Guess that journal price

Please spay or neuter your pets.

Again, The Price is Right is figuring in heavily into outreach ideas. Have you been to ALA and seen the mile-long line of sensibly-clad librarians all in line to play some company’s version of Plink-o? That line was longer than the one for Libba Bray, people! And those librarians were toting some seriously heavy swag while waiting patiently for their chance to win big. Just watch one episode and you will learn most of what you need to know about Life. And get some great ideas to adapt. With that, I now present my friend Anne’s version of  Come On Down!

Anne is an instruction librarian at Trinity, a small liberal arts school in San Antonio, and a very innovative teacher. While visiting her library this last week, I was struck by the amount of stuff available for students to touch, see and interact with around the library. But all very well-placed and useful, a hard trick to pull off. Anne told me about a display she recently did that engages and instructs students on multiple levels, though it seems simple on the surface. She created a board (you could use the standard science fair tryptic available at office supply stores and Target) with pictures of journals and asked them to guess how much they cost. Simple, right? Not so fast.

You could do this a few ways to engage students and meet different goal. You could set this up in the library as an event or as a display for a length of time. It would also work well as an activity at a school event or just in the student union one random day. I like hosting random activities around campus. Different set-ups could include:

  • Steal from museums and zoos: Create a tryptic with samples of journals and a picture of their covers.Or have copies of journals sitting out for perusing. You could provide the answer right there with a little flip up hiding the price by each journal. Students get answers right away and can examine the journals to figure out why the heck they cost what they do. Provide an example journal in which you point out features that might up the price. At the same time highlight those features which make journals the credible sources they are. Sort of a You Get What You Pay For model. You could even include stuff you found online (like from Wikipedia) and point out how it’s different from journals.
  • Got a kiosk or electronic thingie your patrons can find info on? Create a PowerPoint students can interact with that takes them through different journals. Again, use this as an opportunity to point out “features” of journals. I.E.: “This journal features almost no advertising and has articles written by so-and-so, an expert in the field of Australian dairy science. Based on this, the Australian Journal of Dairy Science should cost, etc.” Give them A, B, C or D choices and as long as they can move the PowerPoint forward, this will work. You could also create this online if your kiosk has internet capability.
  • Offer prizes for correct guesses and post the correct answers and winners in the library. Take a picture of the winning students with their “favorite” journal.

There are variations in how you present and how you run this. So, what’s the point? The point is to help students connect to journals on a few levels. Some might see this as tricky and inviting trouble to let students see how much we pay for items. Perhaps. But it also invites them to see how library resources are something we and they pay for. Sometimes when you offer something for free, its inherent value goes down. How often do you buy the $15 wine over the $10 one when choosing a wine to take to a dinner party? Because the idea is that the more expensive one clearly must be better. We commodify as a consumer culture and this puts our resources within that framework with no shame.

Why else share this information? Because you can teach them a thing or two about the value of journals as research tools at the same time. You can provide explanation and dissect journals within this game, asking them to analyze features. While they are analyzing them to guess a price, they learn what makes journals important research tools.

Put your resources out there in a new way. Ask students to think about them in a way in which they can already think:  by analyzing something to figure out if it’s a “good deal.” We do our best work when we adapt frameworks in which patrons already think and in situations in which they already navigate.

It’s also just good fun.

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One response to “Guess that journal price

  1. Thanks for the shout-out, Lizz! I should mention I used this activity specifically in the context of Open Access Week–in order to bring students into the conversation about journal price increases and the open access movement. And it, in turn, was derived from an activity I heard about from a former Trinity student active in Open Access issues. He had seen a display somewhere else in which journals were displayed with oversized-price stickers to raise awareness.

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