Offering an Escape to New Members: Revamping our Annual NJLA CUS/ACRL-NJ Open Meeting
Each year, NJLA CUS/ACRL-NJ, which is the combined New Jersey Library Association’s College and University Section and the ACRL-NJ Chapter, hosts an Open Membership Meeting. It’s a typical business meeting of the Executive Board, and we invite potential new members who might want to learn more about joining our group. But the problem was – new members weren’t coming. We had been finding that most attendees were the same faces of our most active current membership. This year, we decided to change things up and offer a fun activity – a library Escape Room! Because escape rooms work best with smaller groups, we combined it with two other sessions: a brainstorming exercise and an informal networking discussion. Attendees rotated through each of these three activities during our newlynamed NJLA-CUS/ACRL-NJ Members Palooza and Escape Room.
The Escape Room activity, developed and led by Gary Marks of William Paterson University, was a fantastic challenge. It was held in a small library conference room with bookcases, artwork, cabinets, and a display case, almost all of which offered hidden clues and components of the puzzle to escape. None of our three groups successfully escaped the room, but we learned a lot about each other and problem solving. At the end of the day, Gary explained his process for developing a library escape room, and gave recommendations and tips for attendees interested in developing something similar at their own institution. Most importantly, he revealed the clues we had all missed!
The added activities of the Open Membership Meeting drew 6 new attendees and potential new members, as well as 15 current members, so we succeeded in our goal and overall had a great experience! The day was a wonderful example of collaboration, networking, teamwork, and learning.