2 May 2022
Grover the Therapy Dog

Study Week and Finals Week can be a hectic time for everyone on college and university campuses. At Illinois Institute of Technology’s Paul V. Galvin Library we remain open 24 hours a day for 12 days straight during this period. It’s become a rite of passage for some of our students, individually or in groups, to study all night in the library at least once during their time with the university. In addition to providing our regular library services the last two weeks of the semester, we also offer de-stress activities for students using the space. During the pandemic we eliminated the extended hours and special activities, but looked forward to offering them again some day. This spring is “some day”!

When planning their study schedules, students often forget to make time to take any sort of break. Stepping away from the books to clear the mind and focus on something else can be beneficial. The key for the library’s Study/Finals Week Planning Group was to find budget friendly activities that truly were a break for the students, but didn’t unduly interfere with studying. By offering scheduled, as well as self service options, we hoped to offer something for everyone.


The first step was to assemble a group of library staff to plan, organize and monitor the activities. We met weekly to brainstorm activities, create a list of needed supplies, develop a budget and divide up the to-do list. The planning group also reached out to members of the Library Student Advisory Group and a few library student workers to get their feedback on the initial list of possible activities. Needless to say, some of the activities that library staff thought were awesome, the students found less than exciting! The planning goup took the student feedback into consideration when narrowing down the list. Eventually the activities were grouped into categories: animals, self service, social media and of course there had to be snacks!


Animals, virtual or in person, are always a big hit with our students. We have been lucky over the years to have several handlers bring their therapy dogs to visit us in the library. Our students love petting the dogs, taking selfies with them and even getting down on the floor to play with them. Grover, the therapy dog, joined us four times this semester: twice during Study Week and twice during Finals Week. His calm and cheerful demeanor makes him very popular with students and staff. We also showed puppy cams and kitten cams on monitors in our Stress Free Zone room. 


The planning group thought it important to offer self service, as well as scheduled, options for students looking to hit reset. The Stress Free Zone remained open 9 a.m.-9 p.m. and offered paper crafts, kinetic sand and essential oil diffusing in a quiet room tucked away on the lower level of the library.

The other self service stations were available around the clock, strategically located throughout the library and restocked as necessary. Supplies at these stations included coloring pages, word searches, mandalas, rainbow scratch paper and a variety of crayons and markers. New this semester was a puzzle table set up with a 750 piece puzzle and available for students to work on day or night. We also stocked a self care table with handouts including feeling wheels, breathing exercises and flyers from Illinois Tech’s Student Health and Wellness. Other giveaways included candy, premade buttons, toothbrushes, toothpaste and stress balls. Last but not least, a popular addition to our self directed activities was the Wall of Encouragement where students could write comments on sticky notes and encourage each other, talk post-finals plans that they were looking forward to and other positve content.

Online Engagement

Posts on our social media platforms were key to our Finals Week programming. Not only did we use our platforms to alert students to our extended hours, but also to let them know when scheduled activities, such as button making, t-shirt design and therapy dog visits, were starting. In addition to pushing content out to our community we also encouraged students to engage with our “Tag a Scarlet Hawk” posts. The point of these posts was for students to offer each other encouragement or wish each other luck on their exams. We also shared a Finals Week Activities Guide for those students who weren’t studying in the library.


One way to draw college students to any event is to offer food and we made sure to include snacks in our budget. We provided coffee and cookies late one night as well as candy and other snacks each day.


In the end we had many more ideas for Study/Finals Week activities than we had time, money and staff to implement. We hope the students had as much fun participating in the activities as the planning group had organizing them. We’re already planning for Fall 2022 Finals Week!

Our guest post today is from Nichole Novak, Illinois Institute of Technology Paul V. Galvin Library, Chicago, Illinois