How we used a digital zombie apocalypse to teach students about the Library

Read how the University of Sussex Library used the open source Twine tool to develop a different approach to library induction

MmIT Committee member @AntonyGroves describes using Twine to create a Zombie Apocalypse-themed online game to introduce students to the University of Sussex Library:

So far this academic year has been one of playful learning. Colleagues in the Library have already run Open Access escape rooms for #OAWeek, used Lego in teaching, and organised a brilliant Stranger Things inspired quest as part of #LibrariesWeek. This post, however, will focus on an online game created for Welcome Week to introduce new students to the Library; one where players had to choose their own adventure and successfully navigate our services to survive a zombie apocalypse

The game was made using Twine, an open source tool introduced to us by the Technology Enhanced Learning team. Following their training and working through the four stages listed below we were able to increase the reach and variety of our induction programme by creating a simple interactive game that can be completed in five minutes and took less than three hours to build. So if you can make some time for fun and games this Halloween, try it yourself.

1.      Writing

Reinforcing our induction message, the goal was to create a game that introduced students to the resources, support and space available to them at the Library. To achieve this, three successive scenarios were written for the game each presenting the player with three choices. Including an opening and closing scene this meant writing 14 passages of text that varied from 25-150 words in length. For example, the first scenario was as follows (with the successful answer leading to the next passage):

First scenario with three options

2.      Production

On the Twine wiki you will find an official Twine 2 guide (Twine 2 is the current version) which provides guidance on using the tool. As this gives detailed instructions on creating your first story only a simple overview will be included here. Twine games are essentially a series of webpages, each containing a passage of text, which are linked together by the different possible choices a player can make. For the maker of the game, these passages are added to a canvas where the route through the story can be visualised and passages edited:

Section of canvas containing Twine story with links between different passages

3.      Special Effects

As the game consists of webpages, each page/passage/scenario can be edited using HTML. CSS can also be applied across the whole game to customise by editing the story stylesheet. The example below shows how the link text was changed to white when a player hovers over a particular option. This created a monochrome colour combination that was both accessible and atmospheric:

Section of story stylesheet

Photos of the Library were added to each passage using appropriate HTML <img>, <alt> and <class> tags. The photos were edited using a basic Android app to give them a frame and filter suited to the monochromatic theme:

Section of passage with HTML

4.      Distribution

The game was published online using which at the time was the recommended platform for Twine hosting but has since become a read-only site where new games can’t be added. There are a number of alternatives on the Twine Wiki though. Once published a link to the game was added to the Library homepage for Welcome Week. This offered an alternative to our tours and provided a valuable online component to our inductions. Colleagues have also used it in subsequent lectures to introduce students to key Library services in an engaging way. 

With such a wide application it has certainly been worth the small time investment in creating. does not provide analytics on usage so feedback, although positive, has been anecdotal. For those still unconvinced, it can be used for more than games: I know a developer who uses Twine to create wireframes that better reflect possible user journeys through a site. So don’t be scared, try it out this Halloween! 

Open Access Week 2019 #OAWeek

MmIT share recent links and resources on the topic of Open Access this #OAWeek (all are openly accessible).

Open Access Week is a global event which provides the research community with an opportunity to learn about the potential benefits of Open Access, to share what they’ve learned with colleagues, and to help inspire wider participation. The theme of #OAWeek 2019, which runs from October 21-27, is Open for Whom? Equity in Open Knowledge.

We shared a number of useful links on this blog in 2018, and have identified some additional links from this past year; these are all openly accessible:

Open Access Week 2019

Save the date(s): forthcoming MmIT events

The MmIT Committee are busy planning their winter schedule of activities. Further information will appear on this blog and our Twitter feed, but here’s a heads-up:

Image source:

September #uklibchat discussing the environmental footprint of technology

We were delighted to partner with @uklibchat earlier this month to discuss ‘Green Tech’ and the environmental footprint of technology. During the 90 minutes available to discuss this critical topic, there were 60+ tweets.

The agenda generated discussion on the environmental impact of the 24/7/365 library; recycling e-waste (at organisational and personal level); the potential of electric vehicle technology for mobile libraries; the environmental impact of online resources; and apps which support green initiatives.

