FYE Correspondent Raymond Pun recently interviewed Lilly Ramin, the First Year Experience (FYE), Sociology, and Instructional Technologies Librarian at the University of North Texas (UNT). Their conversation covered Lilly’s experiences and activities in fostering new connections with student affairs, admissions, administrators, and other colleagues in support of the FYE.
Ray: Thanks for speaking with us, Lilly! Can you tell us about your role and briefly describe the FYE activities that you and your library have done recently?
Lilly: Actually, my role is sort of a hodgepodge of roles. I work on some instructional technology projects, First Year Experience outreach, and Subject Librarian duties for Sociology. First Year Experience was an additional responsibility in 2015. My previous experience was in working with first year seminar courses and library support. At first, I wanted to experience current efforts myself and foster established working relationships. In time, I have worked to make new connections with student-serving groups. Within the UNT Libraries, I work alongside Marketing and Outreach, who provide a presence at orientations and create impressive promotional items we can use at orientations. External to the libraries, I have had the opportunity to work with university campus groups who directly serve and/or promote services to freshmen and transfer students. I work with other units on outreach strategies and library overview messaging that reflects various divisions, services, and spaces at UNT Libraries.
For FYE, my biggest gig is during First Flight, which is the week before the Fall semester starts. For the last three years, I have taught 9 sessions, 3 back-to-back for 3 days, for all incoming freshman. We also have tables and invite subject librarians and others to help staff these. We welcome incoming freshman outside two of the libraries, and our media library heads up Escape Room efforts. The required library session is only possible thanks to administrators at the Office of Orientation and Transition Programs who value the library being an integral part of the new student experience, and I am appreciative of this important collaboration. This year we have had the largest incoming freshman class in UNT history, totaling 4,908!
Other than that, I am on call for instruction, tours, and presentations or discussions. I also provide monthly orientations for Admissions for incoming Transfer students. I serve as co-advisor for the Undergraduate section of the student library advisory board, which holds meetings and Finals Week events. I serve on the Student Support Task Force as well. Most recently, I have worked with colleagues in the Music Library and Student Success department to provide tours and instruction for incoming freshman known as MARTIAL Eagles, who all reside in a dorm and take a couple of classes together, including a music-themed first year course and a Sociology one. They just wrapped up with a nice celebration in the library.
Ray: Wow, all of that sounds amazing. Your work certainly keeps you very active! Why do you think it is important for libraries to be involved in supporting the FYE?
Lilly: Patrons support libraries, and we should make decisions that support them. For academia, this support may come in the form of student fees, a fact that makes students enrolled at the university crucial stakeholders in our daily operations. It's essential to reach out to incoming freshman and transfer students and connect them to the resources, services, and welcoming spaces early in their academic careers. The libraries are a wonderful avenue for fostering that connection.
With on-going discussions at all levels of academic institutions regarding retention and high impact practices, we have to determine what that support will look like for students, and how we should equip our libraries accordingly. Incoming students' prior experiences with libraries or research resources vary, and despite student classification, their experiences are unique. The core skills we need to foster in librarians and staff working with first year students include, but are not limited to, approachability, adaptability, collaboration, and a positive attitude towards student engagement and outreach. There is a lot of work and opportunity on the front lines, especially in terms of working with students on a more individual level, so this support is definitely important.
Ray: I agree with your comments, and we as librarians need to demonstrate how we are able to support student success in the first year experience. Thanks for sharing your current activities! What's next for FYE support in your library?
Lilly: It is funny you ask! Due to the timing of this question, I should note we are actually going through some administrative changes in the library. Because FYE support involves multiple levels and areas, the specifics of what that looks like in terms of programming and priorities could vary in the months to come. That said, feedback I have received reflects an acknowledgment that FYE fits in with university goals. I definitely see orientations and connection-building being continued efforts. FYE support does not rest on the FYE Librarian either. Help desk staff, Subject Librarians, and anyone in the libraries providing effective mentoring or guidance for new students can lend forms of support.
For us, it is a good opportunity to look at increased enrollment, needs of our specific student population, and the resources at the library as we discuss ways to make first year efforts sustainable and goals attainable.
Don't miss Ray's next webinar (or the recording if you're seeing this after the fact), Assessing First Year Students: A Conversation on Assessment Techniques, with Kate Angell from Long Island University - Brooklyn. Wednesday, December 13th from 12:00 - 1:00pm ET.
Lilly Ramin is the First Year Experience (FYE), Sociology, and Instructional Technologies Librarian at University of North Texas (UNT). Lilly began her academic librarian career in 2007, as the Virtual Reference Coordinator. She has also designed and taught a graduate level online course on research/reference sources as an adjunct. Prior to taking on the First Year Experience role, she taught a course on first year seminar, and provided library support for that program. Examples of professional interests include: outreach to diverse populations, FYE initiatives, mentoring best practices, and the use of technology in instruction, libraries, and lifelong learning. She has mentored and managed students, volunteers, professional staff, and librarians. She is a graduate of the Association of College and Research Libraries Immersion Program for instruction, and was named a 2012 American Library Association (ALA) Emerging Leader. She is Chair of ALA Library and Information Technology Association (LITA) Instructional Technologies Interest Group.