2nd Annual Library Scavenger Hunt is a Hit!

We are proud to report that the Library completed its second photo scavenger hunt without injury or (as far as we know) indecent or illegal activity.  Actually, this is technically just an assumption. There was one less person when everyone returned, which looked rather fishy in a contest involving prize distribution.  But his team vowed that he had a class to attend and they looked pretty honest, so we were apt to believe them.


This year we went all out with the advertising.  Dozens of special Collector’s Edition, sure to be worth millions one day, event buttons were handed out to anyone wearing a shirt to pin it on. We’re pretty sure they just liked the cute little bird in this year’s logo. Confused by the meaning behind this logo choice? You are not alone. The explanation follows this summary of the day’s activities.

The button that makes me sense, Or does it?... No.

The button that makes me sense. Or does it?… No.

A great deal of sweat was perspired during the first few hours of the competition, as zero members had arrived to compete.  At long last, one hunter arrived, lacking a team to help him.  But he was determined to show our game who was boss.  He had taken the initiative to name his team of three “Strange Loops”, which we’re ashamed to say we had to google. As it turns out, this name is far more hilariously appropriate when going solo. To us, he was a genius, which he proved to be by finishing in 2nd place! Good job!

“In the end, we are self-perceiving, self-inventing, locked-in mirages that are little miracles of self-reference.” -Douglas Hofstadter, I Am a Strange Loop

A little miracle of self reference hard at work

A little miracle of self reference hard at work

the Strange Loop mental process, as interpreted by someone who doesn't really understand it

The Strange Loop mental process, as interpreted by someone who doesn’t really understand it

I don't need them, I can draw my own darn self

I don’t need them, I can do it my own darn self

More than an hour later, the next team arrived all rearing to go! The Ministry of Love blasted through the clues, and even pointed out the hunt’s glaring defects.  We were apparently more than a little vague by asking them to locate the Chemistry branch, for nearby the library there was quite literally a sculpture of a branch in the Chemistry Building.  So as not to lose points due to our lack of clear instructions, they wisely took pictures of both.  Good job, guys! Bonus points to you for making us look stupid.

The other Chemistry Branch

Wise guys pointing out the other Chemistry branch. Kudos for being so clever!

All kinds of friendships were formed thanks to our scavenger hunt!

The Ministry of Love showing some love. Another appropriately named team!

Right on their tails were the Sherlock Gals, an energetic bunch who were eager to put their sleuthing skills to the test! At first I took note that they were the only ones to use a lifeline through our Ask-A-Librarian chat tool, but now we’re more convinced that they were actually just testing us to make sure we were working as hard as they were, because they were a very intelligent bunch!  Though a few points were swapped for this bit of assistance, they were confident that they could make them up with the bonus section – which they did! We hope you had a great time and enjoy your prize!

The Sherlock Gals found our hunt to elementary and had plenty of time to spare halfway through

The Sherlock Gals found our hunt a little too elementary and had time to spare halfway through

Claiming some prizes for the team!

Claiming some prizes for the team!

The Bookworms had come to compete against their fellow book club members on the Ministry of Love team, and they weren’t taking any chances.  Rumor has it they lingered in our rockin’ Interlibary Loan Department well after they had finished the clue.  Some suspect that this was an attempt to block the star required to earn the necessary points, thereby preventing others from advancing.  Or maybe they just really liked it there. I know we do. Their winning name choice pointed out the Library staff’s consistency with the stereotype.  Who loves worms of any variety?  We do. Especially when they’re reading books!

We should have offered bonus points for the happiest group in the Library!

We should have offered bonus points for the happiest group in the Library!

Finished!  And which obliging staff member is taking that picture? Thank you!

Finished! And which obliging staff member is taking that picture? Thank you!

They knew the way to our hearts!

They knew the way to our hearts!

We had our doubts about the final team. With only an hour to complete the hunt, due to a pesky midterm, we were quite sure they would not have enough time.  Clearly, we had underestimated their drive to win and their willingness to run! When they arrived back a few minutes early, we were sure they had admitted defeat. But no! They were done! Not only had they finished the clues, they had racked up a bunch of bonus points along the way (including 5 points for the team with the most library spirit!). Very impressive, guys! They will be celebrating at the Bench Bar and Grill!

