Middle School Observations: Part 2
Last week I wrote about my middle school open house experience as a parent of two rising sixth graders next year. In that post, I identified three observations from the evening that impressed me. Here I would like to elaborate on the first of those three observations:
If I had to describe the experience with one word, that would be it. This was not your run-of-the-mill “sit down and let me tell you about…” type of event. Yes, there were times of lecture-like conveyance of information, but that was in no way the star of the show. We–as future middle school students and parents–were given an active role in the event. We moved around the building in small groups, visiting targeted areas of the school (classrooms, labs, the library, etc.). We were encouraged to (and did) engage with conversation, hands-on experience, observations, and questions. A couple of the classroom visits were presented as mock class sessions with our children encouraged to participate in an activity (using the smart board, responding to questions). A computer lab visit had our children sitting in front of the computers experimenting with a learning application designed by and for current students at the school. In the library, we explored the space and handled the collections. It was, well, engaging.
The experience made me think about orientation sessions at my library. It is easy to draw similarities between an open house and an orientation session. They are both designed to introduce something. And there is an understanding that the attendees are unfamiliar with what is being introduced. Like most of today’s college and university libraries, we use orientation sessions to introduce our library to a freshman class made up largely of eighteen-year-old individuals (1) who are in a foreign land in a college library and (2) for whom engagement is now the status quo–in entertainment, in learning, and so on.
I have been on the giving side of orientation/open house events many times over. I must say, it was refreshing and informative to be on the receiving end. That is, I found value in participating in the experience from the viewpoint of an attendee as opposed to a presenter. From where I sat last week, engagement was good. I am convinced that it helped me to retain much more of the experience than I would have by sitting in an auditorium for two hours listening to someone at a lectern clicking through PowerPoint slides.
How much engagement am I incorporating into orientations that I oversee or present? What am I doing to draw new library users into the experience as I seek to introduce them to what our library has to offer? I ask myself these questions, and I see room for improvement.
What about you? Are you involved in orientation/open house presentations? If so, do you provide opportunities for those in attendance to engage with you? I would love to hear the kinds of things that you are doing.