It’s finals time around my school. I’ve heard from colleagues in Academic LibraryLand that many want to do finals week activities, but either don’t have the support, the time, or are just unsure of what to do. In my experience, students appreciate even the smallest acknowledgement of the stress brought on by finals. Whatever you offer, cross-promote with the Dean of Students office, residence halls, and student organizations. Consider you might have to actively recruit the first few participants, but once activities get going, they usually gain momentum. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
- Elves on the Shelves: I had some leftover elves from a Hobbit event I just did. I put them in various places around our library, focusing on spaces/places not often visited. I posted to our FB page and the Dean of Students FB page that whomever found the most elves and posted a photo of themselves on our FB page with said elves would win a gift card. Cost: $10 iTunes gift card. Elves disappeared like free food at Annual!
- PSAs: print off finals week tips on that neon paper you never use and post them around the library (don’t forget bathroom stalls- captive audience!). Cost: the time it takes to Google “finals study tips.” Remember to plug important services students might need like the Writing Center, Counseling, Health Center, and Tutoring.
- Crafting: I’ve mentioned multiple times here that crafting in libraries goes over like gangbusters. I’m hosting ornament-making (I work at a Christian college; you could do holiday card making, snowflake making, religious-neutral versions of other holiday crafts) in a library classroom for a few hours the night before finals begin. I collected old holiday cards from colleagues, old CDs, and purchased ribbon and glitter glue from Hobby Lobby on sale. Students can casually drop in and spend as much or as little time making a holiday ornament. It’s silly but also creative. Whereas study breaks like gaming or social networking can suck in students and get them off track, crafting keeps them engaged while using hand skills and thinking with other parts of their brains. Cost: $15 in supplies from craft store.
- Puzzles: not just the jigsaw type, but riddles and Rubik’s Cubes.A friend of mine put copies of simple crossword puzzles, hangman and tic-tac-toe templates, word searches, and optical illusions on the tables around her library. These disappeared so quickly, she had to put extra copies out daily. Students made a point of telling the Reference desk how much they appreciated these simple study breaks.
Again the idea is to provide an engaging break that refreshes students and gets their brains working in different ways. Host a riddle competition or see who can put a Rubik’s Cube back together the quickest. You just need two willing students to compete and the energy should draw others in. You could do one on the hour and offer simple prizes, like use of a study room or table during the rest of finals week. Cost: nothing, the math department probably has these types of puzzles on hand and riddles are easy to find online.
- FOOD! Along with ornament making, we plan to provide hot cocoa and cookies to students one night during finals week. I know a number of academic librarians have plans to do the same. If you have a no food/drink policy, consider partnering with an organization to host this in the student union or other common area. We plan to use a classroom to try to control where food and drink are consumed. Students really appreciate this. Cost: $25 for hot cocoa and cups from price club.
- Let’s Go Crazy: A colleague of mine shared that one student org has a long tradition of hosting a 15 minute rave in the library during finals week. Students look forward to it because they never know WHEN it takes place. Consider inviting student groups to offer similar, short, unexpected activities during finals week.
Quick question: is anyone out there offering a relaxation room or guided relaxations? Are students using these? Many librarians want to offer these services, but I hear mixed results. Please share in the comments.
Finals week activities allow us to connect to students in new ways that show we care. Call me corny, but isn’t that part of why we all do this?