Extra! Extra! Read All About It! Academic Librarians Judging Educational Contests!

Many networking opportunities for academic librarians lie not only outside the library, but outside librarianship. Librarians at the University of Louisiana at Monroe (ULM) Library have the interesting opportunity to evaluate four excellent educational contests: the ULM regional Social Studies Fair; the Future Business Leaders of America contests; Destination ImagiNation; and the ULM Chapter of Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society Outstanding Initiates Award. These social events allow academic librarians to step out of their normal routines and environments into the world of competition as judges.

University of Louisiana at Monroe Regional Social Studies Fair

Each spring hundreds of elementary, middle and high school students compete in the Regional Social Studies Fair, hosted at ULM.

Arbitrators of the ULM regional Social Studies Fair receive a letter in the mail from the ULM Criminal Justice, Sociology and Social Work Department inviting the ULM librarian to a delicious luncheon the day before the ULM regional Social Studies Fair. The next day the librarian reports to the Fant-Ewing Coliseum and receives a packet for assessing the students’ Social Studies Fair projects. The projects are divided into elementary, middle school and high school.

Appraisers’ sheets allow poor, fair, good, excellent and superior ratings for score evaluation. The student gives an explanatory speech about his or her project. After the explanation of the project, the reviewers question each individual student about his or her unique project. Upon viewing all the assigned social studies projects, the evaluators hand in their score sheets to be tallied. The students who receive the most superior rankings are the winners. Former subjects of social studies projects are rain forests, the Egyptian pyramids, mummification and the north Louisiana Indian mounds.

Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) District II Annual Conference Competition

The Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) District II Annual Conference competition necessitates the judges analyzing specific selected events. Those events are public speaking I, public speaking II, job interview, impromptu speaking demonstration, introduction to business communication, introduction to parliamentary procedure, Mr. FBL interview, Ms. FBL interview and parliamentary procedure demonstration. At these events, the assessors interview primarily to ask the reasons contestants should be chosen Mr. FBL or Ms. FBL. The evaluators turn in score sheets to be tallied for an overall winner.

Destination ImagiNation

Destination ImagiNation (formerly known as Odyssey of the Mind) is an after-school activity in which students work in teams to solve academic and creative challenges. They present their solutions at Tournaments, where each team creates its own skit solving a problem in a selected plot assigned to all the teams in the same year in school.

Usually, the ULM chapter of Phi Kappa Phi organizes who will judge along with local teachers. The reviewers meet one weekend a month before the competition. The appraisers may volunteer to be a score keeper, a time keeper or a head judge. The score sheet asks for points sometimes ranging from 0 to 30 depending on the section being judged During the skit, the judges look for certain criteria. If the group of contestants does not have any of the mandatory aspects of the skit, described below, a zero is awarded during the appraisal. Before the skit starts, the team is asked to pick out one unknown item from several in a bag to incorporate spontaneously into their already created and rehearsed skit. The team has one minute to construct a plan for using the item in their skit. The skit must be performed in eight minutes within a limited amount of space using whatever props the team wants within the rules of Destination ImagiNation. After the eight-minute skits, the judges approach the team to discuss how the props were made and to check for outside assistance such as from parents or teachers.

The evaluators may write compliments on sticky notes to the teams. Judges must refrain from speaking to anyone they know on the teams. Judges are asked to keep their omments professional; excessive compliments may lead to questioning about how a team was rated. Judges are allowed, and encouraged, to smile and to be friendly and encouraging. The scores from each judge are totaled by an assembly of score keepers. At the end of the day, an awards ceremony for the overall winners is celebrated. Many of the teams finish their performances before twelve noon. An evaluator who does not wish to stay for the awards ceremony may leave.

ULM Chapter of Phi Kappa Phi Outstanding Initiates Award Competition

The ULM chapter of Phi Kappa Phi selects two winners and two alternates for the Phi Kappa Phi Outstanding Initiates Award. The winners receive a cash award and a book placed in the ULM Library in their honor. A committee consisting of a chair person and two or three other Phi Kappa Phi members review the applications of competing Phi Kappa Phi initiates. The individuals on the committee review the applications and email the chair person a winner and an alternate from the junior and senior graduate level.

The criteria for victory are superior grade point averages and extracurricular activities. The Phi Kappa Phi outstanding initiates always go beyond the call of duty. The committee awards two initiates and two alternates as the Phi Kappa Phi outstanding initiates, who are announced at the Phi Kappa Phi initiation ceremony.

Of the four educational contests described, Destination ImagiNation is the only one that occurs on a Saturday. The other three take place during the work day. There are perks for participating. Judges for Destination ImagiNation receive free judges t-shirts. Generally, the panel of judges also receives wonderful care packages consisting of candy and other items on the morning of the competition.

The librarians are honored to learn judging skills and hopefully have some fun, too. Moreover, academic librarians may have conversations with colleagues in a setting other than the workplace. Librarians may meet community members such as local teachers or new faculty who are also acting as reviewers. Academic librarians are contributing to society other than their duties on the job by volunteering as judges at social events.

Melinda Faye Matthews is an Interlibrary Loan/Reference Librarian at the University of Louisiana’s Monroe Library.