For more than 115 years, Franklin University has been an educational institution that adult learners can depend on to help them quickly achieve the dream of attaining degrees. We recently asked Alyssa Darden, the Director of Learning and Library Resources about the distinct student body. She said,
Franklin University is quite unique in that a majority of our students are working adults, 80% of whom take courses online. Students range from being located minutes from our campus, to military students stationed around the globe, to students who come to Franklin through our global partners in Oman, Poland, Korea, France, and more.
This geographic diversity means that any resources utilized to help our face-to-face students need to provide the same level of assistance to remote students as well. As a library, we make sure that we are purchasing and prioritizing e-format resources, and that our research services are extended to students regardless of their location.
Springshare was already in place as a product added by the previous library director for LibGuides and LibCal. We’ve since added a few more parts and pieces to it since it has worked so well for us.
We discovered that LibCal is being used beyond the library, too -- a testament to the flexibility and applicability of our platform beyond the traditional library use. It's so exciting to hear about this sort of expansion because the flexibility of our solutions is very important to us.
Franklin's member libraries have varying needs when it comes to managing and curating content. So, naturally, LibGuides CMS was a perfect solution because each library can have their own look and feel, access controls, and courseware integration. Alyssa reflects on their start.
Before our library began using LibGuides – we used nothing! When we first acquired LibGuides, it helped us curate the resources we have in a way to help students understand the research components of some of their courses, and to support programs and topics of interest at the University. We upgraded to LibGuides CMS in 2014 because we added Urbana University as a branch campus, and needed a way to have dual branding.
Libraries also use the group functionality to
Groups can also be used for setting up an intranet, for other libraries on campus like the Law Library or Health Sciences Library, etc., and in Franklin University's case, it can be a real solution for its branch campus and other locations, too. Sharing the LibGuides CMS system is easy. Alyssa said,
The team hadn’t had any experience with LibGuides previously, but the learning curve was small. I think the key was being able to quickly develop some standards and processes of maintenance that helped us figure it all out.
We use statistics on guides as a factor when creating our LibGuide maintenance schedule. Each term, we choose guides that need updating, and at that point, we can also choose to consolidate course guides into a program guide or delete a guide if it has extremely low views. This helps us keep our guides navigable, fresh with the right content, and of the best support for students.
The Franklin University librarians are even using LibGuides CMS for internal purposes. When asked about professional development or staff applications, Alyssa replied,
We make some guides private that serve as a training guide for circulation staff, or a place to lay out exactly how we collect statistics and what goes into the dashboards for LibInsight.
Franklin University's library team uses LibCal to efficiently meet the scheduling and reservations needs of its students and faculty. Alyssa recalled,
We originally chose LibCal to function as a booking system for the 12 study rooms in the library. This provided a more transparent reservation system that users could book in advance, and at the same time, help the University understand usage of the rooms. Later, we added the research coaching service that let students book appointments with a librarian.
Springshare clients have been using LibCal beyond the library for some time because its features translate to serve so many universal calendaring needs. The LibCal solution proved to be useful to more than just the Franklin University Library. Alyssa said,
The University embarked on an initiative to improve the student experience by removing as many barriers as possible. One area of focus was making sure that all student-facing areas could be booked for appointments online without much mediation rather than calling in to set up an appointment during business hours. We were able to take what we had in place in the library and extend it across campus so advisors, financial aid, and others could have students book the appointments, cutting down on calls, emails, and walk-ins, which improves the student experience.
The same room booking functionality and the ability to book appointments for research coaching were also added to the Urbana University upon becoming a branch campus that shared library system resources.
The response to the use of LibCal at the University has been favorable. The real news is that the system's flexibility has made it even more appealing than they anticipated. Alyssa revealed,
Since we originally started using LibCal for departments other than the library, the system has evolved. The locations feature has allowed our teams to more effectively manage their appointments. For example, we have a division of the University that works with community colleges across the country, and the locations feature has allowed them to schedule in-person appointments at the various schools they visit. We also have some employees who work remotely so the locations feature allows us to limit their availability to phone appointments only while other advisors may meet in-person or at a branch campus.
It can be tricky to work with data -- how much is too much, what data to collect, how to not lose the forest from the trees, how to think of the narrative your data presents...The librarians at Franklin University have been considering these very questions. Using Libinsight helps them to get some answers. Alyssa noted,
We were just not doing much analysis before LibInsight. This is a tool that was able to put to use much of the data that was automatically collected, but rarely analyzed. We really needed to know a good cost per use, and also help to unify all the different functionalities that we have going on in our Learning Commons (tutoring, testing, library) to tell a single data story.
They have big plans for their LibInsight system. Alyssa said,
...we have created different dashboards to highlight things that are different to different stakeholders (director, administration, students), and to feature some data stories on website banners where people can click through to get a fuller picture of the data if they are interested.
Springshare tools are flexible enough to support our unique operations, take user behavior and preferences into account, and have a fresh look and feel. Things like LibInsight help us translate the great work we do every day into something that makes sense for those that may not be in our day to day work.
We've heard stories here at Springshare that recount how -- many moons ago -- a library's biggest tech problem used to be the unreliability of their dot matrix printer! When asked about the part that technology plays in the library, Alyssa pointed out that,
Tech has changed the library in a huge way over the years, and Springshare helps us stay on the cutting edge. You have to consider the student’s experience and expectations when they are walking into libraries – they are used to mobile-friendly online booking, and easily navigable content that gets to the point quickly. Those expectations don’t drop when they start college or enter a university library, so we need to make sure we leverage tools like Springshare’s to meet them where they are.
This is one of the areas in which I think Springshare excels. I love how flexible the team is and how they work to make sure that the vision of how the product could be used is supported and carried through. The product development is always evolving, so sometimes if something doesn’t exist yet, we see the functionality roll out a few months later.
The library team at Franklin University is taking on the challenge of meeting the needs of their very specific demographic of working adults. They do so by prioritizing the student experience and by working to remove barriers. Their innovation has put them in a position to lead the way for other departments on campus. Many now use Springshare tools to provide the students with the power to book appointments in the easiest way possible. We're so happy to be working with Alyssa and the team at Franklin University and wish them another successful 115 years.