Academic journal article Journal of Library Innovation

Humans vs. Zombies at the Library: Gauging the Impact of a Live Action Gaming Event on Students' Library Use and Perceptions

Academic journal article Journal of Library Innovation

Humans vs. Zombies at the Library: Gauging the Impact of a Live Action Gaming Event on Students' Library Use and Perceptions

Article excerpt


This paper describes how a game of Humans vs. Zombies was coordinated and hosted by the Ralph Brown Draughon Library at Auburn University. A survey was designed to discover students' attitudes and perceptions and evaluate whether hosting such an event was a worthwhile use of library resources. Analysis of survey results revealed value in hosting such an event as a means of orienting students to the library while increasing positive feelings about the library as a social and study space.

The Ralph Brown Draughon (RBD) Library at Auburn University is a popular campus location. The Learning Commons and the Study Commons, opened in 2010, attract thousands of students every night, and during finals the library fills beyond its 5,000- seat capacity1. However, with a campus population exceeding 25,000 students, not all students are regular library users. Perhaps they aren't familiar with its resources, do not know who to ask for help, or are intimidated by such a large library facility.

RBD holds an annual tailgate event in which students enjoy hotdogs and football- themed entertainment while visiting various library departments for giveaways and prize drawings. The goal is to orient students to service points. This event is consistently well- attended2, but still only reaches a fraction of students. In an attempt at social outreach, library staff planned a game night in 2008 offering video games, board games and refreshments. Attendance was disappointing. In contrast, in 2010 an impromptu rave, a party where people gather to dance to electronic music (Evans, 1992), was coordinated by students without library staff assistance and was very popular. Students requested that we hold it again, not realizing it was not an official library event.

Students' enthusiasm for the rave indicates their interest in informal events in the library and suggests that these events are more popular if they are student-driven, as opposed to the game night which was coordinated and publicized by library faculty and staff. RBD sought other opportunities to use the library as a venue for student-centered events to reach a larger population. Some quick Web searching uncovered a recent game of Humans vs. Zombies at the Z. Smith Reynolds Library at Wake Forest University, a follow up to a very popular Capture the Flag event (McKeon, 2012). This discovery coincided with a campus-wide Human vs. Zombies event at Auburn which several hundred students registered for via a social media website. As described by the website, "Humans vs. Zombies (HvZ) is a game of moderated tag.... Human players must remain vigilant and defend themselves with socks and dart blasters to avoid being tagged by a growing zombie horde" (Weed, 2013). This article describes how such a game was hosted by RBD.

Literature Review

Libraries have tried a number of approaches to reach out to students in order to increase both the library's visibility and appeal. The gamification of libraries is a prolific topic, and the research describes online and virtual tools for orientation and instruction as well as outreach and entertainment. This literature review addresses only live action, role playing games, and other live game-themed events and, with one exception, will not cover virtual gaming or online instructional tools.

Much of the literature focuses on the aim of outreach events, namely, to draw more students to the library and acquaint them with library services. However, the impact of these events is often not measured. Seeholzer (2011) was a notable exception. She was interested in whether outreach events of a social nature have a negative impact on a library's reputation, as perceived by librarians and university staff. Seeholzer interviewed a small selection of librarians and university staff to gauge their perceptions following a year of outreach events and discovered a generally positive response. Many of those she interviewed felt that barriers between students and library staff and were reduced, resulting in a more welcoming place. …

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