What do the “Miss Joe Regenstein” pageant, a hunt for the Library’s largest bladed weapon, and the hatching of “Reg Eggs” have in common? All three were 2015 Scavenger Hunt tasks, and all demonstrated students’ love of the University of Chicago Library and its centrality to student life.
The history of Scavenger Hunt and the Library
Scavenger Hunt began at the University of Chicago in 1987, and has since become one of Chicago’s most heralded traditions. The event has received national coverage in publications such as The New Yorker, and was a subject of a 2002 documentary The Hunt. Every year, over four days in May, Scavenger Hunt teams compete for points obtained by gathering hard-to-locate objects and participating in challenging—and occasionally bizarre—events. The Scavenger Hunt list consists of over 300 activities and tasks, including the “Scav Olympics”, a blood drive, and a road trip to out-of-the way attractions. Student teams are generally affiliated with undergraduate residence halls and Registered Student Organizations (RSOs), but also may include graduate students and alumni.
Over the years, the Library has worked with the Scavenger Hunt judges wishing to have items on the list related to our collections or campus libraries. Understanding the Hunt’s significance to the University’s culture, the Library has been very supportive of the tradition, allowing events and tasks as long as our campus libraries can maintain a scholarly environment. Library-related tasks in the past include the creation of “bibliodomes” and questions about little-known facts from the University Archives. For the 2015 Hunt, the Library was approached by the judges for help with several items from this year’s list.
Meet Miss Joe Regenstein
One of the main events of this year’s Scavenger Hunt was Item 252, a Miss Joe Regenstein pageant, held in Hutchinson Commons on May 7. I had the honor of serving as a guest judge at the proceedings.
Each Scavenger Hunt team had a “contestant” for the pageant which represented a section of the Regenstein Library, such as Miss Bookstacks, Miss A Level and Miss Art Reading Room. Contestants were judged in three areas: costumes, talent, and overall knowledge of the Library.
For the costume competition, students created elaborate outfits. Miss Bookstacks’s dress was crafted from pages of a book (though not from the library’s collections). Miss B Level’s costume included a replica of its compact shelving, while Miss Ex Libris’s included a toaster–complete with a bagel.
To demonstrate their knowledge of the Library, the contest included a Q & A session, led by the judges. While some questions were specifically about library research, most were designed to fit the spirit of the event, such as:
- The Classics Reading Room is the quietest place in Regenstein. Two graduate students begin a fight over Herodotus and Thucydides. How would you break the argument up and preserve the peace?
- A computer science student thinks that Crerar is best library on campus. Defend Regenstein’s honor!
- It’s hard to find outlets on Regenstein’s A Level. How would you bring power to the people?
Despite the lighthearted nature of the questions, students demonstrated their knowledge of the organization and culture of the Library, often basing their responses on research conducted before the event.
The final task was a talent competition. Contestants built models of Regenstein out of books, sang songs, and conducted skits. Miss Reference Desk—a.k.a. Alicia Wright, Class of 2015—composed a poem for her team entitled “An Ode to the Reference Desk”:
Worse than Clark Kent and his glasses
We hide in plain sight
Making things right
So the next time you come in
And need a book on, I don’t know, Shamoo
Don’t forget to give the reference desk worker
A heartfelt “thank you”.
All of the teams were creative, funny, and demonstrated their deep affection for the Library. But in the end, the winner was Miss TECHB@R, who led the talent competition—answering tech support questions while balancing a computer keyboard on his head.
A special sword
The Library is often contacted by the Scavenger Hunt judges for help in identifying odd items in our collections for the list. This year, item 49 sought “the country and century of origin for the larger of the two bladed weapons that are property of the University of Chicago Libraries.” In this case, the item in question was in our Special Collections Research Center—a dress sword owned by Ethan Allan Hitchcock, part of the William Beaumont Collection.
Reg Eggs hatch
On May 8, Scavenger Hunt teams gathered on the A Level of Regenstein for Item 101, the construction human-sized eggs. Each contained monsters, or costumed team members, who “hatched” and then escaped the A Level via the Library’s Block Garden to spread discord among the main Quads. Interested parties may view the hatching of the Reg Eggs via the Snichcock Team’s YouTube channel.
Scavenger Hunt and the Library’s place in student life
While the Library plays only a small role in the overall proceedings of Scavenger Hunt, it provides a wonderful opportunity for librarians to build relationships with students by working together on a favorite campus event—and for students to demonstrate their creativity, and ingenuity, and research skills, as well as their love of the Library.