As the spring semester is slowly wrapping up for many schools across the country, your first-year students should be pretty excited about finishing up this semester and completing their first academic year! They are probably looking forward to a relaxing summer break or an internship before transitioning into sophomores!
Being a first-year student is certainly one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences in the academic journey. Academic librarians definitely recognize that. In fact, there are a few ways to acknowledge and reward your first students for passing the first year successfully! Here are some activities to consider.
Best First-Year Essay Award
Your library may sponsor or co-sponsor (with FYE program like Writing) an award to recognize the best essay written by a first-year student. You can scaffold the prizes for first, second, and third places/honorary mentions, and select a panel of judges from faculty and librarians. These prizes can contain gift cards from your bookstore or other monetary gifts. The challenge is getting enough submission from students in the first-year writing/composition program. You can also expand it to different disciplines too. Some universities offer best essay awards that recognize research and usage of the library’s collections. Your ultimate goal with this kind of activity is to promote the library’s interests in supporting the first-year experience but also recognizing scholarly research conducted by first-year students.
Student Journal of the First-Year Experience
Once you have the best essays selected, you can add them to a student journal hosted by the library. Most universities have some kind of digital or institutional repository (IR). This kind of online archive can be made possible by different vendors too. This project can be co-organized with your first-year students where they are lead writers/editors of the journal. It might be difficult to assemble such motivated students but if you are able to identify them early on (particularly those in honors program or who are interested in writing and journalism), you can have a team to manage a biannual, quarterly or annual journal that showcases different themes or experiences from first-year students. The content of the journal can be creative and academic in nature but most importantly, an open access publication for all to see in your library’s IR.
Best Library Video Contest
Did your students enjoy using the library in their first year? Perhaps you can create a contest for first-year students (or open to all) where they have to submit short videos about their experiences using the library. This student contest can bring visibility to the library—you can promote these videos during orientation day if needed but you are also engaging with students to demonstrate why they LOVE your library. If your library can lend out cameras, mics and other equipment, be sure you promote these resources as well. You may want to organize open sessions to explain more about the contest if needed. From digital storytelling to first person’s POV in the library, students may come up with very creative and inspiring videos that may surprise you!
Think creatively on how to celebrate the accomplishments of your first-year students!