PROVO — Thirty-nine years ago when Julene Butler began her career at BYU, there was no Google. There was no Twitter, Facebook or YouTube. Instead of Wikipedia, students and faculty relied on thick, paper encyclopedias.
"For years, this was the only place they could find information," said Butler, the university librarian at BYU. "Now, we need to let students know how we are different from the Internet. We are constantly trying to find ways to help students understand how we can help them."
The first task is bringing students back to the library and out of their wireless dorm rooms, where research can be done with a keyword and a keystroke. Although such searches may yield beneficial results, there's so much more to find at the library, Butler said, which is no longer a silent, paper-based, solo study hall.
Today, the Harold B. Lee Library is a bustling hive of group work and digital offerings, and even includes a snack zone.
"(Self-promotion) is not something that we've ever had to do in the past," Butler said, "Yet we're doing it probably better than anyone else, and others are acknowledging it."
Much of the recent attention came from a now-viral promotional video of BYU student Stephen Jones boasting about the library's offerings in a parody of the comical "Old Spice" commercials.
"They made quite a splash," said Joyce Ogburn, vice president of the Association of College and Research Libraries, and university librarian and director of the University of Utah's Marriott Library.
"They have staff and equipment capabilities that not many libraries have. I think they set the bar kind of high with this last one."
Even the Chronicle of Higher Education wrote about the "New Spice" video in their publication this summer.
The HBLL Multimedia Unit, which made the video, works to increase awareness of all library resources, from the Motion Picture Archive Film Series to the scholarly databases, which are a bit more difficult to market, said Roger Layton, communications manager at the library.
"We've worked for years to promote databases to BYU students and we think this is the best promotional tool yet," Layton said of their three new videos.
"I think for our size, we've really stood up and are starting to make a name for ourselves in delivering interesting and effective promotions."
And it seems to work, he said. Any given day, the library is full of happy people studying and working.
Yet other students still don't realize the full "suite of services" available at a research library, like creating and embedding videos to projects, finding graphics to use legally, writing a presentation or creating a spreadsheet, said Ogburn.
"We need to remind them of the services we offer," she said. "Humor works very well and if you do something they're familiar with, they will remember the message."
The U.'s Marriott Library recently created a promotional poster featuring members of the football team, which has been requested by students to hang in their dorm rooms, Ogburn said. Library staff is working on apps so students can peruse the library catalog on their phones, and they even offer book delivery to faculty who can't make it to the library.
"In the old days, everybody had to do what we did in our time frame, in our rules," Ogburn said. "Now we try to say, 'What can I do to help you? Just ask me what you need and I'll make it happen for you.'"
That idea of helping people, even more than a love of books, is what has kept Butler in the library, moving from cataloging to general reference, to second in command, and then to head librarian.Comment on this story
"In the early years it was just a job," she said. "But somewhere along the line I fell in love with librarianship. Those poor, little students who are so lost and so frustrated, helping them discover their questions and then discover how to answer those questions...has become a really satisfying career."
And no matter what changes in the library over the next 10 or 15 years, the core will be the same - "linking people to the resources," Butler said. "There is so much out there that an intermediary really is valuable and essential. Yes, come to the library."