March Madness in the Library

Submitted by Stephen Sweeney, Library Director, Saint John Vianney Theological Seminary

For the third year in a row, the Cardinal Stafford Library of Saint John Vianney Theological Seminary (SJV) has offered a March Madness-themed interactive display to play into the competitiveness and spirituality/faith formation of our community.

This year the event theme is Library March Madness: Saints Edition.

Steps to Creating and Participating in the Madness

After deciding on the theme, a committee comprised of Library staff and seminarians conceived an initial list of saints and created a bibliography of books on each saint. After finalizing the list over email, the broad categories of saints were determined to be: Founders, Fathers, Medieval, Martyrs, Contemporaries, Blesseds, and Wildcards.

Broadly, the guidelines are pretty simple:

  1. Pick up a bracket in the library. Complete it and give it to library staff for weekly scoring. In addition to posting bracket scores, we also post vote counts.
  2. Any member of the SJV community is eligible to participate: Seminarians, faculty, and staff may vote for their favorite saint book one time per day. Winning saint books for each game will advance in the tournament.
  3. Competitions happen in ’rounds,’ running week by week. The Top 32 ran the last week of February; Sweet 16 the first full week of March; Elite 8 the second full week of March; Final Four the following week; Championship March 22-23; and finally, the announcement of the winning saint at lunch on Monday, March 26.

On a practical level, the kickoff to this event was made by a lunch announcement and it is worth mentioning that everyone in the SJV community participates in lunch every day. As an added incentive we offer an Amazon gift card as a prize.

The Benefits to the Madness

March Madness
March Madness Display: The bracket was visualized using books on a table-top sized bracket.

While this display and competition are meant to be fun, there is also a direct library benefit. In a fresh way, we draw members of the community into the library who might not otherwise make us a regular stop. Also, many of the “competitors” are checked out each year. And from the bibliography, there are always backup options to ensure representation in the display. Since everyone can vote once per day, there is the added incentive of wanting ‘your’ saint to win.

Seminarians routinely stop to talk about the progress of the contest, which goes a long way to developing good library relationships and a sense of community. We have also heard the surprise in the almost-regular expression “you guys have books on all of these ___ (topics/videos/saints)?” It’s a great way to bring the community together, as faculty participate alongside seminarians.

Previous Themes

Themes in previous years included: books by highest circulation and videos by highest circulation, with creative license taken to propose a provocative display.

How are you reaching your community with your library resources? Share in the comments below or submit your own story to the ATLA Newsletter. 

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