Recently I participated in the UA Library’s 2nd Annual Amazing Library Race. It was even bigger and better than last year, with somewhere around 300 participants, mostly new UA students. The event is held the Friday before classes begin, and is aimed to be an orientation to the library and its services for new students. It’s loosely based on the Amazing Race reality show, and we call ours the “Desert Edition” so many of the questions along the way relate to “surviving & thriving in a desert university.”
I staffed the first station along with a couple other staff members, including Chris from our Undergraduate Services Team (UST), Sam from External Relations, and Yvonne, a library student who was a former intern for UST. This station was the entrance to the race, right outside the Main Library. I was absolutely astounded when I arrived at two minutes before the race was due to start, and there was a line of students stretching around the side of the building. Incredible! Unfortunately we were so swamped at that point no one thought to take a picture, but we have several witnesses 🙂
We gave incomers their maps, carabiners (transcribed with the “UA Libraries” logo), and their first “passport” stamp proving they completed the first station. About every ten or so people would win a free gift bag with goodies including a library t-shirt, free slice of pizza (donated by our local Magpies), and earplugs.
There were 12 stations total, located on every floor of the library and in our Special Collections nextdoor. Tasks included checking-in and out material using our Express Check machines, finding information from an article on microfilm, visiting our new Presentation Rooms, and even making ice cream! The ice cream was at the Science-Engineering Library (SEL) station. Rather than make the students travel around campus in the heat to our other locations, SEL and Fine Arts (FA), we just made stations for them at the Main Library. Students learned about the specialty software located at SEL and the selection of music and architecture material located at FA. They learned about the streaming video we now offer, the exhibits in Special Collections, the photocopying and scanning services, our government documents and area studies collections, and of course our reference services. This year we introduced a Pima County Public Library (PCPL) station, staffed by PCPL librarians who marketed their own services and signed people up for library cards.
The participants could go to stations in any order they chose; this prevented stations from getting swamped all at once. Each station required the participant answer a question to receive a stamp. Once receiving four stamps, they could go to the “Desert Oasis” and receive a free water bottle. Once receiving 8 stamps, they could go to the final stop and get free pizza, eegees, and enter a raffle. We received fantastic sponsorship this year and had a ton of raffle prizes, including an Ipod, TV with DVD player, and giftcards to all over the place.
The race lasted two hours, and while exhausting was a fantastic experience and a really great event for the library. The students loved it. Some actual feedback I heard from participants included:
“This is fabulous! Just fabulous!”
“I’ve been to the library before but learned a lot more about its services I never knew!”
“This is great that you guys do this. Cool!”
I hope this continues as an annual orientation event, while it’s a lot of work it is definitely worthwhile.