The Library is everywhere! How Linkoping University Library went pop-up

This blog post is written by Library Lab friends and fellows Anneli Friberg and Maria Svenningsson from Linkoping University Library, Sweden.

Linkoping University Library is working with communication and outreach in diverse ways. One way to interact with users can be the pop-up library. The pop-up concept is nothing new, it has been used for quite a while, by stores, coffee shops and libraries (mostly public libraries, though). At Linkoping University Library we’ve been talking about pop-up for a while and during 2017 we finally realized it.

The main reason for starting with pop-up was that we wanted to be present where our users are, to offer new touch points for them to interact with us at places where they didn’t really expect to find the library. Furthermore, we wanted to be more visible and relevant for new students, employees and for non-users who don’t actively use the library. The closing of one of our libraries at the University’s main campus may have influenced us to start the project, since many students feel that the remaining library is too far away from their natural study areas.

The planning phase – spring 2017

In spring 2017, after we were given a go-ahead and resources from library management, a project group started. We were five colleagues from different working areas, with different skills and perspectives. One of the group members works as a coordinator between the University’s IT department and the library and the other four are librarians. We also encouraged more library staff to join the project because it is important to involve as many as possible when starting a new way to work. We started to brainstorm to find out where to start, when and how.

We wanted to work with Student Library Ambassadors because we thought that student-student learning would be a good idea. Therefore, we tried to engage students that are working at the library as student helpers. This turned out to be easier said than done, since most of them didn’t have that much time to get involved. Luckily there was one student who wanted to be part of the pop-up concept. From her, we learnt a lot about how to book places at campus and where to be at which times. We also got a better understanding for the student organizations at Linkoping University. This was very valuable, and we will cooperate with them more in the continued planning and work with the pop-up library.

We used an idea qualification technique to structure our discussions, by listing the following questions: What? Who? Why? and How? After processing the What? and Who? we started to think about Why and How? We discussed a lot about in which way the library is helpful for students. We wanted to show them what we can offer, for example course literature and lots of nice study areas, both for group studying and quiet reading. We also started to think about the desk we would use for pop-up; should we bring some kind of furniture with us, for example. After some discussions back and forth we ended up with a mobile desk designed from an old book trolley. We also ordered fake tattoos with the text: The Library is Everywhere.

TatueringThis should be a real tattoo

pop-up-diskFrom book trolley to pop-up library

The start – fall 2017

We started to pop-up at the beginning of the semester, in September. Two of our three campus libraries participated in the pilot project: the Valla Library and the library at Campus Norrköping. We found that lunchtime was the best time to pop-up because most students don’t have lectures at that time. They were waiting for food or friends or just hanging around, happy to talk to us. We were inspired by other libraries working with pop-up, especially by an article by James Barnett, Stephen Bull and Helen Cooper from University of Birmingham who tried the pop-up concept in 2014-2015. They experienced that less is more; in other words, don’t bring too many things. We brought the trolley, a laptop, a few books (fiction) and freebies. The tattoos were very attractive, and the students loved them! We also designed flyers with opening hours and gave away free pens and of course we had a fruit basket for hungry students. Very popular! We were thinking about having beach flags to be even more visible, but most times we skipped that. To enhance visibility, staff wore a library t-shirt and a name tag.
pop-up-C-husetThe Library is everywhere – pop-up library in action

Insights and challenges

After testing a few times, we gathered and talked about our experiences. Almost everyone was enthusiastic and felt comfortable with the concept. Some felt a bit unaccustomed with the proactive part of the pop-up concept, that is approaching students. The project group told everyone that the best is to be yourselves, some think it’s easier than others to interact with people. It’s up to you to decide how to work with pop-up. We encountered one rather big practical problem, though. The plan was to roll the trolley outside, to be visible on the way from the library to the place we were going to pop-up. This turned out to be very difficult due to the wheels of the trolley, which weren’t really made for outdoor activities. We will have to change the wheels. Another thing was the laptop, which we had some trouble with in the beginning (difficulties to log in etc.) but we solved that along the way. Sometimes we didn’t even bring the laptop. A lesson learned: don’t forget to use social media to spread the word about what you do and where you are!

What’s next?

In December last year, management decided to prolong the project for a few months. So, the plan forward is during January 2018, we’re planning to pop-up almost every Wednesday at lunchtime. A schedule is prepared where library staff can book themselves. We’re hoping that colleagues, especially liaison librarians, will join the project. We think they will benefit, coming closer to their departments.

Linkoping University organizes so called Welcome Fairs to welcome and introduce new international students to the University. Naturally, we’ll use this opportunity to pop-up there, as well.

At the end of this semester, we will decide whether pop-up should be part of our regular library activities in the future or not. If we decide not to, then at least we’ve had a valuable learning experience.

pop-up-blå-havetThe Library is everywhere – pop-up library in action

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