Breaking through the Busy: Tips for Getting the Students Who Already Do Everything

“Students are too busy nowadays.” I’m sure we’ve all heard it. So here are a few tips — from my own experience and crowdsourced from other very helpful librarians — to break through the haze of busy-ness and reach students.

Takeover lunch

Students around a lunch table

Getting to school early can be hard. Staying after is even harder, with sports practices, music rehearsals and the like. But during lunch you have a captive audience.

You could purchase food for students (can’t forget the age-old programming adage “If you feed them, they will come”), but for a more budget-friendly event, ask students to brown bag it or provide some to-go boxes for students to grab and go from the cafeteria. Especially for younger students, the privilege to eat lunch in the library for a special event can be really exciting.

Leave the library

If students can't (or won’t) come to you, go to the students.

Take your program to the cafeteria instead of having students come to the library during lunch. Set up in common areas during free periods or before/after school with take-and-make craft kits. Roam the halls between classes with a cart of popular titles to do a pop-up library. 


What is already happening at your school or in your community that you can be part of?

Find student clubs to partner with. Pay attention to the student-run activities these groups are already doing and brainstorm ways for the library to get involved. Partner with teachers to promote events or have them bring their students in during classtime to participate. 

Make it a theme party

Whether it’s an actual party or not, creating a theme for a series of programs can help. An Exam Prep series could have programs on getting organized and managing stress. Adulting-themed programs, covering topics from budgeting to cooking to car maintenance, have been successful in many libraries. 

Draw ‘em in with door prizes

A little healthy competition never hurts. Offer a door prize or two to entice students to attend programs. Bonus points if your door prize matches the theme, such as an “exam survival kit” with snacks and study supplies during an Exam Prep program series.

Prizes don’t need to be big, though. I often give out free snack vouchers for our on-campus bookstore; each free snack a student gets courtesy of the library only costs me about 50 cents.