Monday, May 27, 2013

Zombies and libraries - how are libraries using the zombie theme?

Organization as serious as the CDC use zombie outbreaks as a fun way to educate the public, so why not libraries?

And indeed Zombies are a really popular theme for libraries particular for orientations. Libraries both academic and public libraries are using this theme to add some entertainment into traditionally boring orientations.

You can have a feel of how popular such a theme is with libraries by just looking at the following Flickr search.

It's unclear to me how much effort it would take to do some orientations, but here's an interesting Prezi by Central Methodist Libraries that talks about how to engage students using pop culture and mentions specifically "big games" which apparently is the term used for such events.

I looked around and here are some interesting library uses of the zombie theme that I found.

1. Zombie Guide to Miller Library!

Fun lively comic. Students and a librarian are attacked by Zombies and they need to find needed information as fast as possible on how to save themselves in the library. Do they know enough of the library classification system to quickly find what they need?

Interestingly enough the Miller Library at McPherson College uses the Dewey decimal system rather than Library of Congress Call number system which is I think more common for academic libraries.

2. RMIT Library Amazing Race Zombie Edition Orientation 

Above is a very amusing video on the event held Feb 27 at RMIT University Library. I believe this library has been doing zombie editions for at least 2 years?

Beyond that I don't have much details about the actual physical event held , though you can see some photos on their facebook page and a infographic showing that 190 did the physical game and 717 did the online version.

Here's the clever online version 


A fun way to introduce users to various sites by the library, the short online game leads the user to various online sites by the library including libguides, youtube videos, Facebook/Twitter pages & library discovery system to find clues needed to complete the quiz to save themselves.

3. Marston Feed Your Brains, University of Florida Libraries.

Another intriguing zombie themed information literacy session by University of Florida. Much of it centered around the Zombie Survival LibGuide created by the library in 2010.

A full paper "The Library is Undead: Information Seeking During the Zombie Apocalypse" describing what they did and the reaction of users is available. More information is also available via a slideshare and podcast.

4. Lupton Library, University of Tennessee, Chattanooga - Nightmare On Vine Street

"Designed as a companion piece to an iPod-based building tour, the basic concept for the project was a horror-themed “escape the room” game. The entire group brainstormed the creepy scenario for the game: a student wakes up late at night in a study room on the top floor of the library and has to navigate their way out of the building by appeasing various librarian zombies encountered along the way." -- source

5. Zombies in the Library Calendar Tea Tree Gully Libraries

2011 calendar Zombies in the Library.

Librarians dress up as zombies to create a calendar.

"Zombies invaded a south Auckland library yesterday, all in the name of literacy." goes the local news report.

I don't have much details, but it seems to be the typical, survivors race to find information to protect themselves from zombies idea.

The event made local tv and there is an interactive text "choose your own adventure" type game using a wiki plus a Zombie apocalypse reading list.

7. Locating a Book (Brains on Books) - Western Illinois University Libraries.

Searching Youtube with zombie libraries, finds quite a few videos on the subject. Leaving aside the Thriller spoofs, many are simply marketing videos explaining why you need the library (for information on what to do with a outbreak of course), some are fairly well done but nothing in my opinion particularly interesting. but the above one by Western Illinois University Libraries  manages to sneak in library instruction....

8. Others

There are many many other libraries using the zombie theme. Eg Zombie and Vampire themed Trek using SCVNGR game by Ohlone College,

A quick search of libguides show that there are easily a 20+ libguides about zombies created by various libraries.

Typically named "Zombie Survival guide" or similar, some are merely using the theme, to inject interest into the topic of information literacy, eg. How to access information remotely in case of a zombie quarantine etc, coupled with fun listings of zombie related literature such as The Zombie survival guide, including typically works like  Pride and Prejudice and Zombies , tongue in check academic articles to semi-serious The zombie survival guide : complete protection from the living dead.

Others are similar to the University of Florida attached to a physical game of some sort, typically Humans vs. Zombies games. e.g Webster University

Another simple idea is just to have a "Zombie week" and book displays etc.


One thing it seems is that libraries that engage in using the zombie theme, tend to attract media attention due to the coolness factor. But this will wear off. Some of the events have only a very small traditional library information literacy component. There are other benefits of course, engaging users, and even raising the morale of library staff who get to let their hair down, but is it worth the effort?

How does one measure cost-benefit?

Have you done such zombie themes at your library? How did it go?

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