Kristen takes away even more precious time by making them pose with her

Kristen steals away even more precious time by making them pose with her

Awww...who loves the library? They do!

Awww…who loves the library? They do!

They didn't even break a sweat!

They didn’t even break a sweat!

We thank all the students, staff, and sponsors who helped make this event so great! Feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with one hunter admitting to most enjoying “The excitement of discovering new things”, and another appreciated that it was “Very Dan Browny – loved the puzzles!” Now I want a brownie.

Logo Explanation: Sleuthing Sandpipers? Yes. Here’s Why…

The symbol of this year’s scavenger hunt, a sandpiper, is quite accidentally a literary one, making it thereby appropriate for the environment.  Having originally been scheduled for the day before National Talk Like a Pirate Day, we might just have easily seen a more familiar and alluring symbol to attract treasure seeking participants.  A swashbuckling pirate, perhaps, sword clenched tightly between his teeth, a parrot atop his shoulder.  Better yet, make that a librarian pirate; swap the parrot for a cat. Both characters wear eye patches.  Yes, that would have been catchy.  But as fate would have it, instead of more effectively getting in the advertising mood, I reread Elizabeth Bishop’s poem “Sandpiper” over lunch one afternoon, then directly began making dozens of promotional scavenger hunt buttons adorned with that very bird.

Perhaps it was the reference to the bird’s “state of controlled panic” that made me associate it most with the new students as I saw them, hurrying frantically about the unfamiliar campus, being redirected continuously by their own guesses, their second guesses, the poor directions of others, and finally defeated retreats as they approached the Reference Desk to stop and finally ask for help.

Or perhaps the panic was my own.  Having worked very hard to prepare for the incoming students, it’s never easy seeing anyone struggle to find information they seek, information you’ve tried to make easily available to them.  Faced with countless obstacles in today’s technologically advancing society, libraries of the past must shift gears, advance their space and services, and provide more electronic resources to a new generation of learners.  We, too, know how the world sometimes has a tendency to shake; the tide will often shift, leaving you running to keep up in another direction as new trends emerge. We struggle to keep our focus to stay abreast of the wave of ever-changing information technology.  There always remains a gap between old and new services, one that leaves some sense of mystery to new students who are unfamiliar with less modern, yet still efficient, tools of the past.  It is the job of the Library’s Instruction Team to help them find these tools and introduce them to a new world of resources that they were not aware existed. At first it’s difficult, a challenge. But then it becomes fun.  A game of sorts.  A scavenger hunt? Why not?

Despite the chaos of the world around him, Bishop’s sandpiper hones in on new worlds beneath his feet, represented by tiny grains of sand.  Each is beautiful and each unique.  In our visual aid, the button, the sandpiper follows a set of awkward but forward moving footprints that have been laid for him to follow.  As it turns out, the something that he seeks in the Library is the same something that we, too, have sought and hopefully found in anticipation of his journey, ways of discovering a world of knowledge and information to help us on our journey

Though this is by no means an attempt to analyze the poem itself, it is perhaps the longest explanation I’ve ever felt the need to provide in defense of a button.  I hope it has a little more meaning now and provides a little more insight into our goal behind the scavenger hunt.


The roaring alongside he takes for granted,
and that every so often the world is bound to shake.
He runs, he runs to the south, finical, awkward,
in a state of controlled panic, a student of Blake.

The beach hisses like fat. On his left, a sheet
of interrupting water comes and goes
and glazes over his dark and brittle feet.
He runs, he runs straight through it, watching his toes.

– Watching, rather, the spaces of sand between them
where (no detail too small) the Atlantic drains
rapidly backwards and downwards. As he runs,
he stares at the dragging grains.

The world is a mist. And then the world is
minute and vast and clear. The tide
is higher or lower. He couldn’t tell you which.
His beak is focussed; he is preoccupied,

looking for something, something, something.
Poor bird, he is obsessed!
The millions of grains are black, white, tan, and gray
mixed with quartz grains, rose and amethyst.

– Elizabeth Bishop
Janet Clarke

Janet Clarke

Associate Dean, Research & User Engagement at Stony Brook University Libraries
email: janet.clarke@stonybrook.edu
Janet Clarke
Posted in Events, Libraries, Library Instruction, Library Outreach, Melville Library