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Teaching Through Exhibits (It’s not always about the one-shot!)

Connecting With Students Through A Social Media Exhibit

June 18, 2014

I’m a member of the Exhibits Team at my library, and we decided to do a social media exhibit for the month of May. Who knew that May is “social media month”? Since I heart all things social media, I was tasked with the job of planning the exhibit. Our library has 2 glass cases at the front entrance and some really nice bookshelves under the staircase on the first floor. In one of the cases I did a social media timeline. I found a lot of great infographics on Pinterest, and I stole some ideas from here and there and created a version that would fit in the display case. It worked pretty well, though unfortunately, I don’t have any good pictures to share. A bit of unsolicited advice- always take pictures of your work!

The other glass case was all about memes. It featured the most famous internet memes and included a little bit of history about each one. It was the perfect balance between looking “serious” but being entertaining. Of course Grumpy Cat, the queen of the internet was at the center of it all. After we started the exhibit, some of our not so into social media colleagues began to ask “what is a meme?” So, I made a little sign explaining this and included it in the display.

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Another one of our goals lately has been to make our exhibits a bit more interactive. So, I came up with the idea of doing an Academic Meme Contest. We weren’t sure how many entries we would receive given the “academic” piece of the puzzle and the expectation that the memes had to stay clean. We received 6 entries, 5 of which met the “clean” guidelines of the contest. We displayed them in the exhibit and asked students to vote on their favorite one. They could either vote the old fashioned way- by putting a piece of paper in a ballot box, or they could vote on Facebook. About 80 students participated in the voting. Not a huge turnout, but still not so bad for exam week when students are stressed to the max.

The bookcase part of the exhibit featured books about social media in a variety of disciplines. I was very happy when I noticed that people were stopping to look at them and were actually checking them out. Our library subscribes to a lot of ebooks, so to encourage people (and the remind them) to check out ebooks I made signage with QR codes linking to the ebooks. I used a free QR code generator, so I don’t have stats on how many of these were actually scanned but it seems like it might be a good way to promote our electronic collection.

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The bookshelf exhibit included signs that said “take a selfie with our shelfies!” I personally thought it was a great idea, but the students didn’t get into it. Not one person (that we know of) took a selfie with our shelfies. So that’s too bad. I guess we should have started it by getting some of our student workers to do it, but we never got around to it. An idea for next time!

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I had a lot of fun with this exhibit. It was a success and students definitely made use of the books on the bookcase and enjoyed the humor element of the meme exhibit. I’m hoping to more with QR codes and promoting ebooks (yes, yes I know some people make fun of QR code usage). My biggest takeaways were that sometimes the things that we think are really cool aren’t actually that cool at all and take good pictures of your projects!

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