The tweets have been collected into a Wakelet and are available here. If you’d like to save the Wakelet as a PDF to read later (on a device – please don’t print it!) then click on the three dots and export it.

Looking forward to #ILI2019

MmIT really appreciates our partnership with Internet Librarian International: the library innovation conference. With just over a month until it opens, here are some highlights:

  • The MmIT stand: join us to learn about our forthcoming events and participate in our latest competition.
  • Three keynote speakers who will talk about accelerating innovation, harnessing the power of community and collaboration and celebrating the love of libraries.
  • We think Track C (Digital, diverse, disrupted) on Day 1 and Track B (The Rebooted Librarian) on Day 2 will particularly appeal to MmIT members, but there are fascinating talks in all the tracks.
  • Committee member presentations: Antony Groves is discussing Library Code Camp in session B203: Delicious digital skills and Alison McNab will give a lightning talk on How to be heard as part of session C204: The rebranded librarian.
  • There’s a 25% discount on the cost of registration if you are a member of MmIT or another supporting organisation. Please note that the Early Bird discount closes on Friday 13 September.
  • We’re awarding the Most Intriguing Presentation Title award to David Bennet for his talk on Smile for the thesaurus!

Are you a first-time delegate? Read our advice on getting the most out of your conference experience.

Unable to attend this year? Follow along on Twitter at #ILI2019 and consider submitting an abstract for next year….

Below: Video from our MmIT stand at #CilipConf19 in July 2019.

CILIP Conference 2019 : reflections on #CilipConf19

Earlier this year we publicised our bursary to attend the 2019 Cilip Conference. We were delighted to award it to Claire Back, Development Manager with Plymouth Libraries. In her winning blog entry Claire discussed her favourite tech tool Canva. Claire has now blogged her impressions from the conference and highlighted those themes which she found most significant.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been over a month since the CILIP Conference in Manchester. Rather than a chronological write up, this blog post is more a reflection of my thoughts on the conference; what I enjoyed the most, what I took away from attending and what I’m still thinking about one month later.

Major themes

For me there were two major themes that came up repeatedly. The first, diversity and inclusion ran throughout the two days. From Kriti Sharma’s excellent opening keynote on bias and ethics in AI to Hong-Anh Nguyen’s powerful day two keynote Questioning Diversity: A call to action for everyone working in the profession to make a positive change. There was also the BAME Network allies’ breakfast which unfortunately I couldn’t attend but I have since signed up as an ally on the website.

Demonstrating impact was the second major theme for me, probably because it’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about recently. It was clear listening to stories from 25 years of Libraries Change Lives that being able to demonstrate the difference these initiatives made was a key to their success and recognition. In Glasgow’s Mitchell Library we saw the positive impact that moving the Citizens Advice Bureau into the library had on both users and staff. Jan Holden from Norfolk Libraries shared their vision for ensuring that libraries change lives every day through a range of health and wellbeing activities. I liked their plan on a page which was simple and effective. It was also good to hear Jan say that it’s sometimes hard to get people to listen and understand what libraries can do, and how important it is to have confidence in the service and be willing to have the same conversations again and again.

It was also interesting to hear Kay Grieves from the University of Sunderland describe how they are using an engagement and impact model to drive service design and I enjoyed seeing their experiments with data visualisation, something I’m keen to do more of.

Public Libraries are awesome

I know this, I work for one, but it’s good to be reminded sometimes and the Innovation in Public Libraries highlighted some of the great work going on. This included Archives+ at Manchester Central Library who have been documenting the history and stories of the LBQT community in the city and I loved that they invited a couple of the volunteers, a vital part of the project, along to hear the talk. I’m always slightly in awe of the work being done by Leeds Libraries on 100% Digital Leeds, ensuring that everyone in the city has the same options and choices when it comes to digital inclusion, so it was useful to pick up some tips on how they are doing it from Amy Hearn.

Best slides

A special mention to Dave Rowe from Libraries Hacked who illustrated his talk on open geographic intelligence with library data solely with images of dogs (and a single cat) on mobile libraries.  Dave’s current project to improve the state of mobile library data makes me wish we had a mobile so we could get involved.

What I missed

There will always be the problem of clashing sessions at a conference, but I was really sorry to miss the Diversity in the Profession Panel.

Overall I really enjoyed my couple of days in Manchester. I felt it helped me to reconnect with the wider profession and I’m very grateful to MMIT for the bursary.

MmIT joins @uklibchat to discuss ‘Green Tech’ and the environmental footprint of technology

We’re joining up with the tweeps at #uklibchat on Monday 2nd September for a Twitter chat on ‘Green Tech’ and the environmental footprint of technology.

Join us on Monday 2 September 2019 from 7.00-8.30pm BST. The chat sessions start with general introductions and then we move on to the discussion topics.  Never participated in #uklibchat before? Here’s an introduction to the concept.

Please add the questions that you would like to discuss to the agenda here in under 280 characters. Please remember to use the hashtag #uklibchat so that everyone can see your replies.  Please also remember to include the question number to which you are replying in all your tweets.

MmIT Committee member Antony Groves has provided a thought-provoking blog post to set the scene for our discussions:

What can libraries and librarians do to tackle the climate emergency?

Earlier this week Goldsmiths announced that they will soon stop selling beef on campus in a step towards becoming carbon neutral. At the more technological end of the spectrum, the University of Sussex has undertaken the largest solar panel project in UK HE, positioning it as one of the most energy-efficient universities in England. Over 7000 HE and FE institutions around the world have declared a climate emergency, along with half of local councils in the UK, meaning that many of us will now be working for employers who have rightly made a commitment to practices that reduce global warming (or attempt to hold it beneath a catastrophic rise of 1.5oC above pre-industrial levels). However, as service provision within many of our organisations moves towards a 24 hour a day, 365 day a year model, what else can we do to minimise our environmental footprint? 

To begin with, we can do what we do best: find and share information. As UNESCO have stated, education will be key to addressing climate change. For us, there is much that we can learn from other libraries and librarians in the pursuit of making our profession carbon neutral – a form of library neutrality that we’d all like to see. 

In the UK, according to government statistics, the energy supply and transport sectors are responsible for over half of greenhouse gas emissions through their burning of fossil fuels. So what can libraries do to move away from their reliance on these sectors and save on energy consumption? At the University of Sussex Library our recently created Green Group highlight and undertake ways to reduce our environmental impact by encouraging staff and students to use best practice in limiting wastage of power, water and other consumables. For example, we run digital note-making workshops for our students showing them how to digitally annotate and highlight PDFs instead of having to print them. 

Like many other libraries we also have motion sensor lighting in our stacks and, inspired by a presentation from Dr Jon Knight at a previous MmIT event, now use more energy efficient Raspberry Pi’s to run some of our displays. Whilst it is possible to use low energy computers to replace PCs and OPAC machines, researchers from the University of Bath have also discovered a way of saving electrical power by running their library’s computers on a direct current. When these computers can easily be used to host webinars, we should also ask ourselves whether we really need to be travelling for meetings and non-essential training that contribute toward transport emissions.

As individuals, every time we use a computer we create carbon, even through the simple act of checking emails (although this could be mitigated by cloud computing). Not only should we avoid printing unnecessary emails, we should avoid sending them. When we do need to share information, we should think about how it is packaged and design our digital resources to avoid electronic waste. For example, is video always the best format for support materials? Researchers estimate that a design intervention stopping images being sent to people only using YouTube to listen to audio could reduce the platform’s carbon footprint annually by roughly that of 30,000 UK homes!

We can also look at ways to offset the CO2 that our online activities generate. The search engine Ecosia is used widely at the University of Sussex and the company behind this spent 80% of their profits in June 2019 planting trees in an effort to tackle the climate crisis. Creators of the Forest app take a similar approach and work with the organisation Trees for the Future to achieve this. The Forest app has the added bonus of encouraging you to stay off your device (and is one we recommend to students who want to focus) so it’s both reducing and offsetting your carbon footprint. 

If opting out isn’t feasible we can always turn to activism. Perhaps, as suggested in a fictitious Nature review, it’s time to form the “Librarians against Climate Change pressure group”?  Although organisations such as the International Federation of Library Associations are already recognising our efforts through their Green Library Awards, there is much more that we can do. 

These examples are just the tip of the iceberg; one that together we can work to preserve.

Photo credit: A. Groves