In spring 2016, a LibQual survey revealed that our engineering students’ most common complaint about the library was the noise level. To address this issue, we created Project Shhh!, a contest which challenged students to create design solutions to decrease noise disturbances in the library and more clearly delineate silent and collaborative study spaces. Students were encouraged to join the contest in multidisciplinary teams and to address the problem from various perspectives including: physical acoustics of the space, social use of the space, and the psychological perception of sound in the space. Teams were required to submit four deliverables: a brief initial concept, a written proposal, a final report, and an oral presentation to a panel of judges. The contest was designed to encourage students to engage with library resources by requiring a literature review and providing a Project Shhh! libguide and library workshops on relevant topics.
Participants presented their final design solutions to a panel judges, which included a librarian, a professor, an administrator from the budget office, the manager of the MakerSpace, and an engineering student. The judges scored the teams based on a rubric, which had been provided to the students at the beginning of the competition. The first place team won $500, second place $250, and third place received a library gift bag. In addition, ideas from all three teams will be implemented to some degree in the library space in fall 2017. To further assess our inaugural Project Shhh! contest, we collected written responses from contestants who dropped out of the contest and held a focus group for contestants who stayed in the contest until the final presentation. This feedback helped us to understand how we could adjust the timing of the contest during the school year as well as to partner with university departments and student clubs to encourage greater student participation in the future. The focus group indicated that students who participated in the contest gained a better understanding of how to conduct research and write a literature review using library resources and felt more comfortable asking librarians for help with their research.
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