By Jessica Swaringen & Melissa Brown
As all academic librarians know, the days leading up to final exams see a surge of undergraduate students populating the library, some students walking through the security gates for the very first time. Just imagine: you’re in the library late at night and hear the dull roar of students buzzing with anxiety and excitement – anxiety for their tests and excitement for when it is all over, of course – the shuffle of flash cards, the tick-tick-ticking of laptop keyboards, and the occasional rumbling stomach of students forgetting to eat in the hurly-burly of it all. Such conditions present the perfect opportunity for student outreach, at least if you ask the library outreach team at Georgia Southern University (GS) Libraries.
The first iterations of the snack cart program took place in the 2021-2022 academic year on the Statesboro campus of Georgia Southern University. During the week before final exams, the libraries’ outreach coordinator, Melissa Brown, would circulate with the snack cart starting at 11pm. These snacks were labeled with a sticker providing the patron with the contact information of their librarian subject liaison.
The snack cart program continued into the Fall 2022 semester, this time expanding to the Armstrong campus in Savannah as well. While a few changes were made to best serve the students at each respective campus, the mission of the snack cart program stayed the same: inform students of their library liaisons, advertise facility hours during exam week, and provide a pick-me-up during a stressful time. GS Libraries served 313 students at the Statesboro campus and 195 students at the Armstrong campus with the Fall 2022 snack cart program.
You may be wondering how much a program like this will cost your library. In our experience, it will require some deal-hunting to make the most of your budget, but we were able to make the program work for around $800 a year – $500 allocated to the Statesboro campus and $300 to the Armstrong campus. Even without large funding, community donors and business partners can be a significant help in creating a snack cart program for your library.
A small gesture of hospitality can build a bridge between students and academic institutions. Food has not always been permitted in library spaces, and that can serve as a barrier for many patrons wishing to use the library for extended periods of time. Cultivating a setting that allows students to feel welcome and appreciated sets the stage for more comfortable interactions between students and librarians in the future. By meeting students where they are, we create another avenue to connect students with the services we provide.
If you’d like more information or to share ideas, please contact Jessica Swaringen at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about Georgia Southern University Libraries https://library.georgiasouthern.edu/.