The Nightmare on Vine Street: A Team of Zombie Librarians Take On Freshman Orientation

Institution:  Lupton Library, University of Tennessee, Chattanooga

Take one librarian enrolled in a game design class, add seven more librarians from different departments with ideas and energy, stir in a liberal dose of popular culture and a new crop of First Year Experience students and what do you end up with?  A library orientation video game requiring students to complete a series of tasks in order to escape from the library all while being hounded by zombie librarians!

At Lupton Library, we are a small but dynamic and interconnected staff of 30. When one of our colleagues asked for help on a Game Design project for her Masters, more than half a dozen people from around the building stepped forward with ideas and offers to help. Working as both one large group and a series of smaller teams,  the staff and faculty involved in the project met over the course of several months to craft a video game experience that would teach the basics about our library as well as entertain and challenge students new to our campus.

Designed as a companion piece to an iPod-based building tour, the basic concept for the project was a horror-themed “escape the room” game. The entire group brainstormed the creepy scenario for the game: a student wakes up late at night in a study room on the top floor of the library and has to navigate their way out of the building by appeasing various librarian zombies encountered along the way. One small group then mapped out the story board and escape plan for the game as well as the locations where individual events would need to be filmed. Another group developed the zombie characters who appear in the game and the props and sound effects that would be needed for each scene. A third small group worked out the mechanics of the film shoots (done late at night) and acquired the essential zombie makeup supplies. The game coding was all done by our colleague from IT, in fulfillment of her class assignment.

The resulting game was highly successful, played by over 500 students in the first year. One instructor tells us that 98 out of her 100 first year students completed the game. The cross departmental team brought together heretofore unknown talents from around the library to create something we never imagined we could achieve. Who knew that one of our librarians could write game code, or that another had experience with zombie makeup? We didn’t have any idea – until this project came along. The experience not only produced a rich and unique orientation experience for our first year students, it also fostered stronger working relationships across departments and heightened our creative abilities as professionals.

Project type:  Completed Project

Budget:  $40 for zombie makeup

Team members:

From Library IT:
Andrea A. Schurr: Chief Game Designer, Coder, Producer
Stephen Leather: Game Installation and Support
Jason Griffey: Zombie Librarian

From Reference and Instruction:
Lane Wilkinson: Storyboard Creator and Zombie Librarian
Bo Baker: Makeup Artist, Cameraman and Zombie Librarian
Caitlin Shanley: Storyboard Creator and Zombie Librarian
Beverly Kutz: Story Board Contributor and Zombie Librarian
Virginia Cairns: First Year Experience Liaison and Zombie Librarian

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