The Student Advisory Board: Incorporating Student Voice at the RMIT University Library

Obtaining feedback on services from stakeholder groups is the only true way to verify that needs are being met, which is why it is a best practice across a wide variety of industries and organisations. Students constitute one of the major stakeholder groups for a university library, but obtaining their input and feedback often proves challenging, with the time needed to recruit, schedule, interview, and process feedback frequently becoming a barrier for library staff—not to mention the busy schedules of the students themselves.

Student advisory bodies are an established means of incorporating student perspectives into library decision-making at universities worldwide. A student advisory board or committee acts as a standing body that can pose suggestions and provide feedback on library services and offerings, with the students serving as experts on the student experience, becoming advocates for the library, and assisting in engagement of their peers. After extensive analysis of the literature to understand the organisation, utilisation, challenges, and successes of such student advisory bodies, RMIT University Library founded a Student Advisory Board in Semester 2 2023.

This presentation discusses the background of the project, the decisions made in establishing the structure and operating plan of the Board, the process of recruiting student members, and the Board’s early activities. Challenges, insights, and lessons learned will be shared, with the hope that this project can help inform other Australian university libraries in their own students-as-partners initiatives.

Kelly Ann Smith

Digital Learning Resource Specialist, RMIT University

Author Bio

Kelly Ann Smith has a background in librarianship, teaching, technical writing and research, and is currently a Digital Learning Resource Specialist at the RMIT University Library. She utilised her user research experiences in higher education and industry to establish the library’s new Student Advisory Board, which she hopes will elevate the voices of students in library decision-making. The common thread throughout her work has been the empowerment of others, and she is passionate about fighting systemic inequities and facilitating a sense of self-efficacy in students. Kelly Ann has presented her strategies for teaching media literacy at a leading education conference in the US, and more recently shared a poster at IFLA 2023 on a HEPPP-funded equity initiative, the Learning Lab Contextualised Content OER, of which she is an author. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature, a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in Germanic Studies, a Master of Library and Information Science, and a Master in Teaching, and is an accredited teacher in Australia and the US.