Around Campus

Student teams get a Clue about Wilson Library

Library holds the seventh game of live-action Clue, a gentler form of the popular board game, in the library since 2012.

A ghost is haunting Wilson Library, spreading ectoplasm on the precious archival materials and special collections inside.

October 29, the Supernatural Investigation Agency detained six researchers in separate rooms as suspects. One of them was the messy ghost, but which one?

Was it gruff Col. Mustard? Eccentric Mrs. Peacock? Perspicacious Professor Plum? Frightened Mrs. White? Knowing Mr. Green? Or haughty Miss Scarlett?

The SIA recruited 16 student teams to help, but the clock is ticking. They have only 90 minutes to find the evidence, interrogate the suspects and make an indictment. But at least one of the suspects is a liar, warned SIA Lead Investigator Luke Aeschleman, whose alternative identity is database development librarian in the Health Sciences Library.

Aeschleman told the teams they must work independently. “I don’t want any skullduggery,” he said.

At 6 p.m., the creatively named teams — Wild Chinchilla Squadron, Basement Bootleggers, Clue Shot (cleverly disguised as doctors, wearing scrubs and paper masks) to name a few — scattered throughout the library. They were armed only with small notebooks and a special app loaded on their smartphones.

The teams started out fast, but quickly realized they needed to slow down to observe tiny details. They hovered over display cases, circled sculptures, and peered at paintings and posters. They huddled in corners, whispering. They interrogated suspects.

“My lawyers asked me not to talk to folks like you,” snarled Col. Mustard, dressed in a green uniform accessorized with a bright yellow ascot and pith helmet, when the Librarians Like Clue team came to call.

Mrs. Peacock protested her detention with a “Free Peacock” sign, marching back and forth in front of the door and fluttering her peacock feather fan. “Is this the profile of a criminal?” she demanded. “Mrs. Peacock is the most innocent.”

But there’s a twist to this whole investigation. A ghost isn’t really haunting the library. The elaborate scenario is just a way to lure students into the beautiful but formidable building and introduce them to the fascinating recordings, documents, books and photographs inside.

Fiendishly clever, those librarians.

Thursday night was the seventh game of live-action Clue in the library, held once a semester since 2012. The game is a kinder, gentler form of the popular board game Clue.

In the library version, no one gets killed with a wrench in the dining room. Instead, the teams are searching for a ghost and the portal it uses to enter Wilson Library. The game began as a scavenger hunt, but has grown more immersive each semester, with a more elaborate narrative.

The big difference this year was the introduction of a game app, developed by Aeschleman. The app allowed digital-savvy millennials to conduct their investigations with smartphones instead of binders filled with papers.

But all the clues are still undetectable on the Internet — Google-proof. The teams have to visit the various collections to answer the questions. They also got extra points for spotting tiny details among the displays and for finding fake mustaches planted on items throughout the building.

“It’s a way that they can learn about what a special collections library is, but they don’t feel like they’re learning while they’re doing it, and I think they appreciate that,” said Emily Jack, digital projects and outreach librarian. “There’s also free pizza.”

Fiendishly clever, those librarians.