During the summer semester of 2013 I decided to copy an idea for reaching outside the library to find new points of access for student users. The pop-up library was promoted at the IFLA Conference in Helsinki, Finland in 2012. A new trend in events starting with the pop-up restaurant had spread to the library community there. This is Finland highlights some pop-up library examples from that country. In Turku, Finland, the pop-up library bike remakes the bookmobile into a micro-library travelling to public events and creating a neighbourhood library connection. The Information Gas Station in Helsinki offers answers to questions. Vancouver has also caught on to this concept with the Vancouver Park Board debating the issue this fall.
I decided to try my own version of the pop-up library on campus this summer using existing staff and equipment for a low-budget alternative.
At our campus we have a very demanding Veterinary Technology diploma program which requires students to come in to assist with kennel duties for animals, such as dogs and cats, before and after class. Classroom hours extend from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. so students start early and finish after a long day. The library is located across campus and the result is that few students have the time or inclination to walk over and check us out.
The pop-up library seemed like a great opportunity to create a small, temporary reference point in the Vet Tech building to give students easy access to library staff and offer some resources for their program studies. We selected a lounge room with bookshelves and several computer workstations as a study area. It suited the Pop-Up concept perfectly. We rolled over a book cart full of items with a laptop and set up shop onsite using wifi. We decided to have lunch hour sessions for staffing the Pop-Up Library to coincide with scheduled breaks in class time. One library staffer set up each lunch hour twice a week in the Vet Tech Study Lounge and put out prominent displays in the lobby to advertise the service.
The results were enlightening. The pop-up library connected with more students in the program than usually visit the library. It also created a new discussion about how students prefer to access the library. It generated some circulation of items. Primarily, it gave us new impetus to open the library longer hours during one evening a week to accommodate students needing study hours and library access. It also gave us a student we could hire from the Vet Tech program for staffing the library summer evenings. It served more as a great orientation activity than an ongoing service point. I would do it all again at the beginning of next summer as a tool for introducing library staff and services to a hard to reach student population.
Chantal Phillips is an Assistant Librarian at the Ridgetown Campus, University of Guelph.