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Hello, I’m Rachel and I’m the Communications and Marketing Officer for Durham University Library and Heritage Collections. My role covers Durham University’s archives and special collections, the two University Museums, the Durham Castle tours… and of course, Durham University’s five library sites. Today I’m going to talk about how Durham University Library is nurturing relationships with a range of key student organisations and groups, and how we’re working collaboratively with them to engage with students and weave Library messages into their communications.
So, as the title of my presentation suggests, I’m going to be talking about giant ducks…
… Brownie Breaks, with a few stops along the way. And I can promise this session will definitely be the geekiest of the day – watch out for the Harry Potter / Lord of the Rings references…
So, I’m going to cover:
Our approach at Durham University Library and how our collaborations with students fit into today’s theme of strategic marketing I’ll outline some of the opportunities of collaborating with student organisations I’ll move on to show you three case studies As I’m sure you’re aware, students can be challenging at times – I’ll outline some of the challenges of working with them from a communications and marketing perspective And I’ll close by posing this question, which I’m hoping you’ll think about throughout the presentation – what can you do in your Library to build partnerships and engage with students?
This is the Bill Bryson Library, Durham University’s main library. We get an average of over 3000 different visitors a day during University term time – this makes us the most popular University building.
So as a student focussed service with really high footfall, we get a lot of…
These. Publicity materials and requests for display space from student societies, other University departments and external businesses. Lots of people want to get messages out to students.
List who’s on the board – CIS, Modern Languages, Disability Support, Careers, Student’s Union, Nightline, adverts for proofreading, events…
In today’s presentation, I’m not really covering other University departments and external businesses – focussing on collaborating with students, student societies and student organisations.
A few years ago, we started to look quite closely at who wanted to promote themselves in our space, what they wanted to do, and more importantly how this fits in with what we’re doing as a Library and a student-focussed service.
Rather than thinking of these display requests as one of those administrative tasks that you have to fit in, we started thinking about how these might fit into our overall strategy. And what is that overall strategy I hear you ask?
Here’s a brief quote from the Library’s latest planning statement, our Vision for 2020.
Yes, our strategy is about learning spaces and resources, but student engagement plays a key role here
And this is echoed by Durham University’s overall Communications and Marketing objectives:
Number 1 – our first objective – is to promote the benefits of Durham University – and it’s not just about research and education, it is about the all-round University experience.
So it’s part of Durham University Library’s strategic objectives to engage with our students and add to the student experience, and collaborating with students on communications and marketing projects is a great way of doing that.
So here’s the Strategic Marketing bit. I’m using here Ned Potter’s Marketing Cycle – he describes this as ‘a diagram of the marketing cycle, as it applies to libraries, made as simple as possible’ Durham University Library’s goals are unique to us. But our community, or market, isn’t. Of the Bill Bryson Library’s 3000 average daily visitors over 90% are students. Lots of organisations want to get messages out to students - that’s why we get so many display requests. And some of the objectives we have to achieve our goals sometimes align closely with those of partner organisations. So, where our objectives are similar, why not join up our efforts with partners on promotional activities etc.?
What are some of the opportunities of working with student groups and organisations? Supporting students to create their own peer-to-peer communications – students trust messages from other students By working with partner groups and organisations, we’re ensuring we incorporate student feedback as we develop promotional activities We’re joining up messages – one single message echoed across different channels and partners has more impact than several groups having variations on the same message Joining up resources – efficiency and financial savings And lastly, we’re adding to the student experience of the Library and embedding the Library in other student activities and events
Case Study: Durham Students Union
Our Students’ Union represents students on University committees, and also does a lot of work around issues that impact on all students.
For a number of years, they’ve put out communications in the run up to exams around good study habits.
As we get so many students completing assignments and studying for their exams during the second two terms of each academic year, this is definitely one area where our objectives meet.
