The Undergraduate Library Rap

Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Engaging and connecting with millennial students during the course of library instruction sessions can be a challenge. Seeking to discover a more creative way to introduce these students to the library was a team from the University of Illinois Undergraduate Library. The team, consisting of Susan Avery, Instructional Services Librarian, Dominick Spinelli, Pre-professional Graduate Assistant, and Dave Ellenwood, Pre-professional Graduate Assistant, determined the best way to connect with a generation of students who define themselves by their technology, music, and popular culture was to infuse these same elements into a video. Using elements of popular culture such as hip-hop, which has gained worldwide popularity particularly amongst marginalized communities, also helps foster a multicultural classroom environment. In addition to improving student engagement, videos provide alternative learning experiences for those who prefer auditory or visual learning.

The desired outcomes of this video would allow students to:
– become familiar with the Undergraduate Library as a physical and virtual space
– discover multiple ways in which to get help
– learn about the availability of loanable technology
– gain an awareness of the scope of the library’s collection

The complementary strengths of the team leant themselves well to the development and production of the video. Susan facilitated production of the video and identified and provided content and appropriate context for individual elements, based on her experience leading the instruction program in which the video would be shown. Dave’s unique skills in writing, producing, and performing rap music were utilized in the creation of original music that incorporated the content identified by Susan. Dominick lent his skills in the completion of the visual elements of the video, identifying existing photographs in the library’s collection and taking new photos to illustrate the rap lyrics. He also produced the video, incorporating all of the elements. Following its completion the video was shared with Undergraduate Library faculty and staff for comments, feedback, and additional editing.

The video has been shown to classes of first-year students throughout the 2010-2011 academic year. The success of the video in the classroom reaches beyond the immediate observations of visual engagement, head bobbing, and foot tapping. It has been demonstrated in more significant ways by student discussions and questions following its viewing. Students in Rhetoric classes are asked to identify and discuss aspects of the library that are unexpected and/or potentially beneficial to their success as students. English as a Second Language classes are asked to view the video and think about how this library differs from those in their home countries. The ensuing conversations have been significantly more substantive than those that took place prior to the video when the instructor simply pointed out aspects of the library from its web page. The end result of this project is a true testament to the success of teamwork and the unique skills and contributions of each member of the team.

The Undergraduate Library Rap can be viewed at:

Project Type: Completed Project

Budget: N/A

Team Members:

Dominick Spinelli, Pre-professional Graduate Assistant
Dave Ellenwood, Pre-professional Graduate Assistant

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