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Notes on Fall 2001 Library Orientations

The task of orienting new students to Harvard's libraries continues to evolve. A generation ago, a library tour and narrative descriptions of relevant collections might have sufficed. But today, considerable planning and forethought are required to anticipate student needs and interests and to provide accordingly tailored introductions to the University's libraries and to the multitude of resources that they hold. Reports on recent orientation experiences at Baker, Lamont, and Countway follow.

Special Questions at Baker
How do you orient 900 new MBA students to library services when their entire first year curriculum doesn't require library research?

Baker Library Instruction Coordinator Poping Lin came up with a novel idea to incorporate an active learning experience into this year's orientation program. Lin recognized that for first-year students, the main exposure to the library came in conjunction with their searches for summer jobs. As a result, Lin chose to tie her first-year library orientation to the career aspirations of first-year students.

The orientation started with a 10-minute multimedia presentation featuring the dreams of Martin, a fictional first-year MBA student, which included his interview from Hell and his discovery of the Baker Library resources that enabled him to "ace" his interview. After the multimedia presentation students, working in small groups, took a 15-minute, web-based, pop quiz requiring them to find specific information about HBS alumni/ae.

A total of 592 students (65% of the incoming class) attended the orientation, held on August 23 and 24. Most students found it to be a good introduction to Baker's resources. They expressed appreciation for the conciseness of the program. Lin and her team will incorporate students' ideas and suggestions into future programming for orientation and instruction.

An Open House at Lamont
A record number of new undergraduates attended the annual "Lamont World Tour," hosted by HCL's Lamont Library in September. More than one third of the freshman class acquainted themselves with the library building, services, and staff during the combination reception and orientation program, which included library tours, prizes, refreshments, and live music.

Tours originated at the circulation desk, and librarian "guides" led groups through the building with stops at the Reference Room, Larsen Room, Reading Room, Government Documents/Microforms, Poetry Room, Farnsworth Room, and the Forum Room. Jeff Bernhard, manager for operations of HCL's Information Technology Services, was on hand to explain the Laptop Loaner program, and Susan Gilroy, reference librarian, was stationed in the Larsen Room, where she acquainted groups with the many facets of the HOLLIS web site. On the sixth floor, the staff of the Language Resource Center demonstrated the language labs and other services.

The Lamont open house included representatives from other libraries and from a number of additional organizations. Participating librarians from other Harvard libraries included:

  • Greg Finnegan, associate librarian for public service and head of reference at HCL's Tozzer Library;
  • Pam Hays, reference/documents librarian in HCL's Government Documents/Microforms program;
  • Barbara Mitchell, head of public services, Frances Loeb Library of the Harvard Design School;
  • Diane Garner, librarian for the social sciences, and Danila Terpanjian, head of technical services, both from HCL's Littauer Library; and
  • Mary Clare Altenhofen, head of research and public services, from HCL's Fine Arts Library.

Additional organizations represented included:

  • Friends of the Harvard College Library, who welcomed the Class of 2005 and distributed maps, pencils, HCL bags, and other printed information; and
  • Bureau of Study Council, which provided material about their services, including the Workshop in Studying at Harvard (WISH).

The Countway Experience
The opening of the Harvard Medical and Dental Medicine Schools in August provided the opportunity for a lively, half-day orientation program at the Countway Library of Medicine. The morning began with a formal welcome from Countway Librarian Judith Messerle, followed by remarks from:

  • Daniel Lowenstein, Medical School Dean for Education;
  • Shruthi Mahalingaiah, a second-year HMS student; and
  • Dr. Nancy Oriol, Associate Dean for Student Affairs.

The Countway program offered traditional tours, demonstrations, and introductions to medical literature, along with opportunities for students and staff to get acquainted over refreshments.

Library tours featured stops at the new Russell Reading Room for current journals, the electronic classrooms, various book and journal collections, and key library service points. Students were introduced to significant historical resources, such as the Warren Museum, the physicians' portrait gallery, and treasures from the Rare Books and Special Collections Department.

Students were introduced to the library staff, who detailed the many ways in which the library and its personnel support the work of the students. Of particular note were the demonstrations of Countway's electronic resources provided by Anna Getselman, reference librarian, and the overall introduction to the medical literature by Lucretia McClure, special assistant to the Countway director.

The Countway staff envisioned the orientation as a beginning and not an end. The orientation was followed by a series of classes, held over a two-month period, on using MEDLINE to search medical and dental literature. Again, the students responded in strong numbers and asked for more instruction. As a result, the Countway staff will offer advanced MEDLINE training next spring.

Graduate Student Reception Held
Earlier in the fall, Harvard College Library held a reception for new students of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. The event was sponsored by the Friends of the Harvard College Library. The reception gave students the opportunity to meet the librarians and to learn more about the collections and services available to them. Raymond Lum—cochair of the Friends of the Harvard College Library, Asian bibliographer in Widener, and librarian for the Western languages collection in Harvard-Yenching—gave opening remarks. Other speakers included Sidney Verba, the Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor and Director of the University Library, and Jeffrey Horrell, associate librarian of Harvard College for collections, who gave the new graduate students an overview of the Harvard College Library.

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Last modified on Thursday, April 18, 2002.