Ten Methods of Improving Quality Service to University of Maryland Graduate Students via “Assertive” Marketing

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In 2000 a faculty member of the Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Department (ENCH) at the University of Maryland (UM), made an unusual request to the Engineering and Physical Sciences Library (EPSL) librarians. She requested a bibliographic instruction session for her students in ENCH 609, the department’s introductory graduate seminar. As surprised as we were, figuring erroneously that graduate students already knew our UM Library resources quite well, the truth has become clear that they obviously do not. Over the past eight years, we have made an assertive, at times even aggressive effort, to introduce the need for vital bibliographic instruction sessions to the fourteen departments EPSL serves, most often at orientations held at the beginning of fall semester. What is covered during these sessions varies, of course, by department, subject area, enrollment, time allotted, and location, among other things. The general breakdown of a typical session caters to the needs of engineering and the physical sciences, with special considerations given to mathematics and computer science. The unique part of this paper traces not only the progress of obtaining the success rate of 13 of 14 departments during the past two years, but also several of the marketing strategies utilized. For most librarians for whom marketing is a distasteful endeavor (we refer to it as the “M” word), we offer as a bonus, a “Top Ten” list to help to alleviate some of the associated stress that can be involved in selling the library. The list ranges from major points like dealing with rejection to minor ones, like having a little fun using a professor’s name for Web of Science’s Cited Reference Search. There is no doubt that for information services we are in an era dominated by Web 2.0 and its enhancements. Still, we have found that both our subject faculty and our graduate students the preferred method of instruction is the in-person interaction, be it in a group or one-on-one. Finally, what we believe has been so instrumental to this success story, coordinating this uniform approach in providing quality service to UM’s new graduate student population, is the more than willing attitude of the excellent EPSL librarians and EPSL graduate assistant.


Paper presented at the 2009 International Association of Technological University Libraries (IATUL) Annual Conference, Leuven, Belgium, June 1-4, 2009