Motivating students to participate

Boxing librarians

Boxing librarians-Halloween 2011

Let me start out by saying you must read LIBR 287 student Joyce Monsees’ beautifully written post about the power of the participatory library model. It is soulful and shows how participatory service can connect people across time and place.

In contrast, I am focusing on the lighthearted side of the participatory service model: how to encourage library users to participate. I work at a high school library where students and faculty are very focused on the rigorous college-preparatory curriculum.  Students and faculty (like all library users) want to feel comfortable asking the library staff questions without feeling stupid. The classroom teachers are used to having all the answers and the students often feel like they don’t have enough answers. One way to encourage participation is by building rapport and trust within the school community. Our library staff aims to show that we are serious about our jobs, but we do not take ourselves too seriously. How do we do this? We participate in school spirit events that usually include opportunities for the students to see us in a different light. For example, we dress up for the annual faculty Halloween costume contest and perform in school pep rallies. We model the idea that participating often involves moving outside the comfort zone.

Harris (2006) talks about the school library and “harnessing patron intelligence.” I observe the way students communicate in-person and via technology – quite often both occur simultaneously in the school library where I work. My library is already a learning commons, I see how the students “access, consume, and create content” (Stephens, 2006).  The challenge is often getting permission from IT and administrators to use students’ favorite technology tools to interact with students. Of course, it is desirable to teach students to use school-approved library information resources, but we need to accept the reality that students will use social media tools that are usually blocked on school computers. Everyday I see students in the library using smart phones to access free participatory tools such as Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. School libraries are often excluded from the conversation due to filtering.  We will explore this in greater depth the next few weeks.

Click here for SMCHS Faculty Flash Mob Fall- 2011

Harris, C. (2006) School Library 2.0:

Loertscher, D. (2008) Flip This Library: School Libraries Need a Revolution.  School Library Journal Online:

Stephens, M. (2006). Into a New World of Librarianship:

Stephens, M. (2011). Stuck in the Past.


3 thoughts on “Motivating students to participate

  1. Super cool!!!! Thanks for sharing the flash mobs. I am intrigued by what might be possible for students with Instagram as a learning and expression tool. Eager to read more…

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