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Monday August 15th

UNC librarians among “movers and shakers” in library science field

UNC librarians Chad Haefele and Emily King have been selected as two of Library Journal's "Movers & Shakers" of 2011. They were cited for leading development of the Alternate Reality Game "Should Brandon and Nicole Get Engaged," played out in 2010 on the UNC campus.
Buy Photos UNC librarians Chad Haefele and Emily King have been selected as two of Library Journal's "Movers & Shakers" of 2011. They were cited for leading development of the Alternate Reality Game "Should Brandon and Nicole Get Engaged," played out in 2010 on the UNC campus.

Librarians Chad Haefele and Emily King insist libraries are more than buildings with books.

And last year they set out to show it with a single game.

In January 2010, they combined gaming and education when they created and held a one-time, two-week long alternate reality game called “Should Brandon and Nicole get Engaged,” or ShBANGE.

Because of their efforts, Library Journal named them two of 50 “movers and shakers” in the field of library science for 2011, bringing recognition to the innovative ways UNC Libraries are connecting people to information.

“The original idea came from a couple of alternate reality games I’d played in a having fun kind of way,” said Haefele, the emerging technologies librarian for Davis Library in the research and instructional services department.

Rather than focusing on topics traditionally included in lectures or seminars, Haefele and King, the coordinator for eLearning services for University libraries, explored ways to teach topics that classrooms don’t address.

After consulting with Counseling and Wellness Services, the Campus Y and the Residence Hall Association, they said they realized relationship issues would make a good focus.

“When you go to class, you learn about things like biology, history or English, but you’re having to learn on the fly how to negotiate relationships,” said Laura Christopherson, a doctoral student in the School of Information and Library Science and project manager for ShBANGE.

The volunteer group Haefele and King assembled to run the game kick-started it with an elaborate marriage proposal in the Pit.

Volunteers then passed out fortune cookies with websites students could visit if they wished to get involved.

From then on, about 500 students participated in some way, doing everything from solving puzzles to viewing online photos and posting to discussion boards.

“Every puzzle was a bit different,” King said. “The content was different but also how we made them available for players was different.”

Students could find puzzles on blogs, via social media and even in balloons volunteers handed out.

Christopherson said the project was exciting because nothing like it had ever been done before.

“It’s nice to stand up and talk in front of PowerPoints, but a lot of students are using social media, Facebook and things like that,” she said.

“A lot of students game, so being able to take learning objectives and material that you’d like to teach or explore and translating that into the domains that they are already comfortable with is exciting.”

ShBANGE allowed Haefele and King to explore their interests in a new way.

“One thing I really find important in librarianship is changing the idea of what a librarian is, and what a librarian can do for the academic community,” King said.

King said she views the award as a recognition that people can connect to information in new ways — and gaming can play a role.

Haefele added that the game allowed him to explore his interest in people’s information consumption habits.

“The game allowed us to look at what those new technologies could do in ways that traditional ways maybe wouldn’t have,” he said.

And both said the recent recognition furthers their goal of changing people’s perceptions of library science and librarians.

“Using what the library has traditionally done and expanding on it is really exciting for this field,” King said.

“Information as a whole is a lot bigger realm than just the shelves and the books.”

Christopherson said the award should encourage students to see librarians in a new way.

“They’re pretty cool people,” she said. “They’re not the stuffy people with the glasses that say ‘shhh.’”

Contact the University Editor at university@dailytarheel.com.

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