Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Time for tea

I've just hosted the first Library Tea of the semester, and I want to take five minutes to reflect on why I do them.

It's not a huge event, just tea and biscuits, in the Library, over the lunch break once a week. It is something I think is important, though, which is why I've negotiated for the budget for it, the support from our facilities team, and why I don't mind spending my break time loading the dishwasher!

It isn't about the numbers, but the number of people involved does affect both the feel and the purpose. Some semesters, tea has averaged maybe 20 students each week, last semester was nearer to 70, with an all time high of 86! Today was about 45, almost 1/3 of the student body.

When it's a small group of students attending, it does mean that the teas tend more towards being about the students talking with me, which is an opportunity to spread information about London and about the Program in an informal setting, as well as a chance for me to get to know some of the students.

When it's a very big group, the teas are much more about providing a venue for students to talk with each other, to build a community and make - or catch up with - friends, and for a program like ours, that matters too.

Either way, it encourages students into the library, and makes it very easy for them to ask me questions, academic or otherwise.

Today's tea was a really nice mix of the two things, where it developed it's own social momentum, but I also had the chance to sit down and join the conversation, to start getting to know some of the students a little.

Also, it never fails to impress me that I've almost never had to announce that tea is over, or ask people to quiet down when the end of the lunch break comes around.

One of the concerns about my hosting the teas was that it would encourage people to use the Library as a purely social space, and I'm pleased that the students recognise that, when it's time for their friends to go to class, it's also time for the Library to switch back to being primarily a study space. (I say primarily, because the boundaries between 'studying' and 'socialising' are much less defined that some people think.)

Here's hoping that continues as the semester goes on.

* Photo by me.

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