From 1968’s Night of the Living Dead by George Romero to each week’s episode of The Walking Dead, zombies are a perennial pop culture favourite. And with the Halloween season upon us, you’re probably seeing even more references to zombies — even in the Dal Libraries.
No, you can’t blame zombies in the library for why you didn’t turn in last week’s paper on time — but you could have zombies in the library to thank for your superior researching skills when your next assignment comes in ahead of schedule.
Enter ZomBool, a video game in which you try to survive the zombie apocalypse by successfully applying search strategies. A passion project created by data librarian Julie Marcoux, the game combines a zombie-themed, chose-your-own adventure storyline using Boolean search strategies to play the game.
Julie has been an academic librarian since 2011. After about a year in the role, she noticed a pattern — many students had difficulty when it came to searching for information.
In particular, they were struggling with Boolean searches — combining keywords with AND, OR and NOT to produce more relevant results.
(For example, if you search museum AND Halifax, the results would be limited to documents that contain both of the keywords. Searching for museum OR Halifax would include documents that contained either of those terms, while a search for museum NOT Halifax gets results about musems with no reference to Halifax.)
“[It] works like math,” explains Julie. “In math, you use operators to put numbers in relation to one another. In Boolean searching, you instead use operators that work with words. It’s a phenomenon that’s been recorded in librarian literature – digital natives [people who’ve grown up with the Internet in their lives] don’t always have the strongest searching skills.”