Re-shaping library instructions: Enter Doctor Zotero

This is a story about how to re-shape your library instruction offer a bit in order to meet new demands. It’s not rocket science, I bet many does it, but it works wonders and therefore I want to share it.

For about 3 years we have been giving instructions to Zotero at The Faculty Library of Social Sciences, Copenhagen University Library. We have mainly been targeting students but after a year or two faculty members has also begun to request sessions on Zotero. We also offers instructions on EndNote and RefMan but Zotero has been far the most successful offer measured in interested and the counting of heads showing up to instructions.

In the beginning things were kind of slow on our new Zotero instruction offer. We put it out as a general introduction for everybody, did the regular marketing and communication but nobody really came to the sessions. We keept on putting out the offer, prasing references management tools and along with digital tools in social sciences (and all other sciences) has been on the rise and academia in general has connected with the new opportunities the picture has changed: We can’t seem to put out enough instructions on Zotero.

But this success left us with a problem: Every time our information specialist has done a session on Zotero there would be at least 6 – 7 request in the days after the sessions from attending students who had a question regarding the use of Zotero. These requests came in via email to the information specialists who gave the instruction and it’s kind of hard to answer those in a satisfactory way. Everyone who deals with digital tool of any sought knows, that in the end, it only makes sense to sit down in front of the program and go over whatever may be the issue. But we really wanted to meet the demand of follow-up questions so we invested a lot of time making appointment with students to go over there Zotero-questions. That is a very good service but it’s also a very expensive service; often the students or information specialist needed to reschedule the appointment and a lot of time was wasted in Outlook instead of on Zotero.

So we thought a bit about that and the answers to the issue was Doctor Zotero.

Reference trouble? Go see Doctor Zotero (on the picture the man with the idea: digital tool wizard Marc Sales)

Doctor Zotero is a session concept which offers consultation on Zotero related questions two times a week on fixed times at the library. No booking needed, just stop by, there might be a queue but it will soon be your turn. When ever we have an instructions on Zotero these days, Doctor Zotero is brought up in the end as the touchpoint for further instruction and support. And the impact has been massive: Last term 72 students went to see Doctor Zotero (which is high amount compared to how many we take in on the regular instructions), they got an excellent support and at the same time we are saving administration time on setting up appointment with a lot of students.

The regular extra bonus: talking with students about a specific need always give opportunities to add some extra value from the library boutique.

Doctor Zotero is a simple concept. If you find yourself struggling with admin time-consuming user appointment I’ll recommend you try it out in some form – and not only on Zotero. Doctor Political Science and Doctor Sociology is also in the library these days.





  1. Awesome, I also give support of a custom made software for a cultural heritage institution. And I’m having the same issue, just today I pitched the idea of scheduling a fixed time slot to solve issues. Got a good response but im guesing that the “dr. ” is going to be a blast of fun way of laughs
    thanks for sharing


  2. Hello Mr. Lauersen and Mr. Sales,

    I was wondering what kind of questions the students ask about Zotero, and whether the tutorials you provide also include information about how to find answers in the Zotero forums, GitHub issues, etc.?

    Thank you and thanks for this informative write-up of a great idea 🙂


    • Hi Cathryne, it’s often questions about small things they can’t work out because they got a Mac and Zotero works a bit different on those. Also just loads of normal follow-up questions on the general presentation like how to export and stuff like that

      We do also point them to other kind of help forums, online tutorials etc. if it’s seems like they could use it

      And thanks! Really glad you like the idea


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