It’s hard to believe we are already nearing the end of September. “Back-to-school” is one of my favorite times of the year; it’s also one of the most busy times for us in the library. From introducing faculty to the myriad of ways the library supports research and teaching, to working with new and returning students, to making sure our resources are readily accessible–there’s always a lot going on in the library. For us, fostering a welcoming and inclusive learning environment for our students begins before students even arrive on campus. Through social network messaging on Twitter and Instagram and coordinated e-mail communication, new and returning students are welcomed to the library and encouraged to engage with us before the semester begins.
New collaborations with partners across campus have allowed us to expand orientation programming in exciting ways. For example, in fall 2019, our Research and Academic Engagement Librarian, Meggie M. Lasher, collaborated with colleagues in Student Life to reimagine what our first-year students’ initial encounter with the library could look like. During orientation week, the library transformed its space to host a welcome event for over 500 new students. Staffed by library and student life personnel, we welcomed students to the library and offered a map of the library featuring a variety of creative activities in every corner of the space, including: a screen-printing station (where we used archival images of our Wildcat mascot to print on posters, t-shirts, and pillow cases), custom laptop sticker creation, a photo booth with props of Davidson memorabilia from our Archives, glow in the dark bowling between the stacks, a D.J., dance floor, and disco ball. Dinner was served under the library’s portico and featured offerings provided by local food trucks. Here are few photos from the inaugural 2019 event:
Following the event, students shared that they felt more comfortable entering the library space and connecting with library staff; library staff also formed new connections with first-year students that carried over into the academic year.
My group of freshmen especially liked the library party and I think it was a really good way for everyone to meet new people and socialize without feeling forced to do so…
-Orientation Team Leader, 2019
Although we weren’t able to host the party last year due to the pandemic, we were excited to collaborate with Student Life to host the first-year party again this year in the library. Once again, students enjoyed making tote bags at the screen-printing station (the archival images of our Wildcat mascot is a perennial favorite!), creating “Wildcat” laptop stickers, button making, a photo booth, and learning about Davidson’s history in the Archives. Although the event was a little bit different from 2019 due to the pandemic, it was definitely a great day to be a Wildcat!