Libraries are always trying to find innovative ways to reach a wider patron base. We want people to come and use our resources and find value in our mission, but that isn't always easy -- especially at a law library.
Our main patron base of law students, faculty, and staff are very busy people. With so many responsibilities and demands on their time, many of our patrons don't have time to venture outside of the material required to get an A in a class or go outside of their area of expertise. So how do we attract our current patrons to use our vast resources, as well as attract more patrons?
A few law libraries have started to look for innovative ways to attract users by circulating unusual items that are generally not in a law library collection. For example, in 2011 Yale started "circulating a [therapy] dog as part of its collection during periods of high stress, such as the weeks leading up to exams or bar finals."
"In addition to his stress-reducing abilities, [the therapy dog] represented a statement of intent by the library: that it was serious about meeting the interests and needs of its users. The provision of a therapy dog was seen as a natural extension of the library’s innovative and positive approach to its patrons, and created another avenue for the library to interact directly with students and cultivate face time."
Other examples of innovative circulation items that patrons can borrow are "bicycles, soccer balls, soccer goals, phone chargers, umbrellas, iPads, e-readers, cameras, popular fiction, in addition of course to the expected print legal materials. DVD and audio book collections have also become increasing popular and sought after."
These are all great services to add to a library collection to show patrons that the library cares about their well-being. If patrons feel like the library is a comfortable place that supports them, they will be more likely to use the space.
At my institution, we stopped purchasing textbooks for elective courses because textbooks do not add value to the collection when looking from a strict collection development perspective. But textbooks do get patrons into the library, so we may need to revisit this decision.
Greenbag -- Not Your Parents' Law Library: A Tale of Two Academic Law Libraries