A quiet place full of books

      4 Comments on A quiet place full of books

It’s the end of summer, and a group of new students are being sent out on a ‘scavenger hunt’ to orient themselves to campus by taking pictures of themselves in various locations. The part of the handout relevant to my workplace is this one:

“2. Are you stressed out over homework? Have a research paper due? Where is a quiet place you can go that is full of books and computers? Take a picture of your group in a quiet place with one person holding a book involving their major.”

I want to emphasize that this isn’t bad. It is not, for instance, like the year where they were sent to find something that was no longer kept on display. But… it’s certainly not something that the staff of the library would write. At the very least, I hope someone here would have changed it to “Starting a research paper?”

Ten years ago or so, I wrote about a scavenger hunt that required the students to interact with library staff. This one… doesn’t. I’m not saying that they changed it to guide the students away from me personally, but the effect is the same. In fact, the whole thing seems designed to minimize interacting with non-students, which may be because this event orientation is before the beginning of classes and there aren’t all that many staff folk around. On the other hand, I feel like interacting with people is an important part of orienting students to being students here.

Library folk tend not to like to think of libraries as quiet places full of books and computers. I mean, the institution that employs me has done a lot of work over the last ten years or more positioning ourselves as not-a-quiet-place, so there’s that part of it. But I think we tend, on the whole, to think of the staff of the library as more or less central to the operation—libraries, either academic or public, are places where people get help from librarians. Either directly, by interacting with them, or indirectly, as we choose, curate and provide various resources—including, but scarcely limited to, those books and computers.

Of course, that’s our experience of it. I suspect most people who have never worked in a library think of libraries, if they think of them at all, as quiet places full of books and, possibly, computers.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,

4 thoughts on “A quiet place full of books

  1. Catherine

    I have spent, collectively, a not-insignificant amount of time over my mumblety-something years in academic libraries trying to imagine what would constitute an actually useful, and not-overly-burdensome-to-the-staff, library scavenger hunt.

    I’m still working on it. Suggestions are welcome.

    1. Vardibidian Post author

      When the Library is one “item” in a campus-wide scavenger hunt, it seems obvious to me that the “item” should be at the main reference desk—if we had a little advance notice, we could set up a selfie station that would be potentially amusing, and which wouldn’t necessarily need to be staffed the whole time.

      A scavenger hunt within the library itself is more difficult, and as you point out somewhat difficult to make useful. We have had the QR code on the shelf, and a couple of trivia answers in reserve books, but other than making sure that the students can jump through hoops, I don’t really see how those help with the research process.


      1. Catherine

        Yes, I have no issue with the library being one stop on a campus-wide scavenger hunt because as you point out, it can easily be arranged so that it’s minimally intrusive for staff. The advance notice is critical, though, and it’s good to know that our campus is far from unique in its left-hand/right-hand communication challenges. I love the selfie station idea and will hold onto that for future reference!

        The bigger challenge is the intra-library hunt. I’m coming around to the idea that not having it is the most useful strategy,* and replacing it with 10 minutes of a friendly (hopefully relatively young? or at least energetic and outgoing?) staffer introducing themself and the library and emphasizing that the most important items in the building are the humans. Beyond that, I’m at a loss.

        *Unless it’s not for recently-arrived first-years, but rather for more experienced students in a specific class who need to access specific items and/or physical locations in order to succeed in that class. Now, THAT model I could almost get behind. If such a class exists…


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