Flash mobs and raves, both loud and silent, have become something of a tradition at campus libraries
Josh Hadro -- Library Journal, 12/10/2009
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Gatherings organized via Facebook
Some library staffs prepared, add security
Is stress relief a library concern?
As students are consumed by final exams, many embrace their campus library more than at any other time in the semester. For most, that means making use of 24/7 study halls, and perhaps extended reference hours. But for some, it means getting down in the hallowed halls, and letting off steam while transgressing against the traditional idea of the library as a staid and quiet place.
Library raves, flash-mobs, and parties are nothing new, and many librarians are now attuned to sources like Twitter and Facebook groups that often serve as organizing platforms for these events.
Still, massive student gatherings can be quickly coordinated with relatively little effort via social media networks, as seems to have been the case Sunday night at James Madison University's (Harrisonburg, VA) East Campus Library around 10 p.m.
According to student paper The Breeze, library staffers were surprised as hundreds of students swarmed the library. Hundreds more remained outside as police locked the doors in an effort get control of the situation.
The gathering dispersed by 10:30 p.m., the paper reports, a far more peaceful result than at a gathering in April at the University of Tennessee (UT) Chattanooga, also spearheaded by a Facebook group. There, police sprayed mace over the heads of students in the crowd to break up the rave. Later, five students were arrested and one issued a misdemeanor citation.
Raving at a dull roar?Apparently taking note of the brouhaha at its sister campus, staffers at the Knoxville campus of UT monitored Facebook for similar events planned by students. Thus alerted to an upcoming flash-mob event this past Friday night, they were able to have plain clothes and uniformed officers onhand at the library, "keeping everything to a low roar," according to WBIR.com.
In both the JMU and the UT Knoxville cases, everything apparently returned to business as usual at the libraries within half an hour.Stress-relief on-camera at CarletonDocumentation of the gatherings is frequently posted to video sharing sites like YouTube. In one video making the rounds in library circles, a silent dance party wends its way through the Gould Library of Carleton College in Northfield, MN. (The silent variation involves students gathering at an appointed time and place, dancing with headphones and listening to music synchronized to a starting signal.)
Jennifer Edwins, assistant to the college librarian and loan services manager, told LJ the event itself—held November 23, during reading week at Carleton—came as something of a surprise to the library staff who were not privy to the students' plans, but added that there was such a long tradition of such activities that "now it's part of the culture." A photo of the event on Facebook calls the silent dance "one of Carleton's newer finals-week traditions."
Edwins found the students' antics amusing, though also recognized that stress-relief strategies can play in important role during finals time. She said library staffers felt strongly that it was important to offer additional services to students during the period leading up to exams. The library has developed stress-relief programs, serving cocoa, bagels, and even sponsoring study-break massage sessions.
Amy Harris, information literacy coordinator and reference librarian at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro (UNCG), expressed a similar sentiment.
Offering cookies, lemonade and board games chosen for their nostalgic appeal, UNCG's "stress free zone" events leading up to finals are designed to remind students of a less stressful time in their lives—"harking back to childhood," Harris told LJ.
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