Lunching with Librarians: Informally Engaging with Online Students to Support Instruction

Poster Description: Informal engagement with students provides valuable support to formal instruction and assessment practices. Learn how librarians implemented Zoom sessions during lunch to creatively engage online students. Informal synchronous meetings allow students to ask for help in a non-threatening setting, while also learning about services and resources to help them succeed.

Poster: Link to transcript

Presenter Names: Melissa Atkinson, Abilene Christian University and Avery Weems, Abilene Christian University

Presenter Bios: Dr. Melissa Atkinson is the Director of Distance & Online Library Services at Abilene Christian University. Dr. Atkinson earned an MSLS from UNT (2000) and a PhD from Regent University (2019). Dr. Atkinson focuses on online course development, metaliteracy, and research assistance for online graduate students. Email:

Avery Weems is the Distance & Online Services Librarian at Abilene Christian University since 2020. Avery has worked at the library in various roles since 2013, completing her MLIS from UNT in 2017. Avery’s focuses include virtual research assistance, serving online undergraduate students, and Zotero instruction. Email:

7 replies on “Lunching with Librarians: Informally Engaging with Online Students to Support Instruction”

Interesting! Did you find anything about Lunching that didn’t work as you had planned? Are students patient while you answer another student’s question that perhaps doesn’t pertain to them?

Hi, Joy. Thanks for your comment. A couple of things that didn’t go as planned are that student attendance is difficult to predict, and much more often than we expected, students will come in without any questions, hoping to listen to other students’ questions and learn something. This happens especially at the start of a term.

We have found that students are usually very patient when listening to other students’ questions, partly because there’s so much interest in learning from others. We used breakout rooms once so that each of us could answer different questions at the same time. Usually, the students who are in the Zoom meeting together are in similar programs and can benefit from a lot of the same information.

It also helps that we make it easy for students to transition from talking to us on Zoom to scheduling a one-on-one appointment with one of us for later, if the lunch session gets busy.

Avery might have a different take on this, but honestly, I didn’t think it would be attended all that often, if at all. Students really seem to like hopping on, asking a question, getting an answer, then going about their day. We’ve had teachers on lunch break asking a quick question. Other students stay for the entire session hoping they get helpful information from someone else’s question (which often leads to them asking a question of their own). I only recall one student that didn’t stay when someone else was asking a question and didn’t ask a question before they left. Most of the time, students will wait patiently.

I think this is a great idea. Have you marketed this to faculty only like a did you know for faculty?
Also, do you know if faculty encourage students to attend the lunching with the librarian or is it mostly through email and student motivation that students attend?

We have not marketed this to faculty yet. In our online programs, there are many adjunct faculty, so I am not sure how to market to them. I’m not sure what the motivation for faculty to attend would be, but maybe that’s something we can think about for the future!

I don’t think faculty are telling students to attend this session, except for one case where we had a request from a program director (who was asking for a student who had contacted the Dean of the college of professional studies) to offer this kind of help during an evening session. We don’t have plans to offer this during an evening session because we do have chat available during the evenings. We currently do not offer chat during the lunch hour, so that’s where we got the idea of having this session during lunch (lunch-ish anyway). We mostly get students who attend because of our emails and word of mouth.

Thank you both for sharing! This is such a great concept. I am amazed you have an email list of all online students. How did you manage such a feat? I’m also wondering, do you have trouble with Zoom bombing?

We just happened upon this email list. The Director of our Online Writing Center mentioned that she had access to it and asked if we would like access to it. The writing center gets their list from enrollment and it is shared with them through a Google doc. We agreed amongst ourselves (Avery and I) that we would only use it sparingly so that students wouldn’t be bombarded with emails from us and the writing center. So, we were lucky to get access to this gem of a resource!

We haven’t had trouble with Zoom bombing since our university required a password for all Zoom sessions. So, we send out the Zoom link (in our email to the student list and our monthly email) with the password embedded in it. The Zoom link is not linked anywhere on our Libguides or website (that I know of).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *