Boooooks and Eeks-hibits: Halloween at the Academic Library


In graduate school, one of my professors showed our class a photo of a reference desk lovingly decorated with paper ghosts and small pumpkins for Halloween. The professor then posed the question, “Is this a place where you would want to ask an academic research question?” Opinions about library holiday decor aside, there are clever ways you can promote services, collections and staff around a Halloween theme. I’ve compiled a list of my favorite examples from academic libraries.

Be a trick-or-treat spot

At University of Dayton Libraries, the staff looks forward to the annual campus preschool visit for Halloween. Children from the Bombeck Family Learning Center trick-or-treat around campus buildings, and the library is a stop. Staff members are invited to bring peanut-free treats to share. Students and staff alike enjoy seeing the children’s cute costumes.

Incorporate a campus hashtag

In 2012, University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries highlighted their digital collections to promote a popular campus hashtag, #SpookyUW. They included haunted places and creepy images. In addition, one of the libraries hosted two free screenings of “Little Shop of Horrors” (1986), the camp cult classic. Near the checkout desk, the staff assembled “Haunted Folklore and Tales of the Supernatural,” an exhibit of folklore texts and images from the library's collection.

Create a research guide

Also in 2012, the University of Chicago Library created a Halloween research guide complete with scary items in the library available for checkout, such as books (“Ghosts: A Social History” and “Vampyres: Lord Byron to Count Dracula”) and movies (“Nosferatu” and “The Amityville Horror”). Fun archival images of the university’s Halloween celebrations were also included.

Highlight university traditions

University of Northern Iowa Rod Library used Halloween to create a short article about the university’s traditions, including a timeline. This is something you could ask your university’s media relations or social media to share. It could also be an opportunity to delegate research to a student employee or volunteer.

Host a themed open house

Duke University's Rubenstein Library hosted a special open house and “eeks-hibit” called “Haunted Library Screamfest” in 2011 and again in 2013. It included cases of glass eyeballs from the History of Medicine Collections, Renaissance-era amputating saws, the earliest known illustration of Frankenstein’s monster and horror comics from the 1950s and 1960s. It was a creative way to get the campus community to interact with special collections they might not otherwise see. Be sure to read the library's well-written and inviting blog post about the event. The image used in this post is the event's promotional poster, designed by Duke University Libraries graphic designer Mark Zupan.

Share interesting facts

In 2014, Boston University’s Pardee Management Library published a piece called “Halloween by the Numbers,” featuring data and statistics from industry and business databases. It also points out helpful research guides on marketing, advertising and industry associations.

From history and business to special collections and databases, academic libraries have found fun and creative ways to build on the Halloween frenzy on their campuses. Do you have an idea for Halloween 2015? Use the comments section below to share.