Gopher Library Adventure a Choose your own Adventure e-book
Creators: Lacie McMillin, Kat Nelsen, Kate Peterson
Institution: University of Minnesota Libraries
Interviewees: Lacie McMillin, Kat Nelsen, Kate Peterson
Interviewer: Marianne Myers
Description of project (provided by creators):
The Gopher Library Adventure is a Choose Your Own Adventure-style e-book created in Pressbooks for use in the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities College of Liberal Arts First Year Experience courses and Orientation. Some examples of topics covered in the book are: differences between popular and scholarly articles, peer review, undergraduate research journal, using the Libraries Search, using Google, research guides, evaluating sources, undergraduate research, citing sources, streaming music databases, voting, Google Scholar, streaming video databases, and MORE! The book was used in place of instruction sessions for the First Year Experience course. We have mostly used it as a substitute for instruction sessions so far, but we can imagine that it would also be useful as a pre-work assignment.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your process and the preparation involved in creating a “choose your own adventure” e-book?
A: Kate came to us one day and said, “Hey, what if we make a Choose Your Adventure e-book in Pressbooks?” Lacie and Kat, always up for an adventure, said, “Yeah, let’s do it!” First, we needed to map out what pages would link together and how they would lead readers to the end of the adventure. So we created an outline or site map of the book. Each page was going to be a page in the Pressbook with two pithy links at the bottom of the page to move on.
Because Pressbooks doesn’t allow for simultaneous editing of pages we decided to draft everything in a Google Doc before adding it to the Pressbook. While we were drafting content, we also worked on building the book in Pressbooks using our handy story map. Lastly, we did some editing and proofreading and then sent it out to colleagues (Tiffany Carlson and Richmond Kinney), student research consultants, and other student staff to read through and offer suggestions.
Due to the pandemic, our team had been learning about trauma-informed teaching principles including the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Trauma-informed approach which lists “empowerment, voice and choice” as one of the principles. We want this learning object to align with the Trauma-informed approach. Choose Your Own Adventure was an obvious choice.
Q: As a reader, I appreciated the light-hearted, conversational tone of the e-book. Can you discuss how that came about?
A: We strived for an informal tone to make students more comfortable and less intimidated by the Libraries. The UMN Libraries website is huge and can be overwhelming. We knew that some students may be overwhelmed by the amount of online content, so we tried to make this activity as fun as possible.
Q: What were your student learning objectives for this project?
A: We wanted to increase awareness of using the academic library website for doing research. We also wanted to showcase a wide range of tools and services in order to connect with a variety of students’ interests.
Specific student learning outcomes were for students to be able to:
- Identify that the Library website is the place to go to get to useful and unique stuff for their current or future needs.
- Describe the Libraries as student-friendly and fun.
Q: How did you decide what topics to include in the e-book? If you were to create a second edition, are there any topics you would want to add?
A: The e-book was created during the coronavirus pandemic in summer 2020. As we were preparing for orientations to start, we realized much of our existing information for new students was building-focused; yet our buildings were closed. Thus, we knew we wanted to only talk about online services and website content. We talked about some of our “greatest hits,” as it were. We thought about the services, stories and parts of our website that resonated with new students when we talked with them during previous face-to-face Orientation events. We also worked to connect with tools they are familiar with like Google.
In terms of a second edition, after we have more student usage (and now that we have the Google analytics set up correctly), we should be able to determine the pages or paths which students used most and could add more on those topics. The platform is so flexible that there are endless possibilities.
Q: With so many asynchronous options available, how and why did you decide to create an e-book?
A: We knew we didn’t want a video. We wanted something where students would be able to pick their own path, so the “choose your own adventure” genre was an obvious way to facilitate this. We wanted a way for students to engage with library and information literacy content that would honor their varied and swiftly changing capacities and interests, while giving them a level of control and agency over the outcome.
Q: Could you also share your decision process for selecting Pressbooks as your platform? Did you consider any others?
A: We knew we didn’t have time to learn or money to spend on a new tool. Our libraries have been using Pressbooks for our open textbook initiatives and publishing for some time, but recently opened it up for all of campus to use. Thus, we had some local expertise.
Very early in our process, one of our colleagues shared “Professor Penelope Pincher & the Search for Affordable Content” from Indiana University with us. As always, it was very helpful to have a great working model of how the finished product might look and how it would work.
Our colleague, Shane Nackerud, who works with eLearning and publishing, walked us through some of the high points. The easy content editing and built-in formatting were just what we needed for this project.
Q: Were you able to use Pressbooks because it was just opened up to campus or because the library had local expertise? Both?
A: Yes — our campus had been using pressbooks for open textbooks but only by a small department in the Libraries. We recently rolled out pressbooks to all library and campus users. We did have local expertise in our eLearning team and called upon them to give us an overview and get started.
Q: Could you describe how the e-book is being used at your institution? Is it being integrated into specific courses?
A: This activity was integrated with campus First Year Experience and Orientation courses, but is also available for anyone to use. For the First Year Experience course (CLA 1001) in the past, we had a week with dozens of 45-minute sessions including a demonstration of the website, finding a book and call number, an activity to find the book on the shelf and a short building tour. In fall 2020, this was not possible, so we wanted an asynchronous assignment which students could complete for credit. We’ve also included it on our LibGuide for new students.
Q: How have students responded? Have you received feedback from other stakeholders?
A: We embedded a Google Form at the end of the adventure to keep track of completion, and we’ve had more than400 responses! We asked students what surprised them, what are two academic goals they have, and one thing they learned that could support those goals. Overall, students were surprised by the size of our online collections, the types of materials accessible through the Libraries website, and the variety of tools on our website. Students also had an opportunity to request follow-up from the Libraries. We felt like this was an easy way to make connections to students who had questions. About 7% of students checked this option, and we responded to questions about student jobs, specific research questions, undergraduate research opportunities, and Libraries services like workshops and tutoring.
Q: How are you assessing your student learning objectives and/or usage?
A: We didn’t include the code for Google Analytics until October, so we missed most of the general usage data for the window we would have had the most participation (early fall 2020 semester), but we’ve still gathered helpful data through the embedded Google Form. Students must fill out the form to get credit for the activity and were asked to share what they found surprising about the Libraries, their academic goals for the semester, and something they learned that could help them achieve those goals.
Q: What advice would you give other libraries who want to develop a “choose your own adventure” e-book for their students?
A: Our advice would be to look at our example and make it their own. It has a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial license. Another piece of advice is to look at Pressbooks as a platform. It isn’t a new tool but is growing in popularity with open textbook and course reading initiatives. It has many nice features to remix existing content but with additional context which can be customized for a specific audience. The Choose Your Own Adventure format also stands the test of time as an engaging way to give users a choice in how they interact with the content.
**This interview has been edited for clarity.**