Wanna take a shelfie?

by AnaMaria Seglie

Wanna take a shelfie? Yes, that’s right I said “shelfie.” My students took shelfies as the culminating activity in a spring 2015 library workshop. This workshop was designed to prepare them for an upcoming research paper in which they were required to find two scholarly sources.

What, you may ask, is a shelfie? With the explosion of Instagram and Facebook, the selfie has become a popular form of self-portrait – a postmodern autobiography, if you will. Inspired by this trend, the shelfie (for my course’s purposes) is a self-portrait taken in the shelves of the library while holding a hardcopy book. It requires that students go physically into the stacks, hold a real print book, and take a photo.


(The Big Picture) We repeatedly hear that today’s college students are digital learners – that they are more comfortable browsing the internet than they are settling down with a physical book. They are masters of Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and, as the crowds of young people wandering around this summer proves, Pokemon Go. Rice students are part of this crowd. They conduct their primary research via the web, often preferring Wikipedia, Google books, and Buzzfeed style articles to a library catalogue and dusty shelves. Despite this shift and the multiplying number of innovative online learning models, I continue to believe in the importance of the on-site library. I want my students to leave my class with the foundational skills for navigating both print and digital text-networks. Asking them to take a shelfie in tandem with conducting online library research offers one way to merge these two worlds.

(The Specifics) The shelfie, its associated workshop, and assignments also served some specific purposes for my FWIS courses: 1) to educate new students on the library’s resources; 2) to make students comfortable browsing (both digitally and physically); 3) to prepare students for their final essay; 4) to add a fun twist to library research. 

How does it work?

Step 1: My Spring 2015 FWIS students attended a library workshop hosted by research librarian Dr. Joe Goetz. I asked students to arrive at the workshop with a research question or topic over our most recent reading. Joe generously led my students through the process of searching and using the library’s various catalogues as well as the search engines and databases they would find most useful for their upcoming assignments.

Step 2: Upon leaving the workshop, I asked students to apply their newfound knowledge and skills. This activity required them to find an online journal article and an on-site book for their research topic. Upon recording these findings, students were urged to find their book in the stacks and take a self-portrait with it. I gave no guidelines for the shelfie’s type or tone, but simply allowed students to take the photo as they saw fit and send it to me. As you can see from these images, I received a wide range of responses that I then posted on our course blogs. These posts allowed students to not only see others’ photos but also to see themselves as part of a classroom community.



What I learned:

As a teacher, this exercise was fun to watch unfold. Though I have long used online platforms such as WordPress, the Purdue OWL, and Writer’s Diet, this exercise challenged me to further integrate social media into my classroom. I have no desire to make my courses into constant Twitter or Instagram feeds; however, the growing number of intersections between social media, digital education, and the classroom present rich opportunities for new communication pedagogies, and I intend to mine them for creative ways to help my students read, write, and think critically. Now, if I can only find a way to integrate Pokemon Go…