Finals Week

What a week! And it’s not over yet!

This week (Dec. 5-9) is finals week at my university. To help students make it through their finals, we have been providing free drinks and snacks, every night, Sunday – Thursday, from 8-11pm. Starting your week on Sunday makes Monday not look so bad!

Tuesday night - students are lining up!

It has been a huge hit, but it’s also been a learning experience. This is my first time being in charge of something like this — having my boss ask me what I wanted her to do next, since I’m in charge of this event, was kind of surreal. I still have a hard time saying “I’m a librarian” because that sounds too much like “I’m a grown-up”!

Sunday was a frantic mess! I realized around noon that I had forgotten to order tables to use for the event. (We order them from facilities when we need them, don’t have to store them when we don’t!) That’s kind of important. Luckily, there were two tables left in the library from an event held on Saturday. Whew! Things wound up falling nicely into place, but man, that whole night was crazy. We had three librarians working the event, and it was rare to see more than one of us at the table at any given time. I was there mostly, with the other two running off to chop more fruit & veggies, refill the dip, refill the hot water urn, and so on.

Monday night beverages

Monday went a bit more smoothly. At the very least, I knew that we would have tables to use! The decorations were still pretty rudimentary — no table cloths, even. But the people getting free food & drinks were not complaining in the least! Yesterday was even better — the decorations looked better, the food prep & refilling was more streamlined.

During the week before Thanksgiving, I put a big whiteboard in the lobby and asked what people wanted for snacks during finals week. Within just a couple of days, there was barely any white space on the board, and people had gone around to write on the back.

We tried to address some of the requests on the board. Sadly, for some silly reason, we weren’t legally able to provide the requested pot brownies. And bacon didn’t work out either. But we did what we could!

Each night, we brew a pot of coffee in a 42-cup coffee urn and use a second urn for hot water, with tea bags and hot chocolate packets next to it. The coffee is popular, but it seems that the hot chocolate is even more popular. Who knew students studying would pick hot chocolate over caffeine? Though, to be fair, some do use the cocoa with coffee to make mochas. I’ve also been amazed at the number of students that add sugar to their hot chocolate. Apparently packets of Swiss Miss hot chocolate with mini marshmallows is not sweet enough on its own.

For the snacks, we served:
Sunday — sliced apples & tangerines, grapes, carrots, broccoli, hummus, Goldfish, animal crackers cookies… I think that may have been all. Otherwise I’m already forgetting stuff, so it’s a good thing I’m writing it now!
Monday — sliced apples & tangerines, grapes, carrots, broccoli, tortilla chips & salsa, & chocolate chip cookies.
Tuesday — sliced apples & tangerines, grapes, carrots, broccoli, ranch dip, little smokies, pretzels & honey mustard dip (someone requested honey mustard onion pretzels on the board, we tried to get close!), & duplex cookies.

The most popular item so far has been a toss-up between the little smokies and the grapes. Yes, you read that right, grapes have been at the top of the most popular list every night so far. The carrots and broccoli are kind of hit or miss — they’re worth having because some people load up on them, and baby carrots make prep work easy, but they’re not a hit with everyone. I also haven’t seen anyone turn their noses up at the cookies — they may be as popular as the grapes, but I’m not surprised when people load up on cookies, so they haven’t stood out as exceptionally popular to me!

Being able to do this for the students has been great, and just taking the time to chat with them while they make their hot chocolate or fix up their coffee has been a lot of fun. But it’s expensive. Holy cow is it expensive!

The best part about this week from a budgetary perspective is that we were able to get some deans to kick in money to sponsor a night of snacks. I sent out a request during the week before Thanksgiving and only got two responses — but that’s $100 each that we wouldn’t have had before! On Sunday night, after we put everything away, my boss sent out an email to the all faculty and all staff list serves for the campus, reporting on how it went. I couldn’t keep count of how many people stopped by, but we went through around 200-250 cups and close to 400 plates (paper plates, so some may have doubled up). After that, a few other departments and colleges in the university contacted me, wanting to also sponsor nights. So Wednesday and Thursday are booked as well, with at least one group already signed up to sponsor a night during finals week in the spring!

Tuesday night was sponsored by the College of Arts & Humanities

How awesome is that?!?!

The response from the students has been great. They all say “thank you,” and several have told us that it has made studying a lot less painful. The only negative comments I’ve gotten have been about other things, like the fact that we had regular hours the weekend before finals instead of extended hours, or that it’s noisy on the “quiet” floor — so that gave us a chance to talk about the problems they’ve had and let them know we’re trying to work with them to address those problems. Overall, I think it has definitely been more than worth the lost sleep and frantic running around. I love my job!