This past Friday we held the 3rd annual Amazing Library Race: Desert Edition at the UA’s Main Library. We broke previous numbers and had 210 participants show up, including students, staff, faculty, and community members. To learn more about this event and how it all works, see my post from last year.
As an organizer this year, I spent all morning helping with setup and coordinating volunteers, then was a floater during the actual event, and helped with take down. By the time the Amazing Happy Hour started at 5:00 I was completely exhausted. But it was well worth it, and here’s why:
- Participants really learned a lot about library resources and services. They also learned about how to navigate the 5 story building, which is often intimidating – not to mention confusing – for newbies.
- It is the only event held in the library where we have this substantial number of participants who are our primary audience. Exhibits, lectures, and other events don’t even come close. The energy that’s present up and down the library stacks is something you really only get to see this one time a year.
- Marketing a lot this year has made the event known to the campus community. Even those that didn’t make it to the event itself very likely heard about it. We had hundreds of table toppers in the student union that week, and posters around University Blvd. where students are constantly passing by. While we only reached a small percentage of our audience during the actual 2 hour event, we reached many more in other ways.
- This event promotes an image that the library isn’t usually known for. Libraries and the people that work in libraries are fun. And approachable. And we want to help.
- Those that work in the library get to all come together to make this event possible. I coordinated over 60 volunteers to staff the stations & help with set-up and take-down. It’s a great opportunity to work with people you don’t see every day and don’t otherwise get to work with.
- Word of mouth is powerful. I think this event is extremely important, and hope those that joined us that day share some of what they learned with friends, classmates, and colleagues. The actual impact of this event is difficult to measure, but I truly think it has the potential to educate library users far and wide about the many services we offer.
A few things were organized differently this year:
- Rather than having a raffle at the end of the event where we later contacted prize winners, we gave away all of our prizes during the actual event (with the exception of the grand prize – an IPod). To win prizes, students completed an activity or played a game. 4 prize stations could be found along the trail, but they weren’t advertised to avoid those stations getting backed up. Those that were successful could pick from a list of prizes. As time went on, obviously, the list got smaller. All prizes were gone soon after 2:00. The prize activities were:
- Media Station: Play “Scene It?“. This could be answering a question about a movie clip, placing films in the order in which they were released, or guessing what movie an image is from.
- Middle Eastern Studies Collection Station: Capitals of the Middle East. Pick a slip from a hat, where there would be the name of a Middle Eastern country’s capital. Correctly state the country’s name and you win. (We had a map displayed of the Middle East to help out a bit).
- Reference Desk Station: Knock Down a Librarian. My wonderful colleague Forrest let us borrow his librarian action figure which we set up on a table with a backdrop of reference materials. You stand behind the line, are given a ball, and get one shot to knock her down.
- Express Check-Out: Find a Bookmark. You select a book from a cart of books about desert survival. If the book you pick has an Amazing Race bookmark in it, you win.
- We also had some new stations this go around:
- University College. This is located in the Integrated Learning Center (ILC) right off the courtyard where we have our final station of free pizza, soda, & eegees. Undecided students, which is much of our audience, are a part of this college and receive advising here. Keith Rocci – who is also our partner in crime for the Skillful Researcher course – staffed this station and had students answer riddles to win a ton of prizes that they had purchased.
- Reference Desk. This was a station before but it was combined with the Presentation Practice Rooms; this time it stood alone so it could focus more on the reference services provided at this site.
- Maps. We added this to the microforms station, which is in the same section on the first floor, so students could pick between answering a maps question (based on maps on display) or a microforms question (based on microforms on display where they had to use the machine to find a certain news story). We also displayed a number of globes, including globes of the moon and astronomical globes, which many library users don’t even know that we have.
- We invited students from SIRLS to volunteer for the event. Two did, and after helping handout flyers around campus they got to staff the stations, promote library services, interact with librarians, and have some fun participating a large scale orientation event.
- And we’re working harder to get feedback, so we can prove to the library that this event is worth the time, effort, and money that goes into it. We took CatCard numbers at the opening station so we can gather details on who participated. We are also going to send out a Survey Monkey to gather better feedback from both participants and volunteers. This is all in addition to the feedback form all the participants were asked to fill out during the race. My hope is that once we collect this data, we will have a stronger argument for why this event is important, why it should continue to be supported in the future.
NOTE: video from the event coming soon…