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This article inspired by a chit chat with Ms. Sekar. We were met at the seminars in LIPI Gatot Subroto, Sept 5th  2012.

I remember it was started when one of the seminar contributor were talking about how important the users are for the library, we were stood near to the back wall, and we were talking a lot about library, it was fun. Sekar said that the key to the library survive is the users, that is why, the librarian must keep trying to approach the users as best as they can. She talked about her library (seems that she works in a place called Taman Bacaan, Taman Bacaan is like a small library that serve the reading need of the society surround it).

She said that it needs a huge efford to approach the user in her Taman Bacaan.

 

“why?”  I said.

“well, you know my users commonly come from the lowest economic level, oftenly they come to the library without having shower, I don’t know wheter they have any appropriate place to bath or not but you know it brings unpleasant smell in the  library, and absolutely the have vice.”

“so how do you deal with that?”

“you know, we educate them to clean them self and also taking care of the library clean. We tell them also not to eat at the library, kinda difficult at the beginning but we got them in our hand as a loyal reader eventually. Users are precious for the library, they have a big effect to the budget. Why do you think that the donator give us money to spend  for the library needs? The library users are became the key point to the donators to decide whether they will contribute their money to the library or not.

She said it is a must for a librarian to know that actualize the users needs are the critical point, if you list the library target of the year by priority, put the actualize the user needs as the number one target.

I think i am with her on that point, users are the numero uno. First priority on the library’s target each year. What that we need to improve is the approaching strategy to the users.

Concerning this high important point, I am gonna share some of my experience during my working period at the school library in mid 2007 to mid 2008. I should say that it was a big challenge for me in my first step as a library practitioner jumped down into the real working areal. It  was my first experience  of facing users face to face.

The Tips

The former librarian in the school library, where I was working for  a year, is a law graduated. And seems that when he inducted me for a week before he officially moved to his new workplace, the library was a hollow place. I could count how many student (with their own will) came to the library every single day along the induction week , with my left fingers only. And I promised to my self that it wouldn’t happen on my periode.

My students came from the top level of Economic, but it doesn’t mean that they have a good attitude. They were more likely as teenagers who feel that they paid me as a librarian, so I had to do what they love and treat them like bosses. That meant war? Definitely NO. That meant to be a challenge for me to embrace them to be the users who come to the library with their own will and consciously believe that library is an important support tool for their learning stages.

So what exactly did I do? Here are some of them, I write them as a tips

First. The Popular and Unpopular

Try hard to know well who the popular and the unpopular students are. Why? Knowing here means, you know who exactly the person that has huge influence to others students. You know, its a habit that most of the students at school have their own group. You must be  knowing them well, and then you will know how to adapt with them, how they talk, what are they talking about, what is the hot topic. The last one is the most important, you need to update your mind about the topic in the air. Then you can make a real connection with them, and the information that you will get on the way you connect with them, you can use it a consideration in library material accuisition. As you know that fiction material must be have bigger ratio than non fiction material in the School Library. How to get this information, well of course by having interconnection with the popular students.

And what about the unpopular students? Of course they are important too, you are not going to have the unjust library materials right? That’s why you need to embrace the unpopular students also. Cause we all know that library is for all students, not for some of them.

Second. Be a Stand By Smile Helper and Motivator

In Indonesia, sometimes, well most of the time, teacher send their students under detention period to the library. Seems like it’s been a tradition. But that’s not the point.  The point is, you as a librarian must welcome them with smile. Not with a boring or disappoint face, it you use that boring face when they enter the library door, trust me, they won’t take any steps closer to your library in the other day, the worst possible that they will not come to the library for the rest of their study time at the school, except they are under imposition.

When they are in the library, smile and talk to them as soft as you can, they might be more sensitive when they are under detention period. Try to understand what are the reasons why they got the detention, and try to give a solution. Remember, the solutions must be not discredit them, otherwise you will not going to see them anymore. After that, tell your own story about your experience when you had a detention at your school in the past. The story must be motivate them to be a good student. I have a story that I always tell to to the  students under detention, the story was about a friend of mine, who were very rude at the school, but now he is a successful entrepreneur.

Why? Because when the teacher sent him to the library for he was very noisy at the class, he began to love a book and read some books that inspired him to be an entrepreneur someday. After that ask them (if you have more than one detention students) about their future idea, then relate the idea to your library material, that has the same topic or that can support them to reach their idea. I believe, when you do this, next day they will come to your library NOT as a  students under detention. When in the other day he/she come to the library, treat them like the way you treat other students who come to the library with their own will, do not give high intent to him/her, since they will feel a bit awkward to show that your words has motivated them to come. A smile can be better.

Third. Embroiled Students in Accuisition

Beside the first tips that deal with the accuisition activity, embroiled students in accuisition will have a huge effect to the increasing library users mission. How to involve them in accuisition? Create a survey, print it on a piece of paper and spread them to the students who come to the library, for one or two weeks. Here is the example of the survei:

The Request Tittle                           : ………………………………………….

The Form                                           : Book/CD/Audio/……………………

Name of Requester                         : …………………………………………..

Supporter(s) name/ amount      :

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

The Reason Why you Request this collection:

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Why we only spread them to the users who come to the library? Because he/she will look for another students to be their supporter to strengthen her/his request. This is really work and fun. You only spend a little time to gain huge amount of library users. Even the students who are seem to have library allergic, will involved. And they will be very happy, because this is like a competition to them. This activity effective to : increasing library users, enhancing the students social skill, gaining the students that may be beyond our reach (the students who have the library allergic).

Fourth. Mastering Your Library Material

This is important! You do not want to be stuttering when the students ask you about the material in your library, don’t you? It is absolutely disaster when all you can do is “…aaa…mmm..oke let me check my database”. In Indonesia, the average school library is not so big. So mind all your material, even at a glance. Do the shelv reading every morning before the library open, just 10 to 20 minutes everyday, and I bet you will record the material all in your brain in one or two weeks.

Why is this so important? As the students come to the library seeking for the materials, you are in a position of ready to answer anything about your library materials. Student in their teenage are not more impatient than the adult and waiting activity can not be tolerate. When all the library material saved in your brain, you can even refer them to the related topic that they look for in 5 seconds, and that will be your best value added.

Well… interest..?pick your own favourite tips…

Jakarta, October 8, 2012

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