I’ve been composing an email to the new faculty members in the departments I serve this afternoon, and another librarian I know has been composing a similar email to faculty in a particular program at her library. And you know what? These emails are hard. I want to come across as helpful and practical and not the least bit overwhelming or pushy or beggy.
I don’t really need a response from these people or anything, but I’d hate to see this email just get deleted and forgotten. There’s good stuff in there. Or at least I think so, though I may be a tad biased. Still, I know that I’m competing with a deluge of similarly information-full emails from other places on campus, not to mention the mountain of getting-hired paperwork, or the chaos of moving to a new town. So I’ve decided that the key is to start with the one or two things that are most likely worrying these new faculty. After that, the rest will probably fall into place on its own, but this first interaction has to be about them and their upcoming instructional challenges, not about me and my work. If they read no more than the first sentence or two, what will grab their attention and let them know that I have their interests at heart, not my own?
In this case I think that “I have to fit all this into ten weeks?!?” is probably foremost on these new faculty members’ minds. So I’ll start off by saying something about how I can help them fit research projects into a ten-week term without derailing their course content.
But I think that as I move forward, I’ll try to keep this shift from “here’s what I can do” to “here’s how I can help solve this problem you have” in mind whenever I write these emails. When I first started here, I wanted to prove to people that I could help them, so I gave lots of details about all the various kinds of help I could give. Then I shifted towards giving a couple of examples that illustrated many things, or that would spark people’s imaginations. And I still like using specific examples, but I’ve gone off the idea of telling them Everything They Must Know (here and in my instruction). No, my goal now is much more modest: I would like them to know at least one thing they really wanted to know. After that, details seem to work themselves out and they end up learning what they need as they need it. At least, I hope they do.