Library FunFest

This post is way overdue!

This summer, our library worked with our university’s new summer bridge (aka college transition) program, which was designed to help at risk students (those at the lower end of our admittance standards) have a better chance of succeeding in college. We taught two sections of our 2-credit hour course – about 1/3 of the students in the program took our course. We also contributed a couple of sessions to the program as a whole: a library game day, dubbed “FunFest,” to do a fun orientation to the library and a workshop on rhetorical devices featuring an episode of Penn & Teller’s Bullshit.

FunFest was, believe it or not, a lot of fun! We blocked off three hours for this during the planning stages, before they knew how many students would enroll in the program. The administrators were hoping for somewhere around 150 students, but they wound up having only about 60 enrolled — which meant that we could spend three hours with all of the students instead of having three shifts of about 50 students for an hour each.

With this amount of time available, we decided to start the day with a pre-test to assess the impact this program would have on students’ information literacy skills. It was a pretty boring way to start the day, but hopefully we made up for it later! So students arrived around 9am, and we planned to have the actual FunFest begin at 9:30.

From 9:30 to 11:00 am, we had game stations for students to move between, and they had a “passport” that had to be signed at each station. Expecting around 60 students to split into groups of around 10, we planned six game stations. In reality, they split into 5 groups, so each person running a station got a break at some point. Students had 12 minutes at each station, then three minutes to get their passports signed and move to the next station.

We tried to come up with fun games for each station:

  • Family Feud morphing into basic trivia, run by a member of our circulation staff.
    1. Family Feud style question asking what sorts of items can be checked out at the circulation desk (books, laptops, earphones, scanners, dry erase markers, study room keys, movies, flip cameras, etc.).
    2. Trivia questions about some of the items on the list from Family Feud.
      • How many books do we have in the library?
      • How many laptops are available to check out?
      • What time do we close?
  • Jeopardy. Questions were related to using the catalog, identifying which floor to go to based on call number (A-H is on the second floor, J-Z on the third), and whatnot.
  • Pictionary.
    1. Draw the various ways to get help in the library
    2. Actually walk over to the reference desk
    3. Actually use the chat reference widget on our home page
  • Some sort of evaluation game, designed and run by a couple of library faculty members.
    • This one looked like it went really well, but I didn’t get the details on it. They seemed to be split into 2 teams, competing for the best answers to questions related to evaluation.
    • Doggie squeak toys standing in for buzzers was a great idea!
  • Pick the best database can
    • This one was inspired by the Google bucket idea from University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
    • Due to limited time, each “bucket” was labeled with the sorts of stuff you’ll find there, and teams competed to select the best “bucket” for a given question the fastest. Google was the biggest and had more irrelevant crap, but we did include a question where that was the best place to look – it’s all about fitting the tool to your information need!
  • Call number race, run by our stacks manager. This one looked like the most fun, but that may just be because our stacks manager was having a ridiculous amount of fun (he’s the one waving at the camera)!
    1. Two book carts are loaded with a set of books with similar call number attributes (including potentially confusing stuff like B101.5 and B1015, where many students overlook a tiny detail like a decimal point, leading to trouble finding the book they need). Of course the books are all out of order.
    2. The group splits into two teams and compete to see which team can get them into the correct order first.
    3. When a group raised their hands, Dave would check the order and indicate any books that are out of order (assuming it’s only a few). If they can get those errors fixed before the other team gets all of their correct, they win. By the time he finished checking the first team, the second team was usually ready for him to check their cart.

At every game station, we had a big bowl of candy to use as prizes. I went out and spent around $80 on candy (which was reimbursed) for this day!

Most of the students seemed to really get in to the games. I overheard a few of them comment to one another as they walked by that they thought three hours at the library was going to suck, but that this was pretty cool. The jeopardy questions were probably a little too hard, but if that’s the worst complaint from these games, I’m happy!

One extra detail that we included that made a big difference was a designated time keeper. Her job was to get on the PA system and let everyone know when it was time to rotate to the next station, so that each game-leader could enjoy leading their games instead of watching the clock.

We scheduled these games to run until 11:00, with the students scheduled to be in the library until noon. So, at 11:00, we called them all together, instructed them to split into groups of 3-4 people, and work on the scavenger hunt that was on the back of their “passport” that had been stamped at the game stations. Questions included:

  • Where is the Quiet Floor?
    • This is important to know, since our main floor is designed for collaboration and social use, so it gets pretty loud sometimes.
  • Grab a computer to look up the book Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. What is the call number of this book?
    • The goal here is to convey that we some have fun books in the library too.
  • Find the book with the call number LB1631 .L69 2011. What is it about? (If it has been moved by the time you get there, what are the books in that area about? Guess from the titles.)
    • The intention here was to get them to use their new knowledge of call numbers to actually go find a book on the shelves.
  • Take the stairs from the third to second floor. Find the clue posted there and write your answer here!
    • The goal here was really just to make them find the stairs. We have inadequate signage, so many students have trouble finding the stairs. Of course, the best fix for this is better signage, but that’s complicated at my library.
  • Go to the print periodicals area on the ground floor. Choose one of the clues posted on the wall. Write the number of the clue and the correct answer.

The first group to get back with correct answers won a little prize pack — a travel coffee mug, a spiral notebook, and a window decal branded with our university logo.

In addition, our wonderful Starbucks gave away free samples of some flavored iced coffee to everyone that got every station signed and completed the scavenger hunt.

While students were working on the scavenger hunt, I pulled out my fancy little button maker for the students to use after they finished. I had some print-outs of Char Booth’s “love your library” design, some blank circles, and some coloring books (in case they want to color a picture and make a button of it?)… And of course some crayons they could use to draw their own designs on the blank templates or color in the coloring books. The buttons were really popular! In addition to drawing cute designs and making the “love your library” buttons, I was surprised how many of them just wrote their twitter handle with a “follow me” type of message. Twitter is apparently more popular among that set of students that I had realized!

Overall, it was a great day.

Sadly, I tried doing the scavenger hunt again during the first week of the fall semester — total flop. I’m not sure how much of it was the prizes, the captive audience, or the game stations to get them in a gaming mood, but a lot less people were interested this time around. But, on the bright side, the director of the First Year Programs happened to run into my boss in Starbucks that day — she now wants to use our scavenger hunt with her freshman orientation class. Yay!

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