In 2013, after a change in marketing staffing, I met with the DSU’s new Marketing Officer to talk about ways in which we could work together and we came up with a new initiative to help students in the run up to exams…
A revision timetable! The aim was to get out some key information about our Library 24 hour opening and the DSU’s support services on one side, and fold out to become…
…An A1 planner which students could use to plan out their studies, with the Library 24/7 dates given too.
We handled the distribution through the libraries and we did the design work for the Library part of the planner to keep costs down. We split the costs proportionately, with the DSU paying more as theirs was the leading brand / they had more space.
These have been a really popular giveaway – we did an initial print run of 3000, but given the success of this initiative over the last two years, we’re upping the quantity to 5000 copies in 2015.
So that was 2013… and in 2014 we built on the success of the revision planner to develop a joint publicity campaign for the revision period, Work Smart.
Work Smart was about promoting good study habits and providing study tips, with the end goal that this would make students more prepared for the examination period, and therefore a calmer atmosphere in the Library.
So, we developed weekly themes for the 2014 Easter term that were on display in the Library, with the same messages shared across the Student’s Union communications channels…
And backed up by a range of engaging activities both inside and outside the Bill Bryson Library, such as a study break room in the Library, yoga classes in the Students’ Union to help students work on relaxation techniques, and a study tips competition.
This photo was taken just outside the Bill Bryson Library – and this was the winning tip, as chosen by the student officers!
One of the partner organisations we work with is DUCK – Durham University Charities Kommittee. DUCK is Durham’s student-run fundraising group and they raise money for lots of different local, national and international charities.
Every year, they have a week dedicated to fundraising around campus – DUCK week.
For many years, they had asked whether the Library could support DUCK week – but up until a few years ago, pretty much all we did was host a donation box or two on our help desk.
But all that changed in 2012. Why?
Articles like this one.
In 2011 and 2012, Durham’s student newspaper, Palatinate ran a series of articles on Library fines, such as this headline – ‘University’s library fines eclipse one million’.
Didn’t do much for us really, but it did quite a lot for our fines complaints – we saw a massive increase.
One of our goals then, at this time, was to remind students of our charges procedures, explain what fines money is spent on and generally get out some more positive messages about Library fines.
And that brings us back to DUCK. DUCK had asked for our support, and we were looking to get out messages about fines, so together we came up with…
A charity fines day.
So our first one was in 2012 – we gave a day of fines to DUCK charities. I liaised with the team at DUCK and with the Library’s Senior Management Team / Finance staff to organise the fines day.
The Library led on the on the publicity and promotion during the first year, and we had a really good response from students, as well as a great response from…
Palatinate, who put out a positive story about the fines day.
Success! We had donated towards some very worthy charities, raised awareness of what fines paid for, and got a positive message out to our students.
And this is an initiative we’ve continued with!
This is the publicity for the latest iteration of our fines donation day – just before Christmas.
We’ve pushed responsibility for promoting the day back on to DUCK, and we support them with distribution and display. This was created by a student publicity officer – DUCK are sponsored by KPMG, so they have a decent budget and they also created a banner which we put on the railings next to the Library entrance and digital displays for DUCK week this academic year.
So for the last few years I would say that this has been more ‘low key’, because it’s not as much of a priority for us to get these messages out at the moment as it was back in 2012.
We’ve also helped DUCK gather some feedback on what the fines donations should go to, through votes on the Library’s VLE tab and using a ping pong ball counter at the Bill Bryson Library!
And you can’t have DUCK week without the appearance of a few ducks here and there – so we’ve had everything from curtains of ducks dangling from our Returns area…
To the naming of a giant duck outside the entrance to the Library!
Last Case Study: Nightline
Nightline is a confidential overnight listening service, run for Durham University students, by Durham University students.
It promotes messages about mental health, which tie in nicely with our objectives around supporting student wellbeing and raising awareness of the Library’s link with other University support services.
When we started our new approach to looking at display requests, Nightline’s executive committee contacted us about a project they were thinking about running, and whether we would be able to support it.
Nightline’s idea was the Anonymous Student Project.
