Robin Davis

The Lloyd Sealy Library set up shop as a Pop-Up Library in a temporary satellite location: the Kroll Atrium, one of the busiest spots on campus during Community Hour. For one week in March, librarians met with passing students at two tables, drawing them in with the offer of free books and snacks and talking with them about how they view the library.

Librarian talking with students

The “Ask a Librarian!” table

As librarians, we encounter students most frequently at the reference desk and in the classroom—both situations in which students come to the library. But what if the library came to them? At the “Ask a Librarian!” table, we were available to answer students’ questions about anything study-related. To encourage interactions, we set up signs with suggested queries: 

  • Where’s the quietest space on campus?
  • How do you cite an article with 5,154 authors?
  • Does a presidential tweet count as a “credible source”?

Over 370 students stopped to chat with librarians, many of them drawn to our free books cart, which was loaded with donated books that the Library cannot accept into its collections. Students were also attracted to the free digital subscriptions to the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, both of which had provided John Jay with “swag” (card holders that stick on smartphones, sticky note packs, and pens). Curious passersby were also treated to a plethora of handouts, from “A Quick Guide to APA Style” to “How to find a case by citation.”

The “Tell a Librarian!” table

Tell A Librarian sign with bowl of candyEvery three years, we run an “In-Library Use Survey,” which has been led for many years by Bonnie Nelson (now happily retired). These surveys tell us a lot about how students use the Library and what they expect of it. (See this newsletter’s Spring 2017 issue for the latest results.) But the population sampled only includes students already inside the physical library. What about those who only use the Library online? What about those who don’t know about the library resources available to them? To attempt (informally) to ask a representative slice of the John Jay student population such questions, we set up a “Tell a Librarian!” table, which was covered in various surveys that librarians collaboratively created, from “How would you describe your ideal library building?” (top terms: calming, comfy couches, fast wifi) to “Have you ever used a library ebook?” (21 of 32 had) to “How much did you spend on textbooks this semester?” (see pp. 8-9 for textbook & OER survey results). Students had a lot to say! All survey completions were rewarded with candy and fruit snacks. 

Survey results, in summary

  • Students appreciate the library’s quiet atmosphere and wish there were more solo study spots. 
  • Visually, students prefer a library that is full of books and seating over one that is full of computers or lab tables. 
  • Students feel more confident about finding articles and using databases than finding textbooks or books on a library shelf. 
  • Most students surveyed have:
    • used an ebook from the library at least once.
    • had a library instruction session at least once.
    • never watched a streaming video through the library.
    • never checked out a library book to take home. 
  • Students have high expectations for the level of service they receive at the library, whether it’s at the Reference, Circulation or Reserve Desks. 
  • 44% of 119 students surveyed spent more than $200 on textbooks this semester. 

Selected survey results, in detail

How would you describe your ideal John Jay Library building? Words that 8+ people circled out of the 40 words given:

  1. Fast wifi
  2. Comfy couches
  3. Lots of books
  4. Outlets everywhere
  5. Quiet
  6. Calming
  7. Absolute quiet room
  8. Distraction-free room
  9. Lots of printers

Which of these library workshops would you attend? Top choices out of 19 workshop titles given:

  1. APA/MLA citation tools (we already offer this!)
  2. How to save money on textbooks
  3. Get started with your research (we already offer this!)
  4. Find sources for your paper
  5. Research tips & tricks (we already offer this!)



The Pop-Up Library was made possible by Faculty-Student Engagement funding through the Division of Student Affairs.

More from the Spring 2018 newsletter »