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Academic libraries across the country rely heavily on a student workforce to help maintain crucial library functions and provide essential services to the University community. According to the Academic Libraries National Center for Education Statistics 2012 report student employees account for approximately 31 percent of full time equivalent hours in all U.S. academic libraries.  Here at ZSR Library, we employ approximately 280 student assistants on average each academic year.

Our Challenge

The beginning of the academic library year coincides with one of the busiest times of the calendar when new students are arriving to campus, some seeking jobs, interviewing for positions, getting hired and needing quick, comprehensive training. As new students are being indoctrinated into the working life of our library, patrons are in the library expecting high level services.  To add to this perfect storm, new students and faculty will be experiencing their ‘first impression’ of the library, so the need for excellent service is also at its highest. A quick method that allows for covering the basic tenets of library practice and includes customer service, privacy, and safety and security training is crucial to both the success of new student employees and the library overall.

ZSR Bootcamp is a collaborative effort across all library departments that employ student assistants and incorporates comprehensive student employee training through diverse learning activities, such as video tutorials, small group work, interactive polling, library tours and opportunities for exploration. This mandatory orientation program is held early in the semester on a Sunday afternoon for a three hour period in the library with all new student assistants.  The program includes refreshments and short breaks to keep students awake and energized. ZSR Bootcamp is led by a group of dedicated “drill sergeants”– student managers and administrators from multiple library departments, each bringing their own expertise and energy to the program.

ZSR Bootcamp Drill Sergeants: Meghan Webb, Doris Jones, Mary Beth Lock, Hu Womack, and Rebecca May.

Post-Bootcamp survey results from participating student assistants indicate that the program was an effective tool for providing comprehensive student assistant training. Of the total responses, more than half of the students recognized several Bootcamp content areas as “most helpful” for new student employees– including “Professionalism / Customer Service / Diversity & Inclusion”, “ZSR Weather Policy”, “Printing Services”, and the “ZSR Website Tour”.  Bootcamp participants also praised the opportunity to build camaraderie with their colleagues in other departments.

Further, we recognize that the content covered in the Bootcamp training program extends beyond their employment success with the library. We invest the time and effort into these experiences because we recognize the opportunity for our students to take these behaviors, lessons and experiences as they grow and develop in their chosen career.