Up until this September, it had been years since my library held an event (short of snacks and extended hours during exam time). Library events are stereotypically a public library thing, but academic libraries are known to do them too. They're a great way to get people in the door and see the library as something different than a place with books and computers. I've taken the initiative to come up a few this semester!
Event 1: Banned Books Week Movie Night!
Banned Books Week is the last full week in September. Libraries, booksellers, publishers, anyone who has something to do with books uses this time to celebrate our freedom to read whatever we want! Many are often surprised to hear that people still challenge books and attempt to have them banned. In these days, most books do not actually get banned. For an infuriating example of people trying, Google search "College of Charleston" and "Fun Home."
Public libraries usually do a lot more with this than academic, but aside from a display of books, I wanted to do something that would get people in the library. People love movies, how about a movie night! I pursued the holdings of Swank Motion Pictures, a movie distributor for public performances, to see what movies they had that were based on banned books. I made a Google Form listing the choices and sent it to faculty, staff, and students. They had a week to vote for their favorite. The Great Gatsby (2013) beat out The Color Purple and To Kill a Mockingbird by two votes! We had soda, popcorn, and candy and had a drawing to win a copy of the book. I also was lucky enough to find a faculty member who was willing to lead a discussion afterwards! We had around 17 attendees, which I think is pretty good for our college!
I've had students come to me afterwards and suggest more movie nights, but with a "better movie." I can't help that got the majority vote! This is also difficult because purchasing public performance rights for a movie is more expensive than you think. This could be something we do once a year.
Event 2: Game Night!
Game Nights are becoming more and more popular in academic libraries. My undergraduate library would have game nights once a month with a variety of video games, board games, and lots of pizza and soda. With my personal academic interest in games, I naturally planned on doing this wherever I ended up working.
To gauge interest a couple months before, I asked faculty and staff for game donations for the night. I got a few bites on board games but no video games. Luckily, our director's parents just happened to have a Wii to let us use! By the time I started advertising it to students, I had also gotten a student to agree to bring in their Xbox 360 with lots of games!
We had around 15 very enthusiastic attendees. I think having pizza also helped. Suggestions for next time include more Wii games and more food.
Event 3: Halloween Costume Contest!
This event totally came out of nowhere. I really can't even remember what inspired me to do this. On Halloween, students, faculty, and staff were encouraged to dress up and come in the library for some candy. Then, we would take their pictures and put them on our Facebook page. Whatever picture got the most likes by Monday morning won a gift card donated by the bookstore. Second place would get a Starbucks gift card (that I won for filling out a survey). We had 10 entries and a lot of Facebook likes. The winner ended up being a sister duo as Thing 1 and Thing 2 and a faculty member got second place as an "old school" teacher. This was a really fun event because it was low cost and super easy on our part. We ended up getting a lot of likes to our Facebook page from it, which is just another way to get people involved with library happenings.
Event 4: Exam Hours
I'm not sure if "event" is the right word since it went on for a week straight. Our library was open for several 24 hour periods during the week with long hours on the weekend for exam week. We acquired donations for snacks and drinks from faculty and staff so we could have something special every evening starting at 5pm. These things were not new to my library. After watching some chatter on the College Libraries listserv, we decided to also put out coloring book pages and a puzzle to encourage some relaxing activities. The puzzle seemed to be the favorite addition of the two, with several dedicated puzzle working students. A graduate student complimented us on thinking of it, saying it was a great diversion when she needed a break at 3am. Many of the coloring pages were taken, but we think next time we should have smaller crayons or colored pencils instead of a sole box of big chunky crayons.
We have promoted these events through: campus-wide emails, posters in the library and on our display screen, a display table with related items, social media postings, and word of mouth.. If there is a Faculty Meeting close to the event and/or if I'm teaching a library instruction session any day near it, I'll make an announcement.
We've also started making displays for campus events. For the production of "Searching for Eden," my co-worker found books related to Adam and Eve, Mark Twain, and marriage. It got a lot of attention and I think the Theatre Department especially appreciated the shout out.
These events not only get students into the library, but they also help introduce them to librarians. Students I've seen at these events have started coming in the library more afterwards! It's also fun to get faculty and staff involved so hopefully they are reminded of the library and how wonderful the librarians are!