These ideas may include possible improvements to library ser- vices or spaces, but also ideas for events that LSA organizes and/or participates in each semester.

One of the most popular events in which the LSA participates is serving as ushers for the Therapy Dog days twice a year at Fogler–once in Fall, and again in Spring, both during Finals Week. Therapy Dogs and their owners come to the library to help students de-stress. The LSA is crucial in assisting library staff to make sure the volunteers have a positive experience.

LSA volunteers helped the Fogler Library during a discussion organized by the Research & Instruction experiences. The discussion explored book banning, provided important historical grounding and context, and was open for all attendees to share their thoughts.

Over the last few years, the LSA has run the Tournament of Books. This tournament takes the format of March Madness and usually takes place in parallel with the basketball season. Books are listed in brackets, usually by theme (i.e., fantasy novels, nonfiction, “classic” books, etc.) Patrons are encouraged to vote in the brackets, with a clear winner emerging after several rounds. This year, The Priory of the Orange Tree was declared winner of the tournament.

In addition to events, the LSA routinely seeks broader student feedback. Sometimes, this includes regular rotating posters featuring prompts that students are invited to answer. Whether encouraging readers in a Tournament of Books, assisting canine friends in visits to the library, or learning about local historical collections, the LSA provides a meaningful conduit for engaging students. Often what unites them is a love of libraries, and fond recollections of early library so that they could act as almost liaisons between library staff and their fellow students.”

The LSA serves the greater goal of making the library a “third place.” In addition to the workplace and the home, it’s important to cultivate a third space where people can congregate, meet, chat, study, and so on. There are lots of different kinds of third places: churches, clubhouses, and more. The Library, as the heart of the university, makes a natural candidate as a third space for students, where they can practice being a professional, study outside of class, or read across a range of interests. The LSA is there to facilitate that idea as ambassadors and models.

Being a member is designed to be an empowering, educational experience. Members often use their time with the Library as a way to springboard into new careers. Some have used it as a way to explore getting their Master’s degree in Library Science, while others have gone on to work for NASA, serve in the Coast Guard, or publish creative works. LSA welcomes all students of all interests, areas of research, and ma