January 28, 2013 | by Kate Sleeth
I want to share with you the activity we ended the summer with — a flash mob! Over the summer, while planning the “back to school” event, the librarians in City of Hope’s Lee Graff Medical and Scientific Library asked if we would be able to do something fun and unexpected to bring exposure to the library, and potentially make it a cooler place. My summer academy teaching assistant, Stephanie, had previously been in a flash mob and was confident that we could successfully perform one in the library. The librarians agreed that it was a good idea and the planning began. Initially we thought it would be fun to rewrite a song, just as we previously did for our CIRM parody, with lyrics relating to the library and City of Hope. Stephanie set about this with gusto and within a few short hours had rewritten Miley Cyrus’s song “Party in the U.S.A.” to be “Party in the Library”! It was very cute, with nods at the librarians, the hospital, Beckman Research Institute, research and the search engines scientists use on a daily basis. But she then began to think that the reason many flash mobs are popular is because people know the song very well, so perhaps we should choose a well-known song instead. But what songs are possibly applicable to a library? One song was a clear choice, so we went with the Jackson 5 song “ABC.” It was very likely that all the potential performers would be familiar with it, and it was suitably bouncy for an impromptu dance. The next thing was to choreograph the steps. This was reasonably challenging as they needed to be simple enough for a non-dancer to perform. We had tested the water and had positive feedback from a number of people, but only a handful had any serious dance background. Again, Stephanie studied a number of flash mob and dance videos to come up with some fairly easy moves. She wrote instructions and even recorded the dance so that people who couldn’t make the rehearsals could still learn the routine. We held a few different rehearsals (if any of you on campus saw us in the lobby of the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Center for Cancer Immunotherapeutics & Tumor Immunology, now you know what we were up to!) and had a variety of participants, from summer and graduate students to research and administrative staff — the entire gamut that uses the library on a regular basis. On the actual day, I was incredibly nervous. We had arranged for the whole thing to be recorded so that it could be viewed by those who were not present in the library on that particular Friday morning. What would happen if none of the dancers showed up? Or we forgot the moves and it looked terrible? Or people present in the library didn’t take it well? (Signs had been up for at least a day saying there would be “disruption” in the library on that morning!) I needn’t have worried. It went smoothly. The “boom box” we had brought in played the music loud enough so the entire library could get their groove on if they wanted, and we could clearly hear so that we could hit all the cues for the dance moves. We also had a good number of dancers; if we had any more I am not sure we would have fit in the space! The word had gotten out (even though we had tried to keep it fairly secret) and there was a little crowd of people who aren’t visible in the video who came to watch and support us. It was a really fun thing to do, and hopefully it showed that unexpected things can happen in a location which is usually thought of as quiet and restrained! The question is, did we manage to make the library a cool place? I will let you be the judge. I hope you enjoy the video.