What is a “lormal”?
What is a “lormal”?
A lormal is a library formal event, put on in celebration of student workers at the end of the school year, according to Abby Vande Walle, coordinator of circulation services at University of Notre Dame’s (Ind.) Hesburgh Libraries. Student workers are invited to dress up and walk the red carpet, eat fancy food, and have fun. Some of them even receive awards.
“All of our students got really animated about this and they started making campaign posters to be lormal king or queen,” Vande Walle said. “It turned into prom.”
A lormal is just one of the examples Vande Walle shared at “Ideas for Increasing Library Student Employee Training, Engagement, and Retention,” a January 22 session at the American Library Association’s 2024 LibLearnX conference in Baltimore. Vande Walle offered various solutions to help encourage students to be more involved in their jobs at the library, shared the impact these efforts made, and covered other best practices.
Vande Walle acknowledged that there are challenges in employing student workers at the library. For instance, students might be inexperienced because it’s their first job. They may also lack interest because it is not in their intended field post-graduation. Or, Vande Walle said, “they think that a job at the library means they can sit at the desk and do their homework.”
To help boost motivation while training, Vande Walle created a three-tier program. Students are only required to complete training through tier two but can volunteer to learn up to tier three. In tier three, they are considered “lead student assistants”—a title they can add to their résumé—and are given a small pay increase and a ribbon to attach to their name tag.
“Since implementing this system almost two years ago, we’ve had a dramatic increase in students actively asking us for training,” Vande Walle said. “They will remind me if I have forgotten a training session because they are motivated to move along in this process.”
Vande Walle also offered strategies to increase retention, sharing how the library has fostered a close-knit culture among student workers. It can be as simple as starting a fantasy football league or creating a Spotify playlist together, or more complex like hosting a lormal or throwing an Oscars watch party. Student wellbeing is also prioritized: The library offers sensory toys and quiet spaces, for example, to help student workers destress.
“Planning retention activities and developing creative ways to engage student employees takes time and effort year-round. However, our unit has found that the benefits are vast,” Vande Walle said. “The sense of community among our students and staff is extremely high. They’re more than willing to substitute for each other when they need it, and they engage with the work on a deeper level.”