The First-Year Experience Cookbook. Edited by Raymond Pun and Meggan Houlihan. Chicago: ACRL, 2017. 149 p. Paper $42 (ISBN: 978-083898920-3).

In any university library, the first-year experience is an essential component of capturing students’ interest and engagement from the very beginning and of publicizing what the library offers them. However, it is always a struggle to determine how exactly to capture freshmen’s attention and disseminate information about the library’s various resources. Coming up with fresh, relevant ideas on top of an already busy schedule is enough to stress almost any librarian. Pun and Houlihan’s book attempts to alleviate this stress by presenting a “cookbook” of ideas, activities, and lesson plans that librarians across the nation have found effective in engaging first-year students, giving library staff a wealth of options to consider, duplicate, or alter according to their own needs. The book itself is divided into four sections—orientations, library instruction, programs, and assessment. Each section’s activities and lesson plans are detailed and well described, offering excellent variety as well as suggestions for accommodating a wide range of program sizes, budget constraints, and time and staffing requirements. Many of the included projects also feature photographs of the activities or reproducible versions of handouts, increasing the ease of replicability for interested librarians.

Despite these positives, I admit that I initially found the “cookbook” format off-putting; in certain places, it felt as though the editors were simply trying too hard to fit the content to the metaphor. Terms like “nutrition information,” “cooking technique,” “chef’s note,” and “allergy warning” were disconcerting and sometimes distracting. The idea came across as overdone (no pun intended), and it did not add to the book’s effectiveness. However, within this conceit, the content was useful, and I appreciated the clear outline of time required (“cooking time”), the number of students the activity was meant to engage (“number served”), and the necessary supplies (“ingredients”). This clarity and the clear, step-by-step instructions were an advantage, although some authors adhered to the format better than others.

Despite the awkwardness of the “cookbook” format, the lesson plans and advice contained in the book present an invaluable resource for university librarians designing a first-year experience program. This book does an excellent job of providing inspiration by showing librarians the variety of options available to them and giving clear instructions on how to implement these experiences. At colleges and universities of any size, librarians will be able to find activities within this book’s pages to suit their own budget, purpose, and personality.—Kyndra Valencia, Graduate Reference Assistant, University of Oklahoma Libraries, Norman, Oklahoma


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