Saturday, January 23, 2016

Discovering Scavenger Hunts with Russell Library and Shakespeare

A library patron discovers a clue of the scavenger hunt.
This is the last week of the "Discover Russell Library with Shakespeare: A Scavenger Hunt". For those of you unfamiliar with this type of activity, it is essentially a game in which the players must find things according to clues given to them. For example, in our hunt, we ask folks to find the “seven unbending elephants”.*

The scavenger hunt is part of the Shakespeare 400 Passport series of events throughout Connecticut this year that ARTFARM has been sponsoring. We have several library events listed within the Passport. Last fall’s ARTFARM’s Shakespeare Acting Workshop was exceptionally well-attended and received high praise.  

Many scavenger hunts that use the topic of Shakespeare direct the hunters to scavenge through his plays or poetry. I had come up with many puzzling questions, but they all seemed too difficult. Also, we needed something that people could not google! 

I began thinking differently about the hunt. What was it we wanted to achieve? Part of our Strategic Plan — under “Russell Library as a Place”, states: 

“To achieve its goals, Russell Library will become an even more welcoming, hospitable and
comfortable cultural center of the community.”

In order to achieve this goal, the community needs to know something about our library. Why not use the scavenger hunt to fulfill part of the strategic plan? Patrons who come into the lobby to look for new books or DVDs hardly ever explore the rest of the library. I started looking at different places within the library that most people hardly ever visited. How could we use Shakespeare to help them discover their library? 

While I had been researching Shakespeare, I had been using the Shakespeare Lexicons as well as various online resources.** Instead of looking at Shakespeare for the answers, I started looking at our library. I thought about the places that the library had in common with Shakespeare’s plays. For example, our library has a balcony that overlooks the information area…where the famous ‘balcony scene’ from Romeo and Juliet could be staged…

Once I began to hunt for places in the library that people could discover using clues in Shakespeare’s plays, my job became clear. Of course, there is a limit to these spaces! And the clue that led people to the “unbending elephants” was quite a stretch. We ended up adding things to our collection: a Shakespearean Insult poster and a Shakespeare jigsaw puzzle helped to lead patrons to areas of the library otherwise overlooked. 

Besides getting a stamp in the Shakespeare 400 Passport, people can receive a voucher for a free book at one of the Friends of Russell Library book sales. 

What does the library receive? On the back of each scavenger hunt is a survey about their experience. Each patron that accomplishes the hunt fills out the survey — giving us precious knowledge about the library community. 

Remember that you can always tell us what you think of our library -- there is a form always available at the circulation desk, and you can email infodept(at), or call (860) 347-2528.

*  Daniel Riccio's sculpture is part of our library art collection. If you haven't seen it, please come visit!

**a great online resource for Shakespeare is

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