Williams College Libraries Ask Students to Put Their Thinking Caps on to Find Out "How Did He Lose HLast year, first-year students at Williams College used library resources to solve a theft of Shakespeare's First Folio from the college's Chapin Library of Rare Books in 1940.
This fall's introduction to the campus libraries and their resources asked first-year students to put on their thinking caps to solve yet another college mystery - more macabre than the last: What happened to founder Ephraim Williams head?
In 1854, a group of Williams alumni went to place a memorial on Ephraim Williams grave and found that Ephraim's skull was missing. A cloud of suspicion has hung over Ephraim's nephew and Williams graduate, Williams H. Williams! Was he the thief? Did he steal the head? Why?
More than 450 first-year students began the mystery tour by watching a humorous welcome video starring librarians and students. Along the way, the first-years used archival material and online resources, including the library's catalog, a database containing historical New York Times articles, and the course reserved readings system.
Students also gathered clues from members of the library staff, who, entering the spirit of the game, swore them to secrecy saying, "We're not supposed to talk about it." Students also gathered clues from videos of Williams professors who, entering the spirit of the game, swore them to secrecy saying, "We're not supposed to talk about it."
First-year student Brookes Clemmons, from Charlotte, Vt. was enthusiastic about the tour. "I thought it was a good introduction to the different library computer systems," she said. "I got to see how I'll be using them in courses. I also liked the fact that we did this in groups because it was a great way to meet people."
The main point of the exercise said Lori DuBois, reference and instruction librarian, was to bring students into the library. "By making the introduction fun, I hope we've encouraged students to feel more comfortable in the library," she said. "When it's time for them to do research, they'll know we're approachable and ready to help them."
As a further step in enhancing the approachability of librarians, students received two Librarian Trading cards in their campus mailboxes. Each card bore the picture of a librarian and provided details about his/her "superpowers" (specialties), vulnerabilities, and contact information. All of the cards may be seen on the library website at http://www.williams.edu/library/trading-cards.php .
Evan Seely of Woodstock, Vt., the first to finish the Library Mystery Tour, said the game was a great way to introduce students to the libraries and to the campus. He also learned a little bit about the history of the college. "We had fun," he said.
"And that, after all, is what the Mystery Tour was all about," said DuBois. As to the answer to The Mystery Tour: How Did He Lose His Head? Sorry, but she's sworn to secrecy.
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