Attracting Students with Curiosity (Not Candy)

Curiosity is that drive we have to fill in the information gap for something we don’t quite understand. Curiosity is also an emotion.

Candy, not so much.

My post today was inspired by a thread on a library listserv I follow. The topic was mobile reference (i.e. roving reference outside the library), and my inspiration came from a librarian who emphasized the need to bring candy on those reference excursions.

Sugary things certainly attract students. Sugary things also attract fruit flies. Students aren’t fruit flies.

Why use candy at all? Curiosity is much more powerful. After all, it’s what killed the cat.

In my own academic library experience, candy and other sugary foods were always the lure to connect students to the library. They were also used liberally as a Carrot and Stick Approach in IL instruction. And admittedly, it was the easy route to take. But, as I learned more and more about the importance of intrinsic motivation, I became less and less comfortable with that approach.

Curiosity, on the other hand, is an intrinsic motivator. It makes us want to learn. Even marketing strategists know this. And librarians can use some of those same marketing strategies to pique the curiosity of students, which will authentically connect them to the library.

To inspire you, I scoured the web to find out what other libraries have done to foster library connections with curiosity. Here they are:

The ASK cart with the Library Dude from the Thun Library at Penn State. 


The Information Gas Station (IGS) from the Helsinki City Library (thanks to a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant). Love it!














Super Librarians at Harrison County Public Library. I’m pretty sure you’d draw attention if you walked around campus like this!












QR codes done right.


Finally, a little musical talent never hurt.

Okay, that one may be over the top…pretty catchy tune though!

Attracting students with curiosity (and not candy) takes creative thinking and maybe a little gut. But, in the end you’ll have students who see the library as a weird and wonderful place for exploration and lifelong learning.


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