The work done by University of Waterloo's Library Ambassadors was celebrated in the latest issue of Voices: Topics in Canadian Librarianship which was focused on "mental health training, experiences, and programming in public, academic, and special libraries."
The feature article, written by Mary Lynne Bartlett and Preethi Rao, explores the idea that the Library's mandate for supporting student success needs to go above and beyond providing academic resources and services. The Library Ambassador program leads go on to note that "academic libraries tend to become strongholds for stress, especially at the end of term when students are met by a minefield of submission deadlines and exams. High levels of stress can have negative effects on mental health for students [...]"
As co-chair of the Library's Student Engagement Committee, Mary Lynne highlights some of the Library's student engagement activities, many of which focus on stress reduction and supporting good mental health, including therapy dog visits, fun and interactive mascots and, most significantly, the Library Ambassadors program.
First piloted in 2016, the program has been extremely successful and sees the hiring of 8-10 Ambassadors each term to facilitate peer-to-peer engagement and advocacy on behalf of the Library. As program co-leads, Mary Lynne and Preethi ensure Ambassadors are equipped to promote the Library and campus resources that support student success.
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Why are the Library Ambassadors critical to our mission of supporting student success? As the article states, "one of the easiest mistakes to make [...] is to leave students and their input out of the equation. The ambassadors’ unique perspectives on the student experience allow the Library insight that might be missed otherwise." Another window into the student perspective is the feedback sessions the Ambassadors conduct each term to reach out to their peers and gauge how the Library is doing at meeting student needs. "[A] recurring theme arose from the responses: the concept of the Library as a second home or a safe space for students.
Making students feel welcome and cared for through student engagement is one of the many ways in which the University of Waterloo Library supports its students."