On Saturday we kicked off our welcome event from 7 – 11pm. If you read my blog, I'm guessing you've seen my past posts on this subject. We hit over 700 students, far exceeding my expectations. This event is targeted toward freshmen (our incoming class is typically around 2,000) however, open to all students.
If you're planning some type of event I highly recommend aligning yourself with the undergraduate/orientation/student success/freshmen Office. We were able to generate large attendance by not competing with other “official” campus events. Furthermore, we gained free publicity by becoming an “official” event.
We also handed out event flyers at incoming-student orientation “marketplace” sessions throughout the summer, and pushed the event (and other library info) at a Residential Assistant/Housing Retreat. I posted a Facebook flyer ($5 per day) for several days leading up to the event, however I don't think those are very effective. I also invited members of the Class of 2011 group . During orientation sessions, most students registered for classes in the library—so we made sure that CeLIBration information was visible to them.
Here is a sample of some of our advertising, courtesy of Dottie Hunt:
FOOD & DRINKS
Every group on campus is giving away free food this week. It's a draw, but you need more than that. We gave away 100 large pizzas (I would tell you company, but they wouldn't give us a deal, so no free publicity) and 50 batches of movie theater style popcorn. We also had an assortment of refreshing Coca-Cola beverages.
Doors opened at 7pm and we didn't schedule any activities until 8. We wanted to give everyone the chance to grab some food and wander around. Our objective was to fit 30-60 people in different areas throughout the library. This gets them in and around the building.
- Board games were very popular, as was DDR. Retro video games (from the 1980's) were not so much, but that's because
Macs suckwe had some computer problems with our non-Windows operating system.
- Speed-dating was a success. Several librarians from other schools have laughed at me for this—and that's fine, go on hating. We had 3 full sessions, again. We moved it into our gallery, added tablecloths, small mirrors, and flowers, together with a small floating candle—it was very classy; many people called it Parisian. We also raffled away several pairs of movie tickets to female participants to help get things started. Nice work J.S. Shout out to Mr. Hines on the mic.
- Improv Comedy is not my really thing, but the students loved. They had a big audience (50+) for two performances. If you have performance groups on campus you should invite them in from time to time.
- Ninja Tag was wild. I watched one round and was worried someone would get hurt. It was fast and violent—so hence, very cool. The pictures don't do justice to how dark it was. There was also loud music blasting. This year we doubled the playing space (got rid of some antiqued books!) and I hear we added an extra round. This event was in great demand. The setup was very labor intensive otherwise I'd advocate we do this monthly on a Friday night. Essentially it is a game of team tag played on a darkened floor with black lights. Ninja t-shirts were given to winning teams. Nice work B.T. (Stay East)
- Poker was packed. I had space for 40 players, but there was greater demand. I had to turn a lot of disappointed people away and felt bad. Never underestimate the appeal of gambling. I bought 800 chips (20 for each player) and several decks of cards. We gave away a rad trophy along with a $100 prize. Because of campus regulations, I could not give a gift card, but had to award a “real” prize, therefore I asked the champion to select something from Best Buy / Amazon to be sent to him. Custom prizes are better anyway. Thanks for the help C.B. and the Security Team.
We had refreshing Coca-Cola products plentifully available throughout the night, however for the championship round I wanted to kick it up and so I provided the gentlemen with Red Bull Energy Drinks to help vitalize the mind and body. (I'm still seeking sponsorship for my Halo 3 event on September 25th.)
- The Ice Water Challenge wasn't something we planned, but once the sodas were gone students challenged each other to see who could stand in freezing pools of ice water the longest. Gotta love Georgia Tech!
We also had a DJ from our campus radio station spinning CDs outside of the library, t-shirt giveaways , and the Outdoor Recreation club messing around in our water fountain. Overall it was a cool event. I was stuck in the poker pits most of the time, but it seems like the people enjoyed themselves.
- We use to hold our welcome event on the first Saturday after the semester started, however turnout kept declining— so last year we switched to the Saturday before school started and had over 500 in attendance. We have compete with some casual sorority/fraternity rush events, but several hundred students is a huge success in our eyes. Besides, Greek stuff probably doesn't really get going until 11pm anyway.
- We benefited from a central coordinator—keeping everyone on track and handling the larger details. Lori Critz did a great job again this year. We also had event coordinators who handed the dirty details of each activity. This works so much better than planning-by-committee. We each had a set budget and the freedom to develop our events as seen fit, meeting occasionally to bounce ideas. We also had a large pool of volunteers. I'd guess between 15-20 library staff members helped out at the event, including our Director, an Associate Director, and at least 2 department heads. I think it's important for Admin to participate—however, we also pulled widely from several departments, which was a great benefit. I also think that these types of events are better for staff bonding/morale building than any type of contrived gathering. (Thanks to everyone for helping out, although no one in my library reads this blog.)
- I've been learning so much about textured experiences lately. Lighting is everything. I heard many students remark favorably about the space. We could differentiate the activities/areas based on color. Varying table shapes and sizes are incredible. Portability. Personalization. I was always an early believer in modularization, but now my faith is confirmed. Atmospherics are powerful, whether you are designing space for studying or for poker—set the right mood. Now if I could only get someone to listen to me about the importance of a signature scent.
- I am 100% against library staff being required to wear any type of official attire. Jeans and a black t-shirt is appropriate. (Come on Jon!) However, my opinion is often wrong. A few people (5-6) asked me who was hosting the Poker Tournament, as in they thought it was a frat or the housing office, etc. While we were able to get people into the library, I am not sure it was clear that it was us who organized the event. That's something for us to discuss next year. We definitely want to take credit for something successful—if it's a flop we'll blame someone else, like the Admissions Office.
- It doesn't always have to be about the library. That's the key really. We're not blasting them with Boolean or databases or policies. We want to get freshmen in the door, showoff our space, and hopefully make them feel comfortable. Let them see that we are approachable and not stogy. We want to set the bar high and raise their expectations of what the library is or can be. We also want to tap into their minds early on—before they even step foot in the classroom—they all know where the library is now. We really need to do this type of thing (library branded entertainment activities) more often, I'd say at least twice a semester. If we can offer a mixture of fun and academic events geared freshmen throughout the first semester—I think it would pay off in the long run. Just a theory.
- Set up as much as possible the day/night before.
All photos taken by Katie Gentilello.