Similar to the Postsecret project, Nightline asked students to share a personal thought or message anonymously on a postcard. We’ve worked closely with Nightline’s publicity offers, who change every year, to arrange drop off points in the Library:
And once all the cards have been collected, we also act as the main display point for the project:
So – here’s last year’s display, on the entrance level to the Bill Bryson Library on a busy walkway leading into our eDen computer room.
The cards that the students submit and that we display in the Library give a really unique insight into the student mind. There are the cards which deal with homesickness, heartbreak and mental illness…
… and then there’s the confessions about the little things that people don’t usually admit to…
… and then you just have the random cards, which are possibly the ones I like the most!
And that in turn has led to other opportunities with Nightline – giving away revision bags during Library 24/7, and at the same time promoting this overnight support service, for example.
So that’s definitely something we’ve learned from our experience of developing relationships with partners and working with them to help achieve our objectives; working together on one activity definitely leads on to others!
So that’s just some examples of the work we’ve been doing. But there are some challenges…
Working with students: not totally reliable – so yes, they will turn up late for meetings, they will send you things at the last minute, they won’t necessarily come totally prepared! With Nightline and DUCK, we deal with current students – so you have to be aware of course pressures etc. Changing student representatives: Durham Student’s Union has new student officers every year, and with Nightline and DUCK, the exec committee changes every year. This means you need to keep on top of who to contact, and when someone new comes in you need to remind them of what you have done together in the past and how we might be able to work together in the future! Who leads on what? So, with the Library fines day, we led on the publicity for this in the first year or so of the campaign, but for the last couple of years, we’ve pushed this back to DUCK and we support them. With the DSU, we have to negotiate co-branding and who pays for what. And you can’t say yes to everyone! The Library only has so much space and we don’t want to dilute messages. So we have quite strict ideas about which organisations and groups have similar objectives to ours, and these are the ones we work with.
Case Study: Northern Collaborations
My last case study is really our own kind of Northern Collaboration!
Just to outline the context of this; I work across both the Library and Heritage Collections. We have a Library Communications and Marketing Group who come from different teams within the Library, and they help with projects and decisions, but I had very little in the way of formalised support until November, when Steph, our new Communications Assistant, took up her post.
So staffing has been an issue for some time for us. So, when we had a request from Megan, a student at the University of Leeds to do a graphics placement with us last summer, we jumped at the chance! Megan was with us throughout the summer, and her placement was really successful – so much so that we’ve now arranged a regular programme of placements with the University of Sunderland.
We had our first Sunderland placement, Will, before Christmas.
Over the summer, Megan helped with designing our giveaways for the new students arriving for induction (Library bag, pencil and rubber in this image)
And she helped with some of our induction literature, designing our library postcard and a new paper design for our subject / general library guides.
And Will has been helping with some publicity materials to promote our new resource discovery system, Discover. This is one of the posters he designed. We’re preparing to launch this campaign in February!
As well as giving us some support in developing publicity materials on a tight budget, hosting student graphics placements mean we get the benefit of new ideas from current students.
The students get an experience of working within a busy marketing environment and at Sunderland placements are a course requirement. They also get the benefit of having some work for Durham University in their portfolio!
This forms a key part of our outreach work within our local area.
“Our broad strategy is service development, optimisation of
collections, student and researcher engagement, enhanced
provision of study and learning spaces and greater access to
and discovery of collections and resources.”
Library and Heritage Collections, Vision for 2020
“1. To promote the benefits of Durham (research, education
and all-round University experience) in order to attract and
recruit the most able and motivated students and staff from
around the world.”
Communications and Marketing, Objectives Overview
The Library Marketing Toolkit, Ned Potter
Peer to peer communications
Student involvement in Library communications
Joining up messages
Joining up resources
Working with students
Changing student representatives
Who leads on what?
You can’t say yes to everyone
Student Officer Elections
Anonymous Student Project
Revision Planner and Work Smart
‘Go away’ campaign (working title!!)
March and June graphics placements
What can you do?
Which groups have similar objectives to you?
Who is duplicating your messages?
Could you do more than simply put posters up?