The Minnesota State Fair, often referred to as the “Great Minnesota Get-Together,” is one of the most popular late summer destinations in the region. The fair attracts nearly 2 million guests annually over the twelve days leading up to and through Labor Day. One fun aspect about the fair is how many foods can be devised to be eaten “on a stick” (mac ‘n cheese or spaghetti & meatballs on a stick anyone?). The Health Sciences Libraries at the University of Minnesota has had a presence at the Minnesota State Fair in one form or another since the mid-2000. For the past several years we have exhibited for a full day in the University of Minnesota building that is located on the fair grounds. The exhibit usually features “healthy” information resources freely available from the National Library of Medicine as well as resources and services available to the public at the Bio-Medical Library. Since 2014, we have featured an iPad flashcard app quiz where participants can try their luck at guessing the true or false of health fact statements (see MLA 2017 poster Health Fact Or Fiction: Utilizing an iPad Flashcard App to Engage and Educate Fair Attendees for more information on the iPad quiz).
This year we were told we had an expanded area and so brainstormed what else we could do and came up with an anatomical theme – we brought some of our anatomical models and from the Wangensteen History of Medicine Library, a reproduction of page from an old anatomical atlas that utilized “flaps” to see into a woman’s body. To complement the physical models, I created a tri-fold brochure that featured freely available anatomy information from such resources as MedlinePlus/Anatomy, or other NIH institutes such as National Cancer Institute: Anatomy and Physiology as well as available historical anatomy atlases from the National Library of Medicine.
For six hours our team of intrepid library staff volunteers (including our director!) talked to and interacted with a whopping 521 state fair visitors this year – and later we learned a daily attendance record was broken that day with 144, 504 people passing through the gates. State fair attendees guessed true or false to health information statements (134 quiz takers), took selfies with Flexible Fred (303 anatomical model visitors) and peered into the guts of the flap lady (84). We were even visited by Goldy Gopher himself – who posed with Fred but passed on the taking the health quiz.
Though exhausted by the end of the day, all of the exhibit staff agreed that it was fun, that the exhibit visitors were engaged, asked lots of questions and expressed the opinion that they felt that they had learned something that day. Now to plan for next year.
Posted on behalf of Katherine Chew
Health Sciences Libraries
University of Minnesota