Emerging Technology Planning – Gamification of Library Instruction and Orientation

Gamification, applying game elements to real-world learning, has been increasingly utilized in academic settings to engage and motivate students by presenting banal tasks in an innovative and fun manner. The rapid development of the smartphone, the mobile web, and social media have furthered the pervasiveness of games in daily activities that goes beyond the game world. The billion-dollar video game industry is proof that people will invest great measure of time and energy into games, and this can be harnessed by libraries to improve user engagement and education. Students in higher education have the game skills necessary from playing video games, making them a prime target for gamification of library services. People learn better when they are active participants in the learning process, and using gamification as a teaching strategy in library orientation offers users a positive and pleasant participatory experience. Participatory spaces are where learning occurs.

The 2012 NMC Horizon Report states that gamification helps students more easily connect with educational material that motivates them to succeed in personally meaningful ways. With technology steadily being used in libraries to deliver services, innovative ideas in this process are becoming more commonplace. Academic libraries in particular aim to improve students’ research literacy skills by introducing games and game dynamics into their library curriculum with the ultimate goal of transforming practical assignments into something more entertaining. This example of participatory service using current technology is a powerful tool for engagement and motivation of library users. This plan is to create an interactive orientation where students learn more about the library’s online presence in a fun way


The goals for introducing gamification into library instruction in an academic setting are intended to strengthen the learning of users who are new to the world of higher education.

  1. Introduce students to the library’s website and resources.
  2. Familiarize students with online library processes.
  3. Increase the level of active learning and student engagement.
  4. Reduce library-related anxiety among students.


College students seeking their education in on online environment are often located some distance from their educational institutions, and thus have very limited use of the physical libraries of those institutions. With large numbers of new students, individual one-on-one instruction and even group orientation is not feasible. For this reason, it is especially important that distance learners have the skills necessary to navigate the libraries’ websites and make use of available online resources. For many of these students, information literacy is a new concept, one that should be mastered in order to succeed academically. However, many students already possess similar skills from playing video games. Gamification of library orientation can take this learning objective to a new level, engaging online students and teaching them crucial research skills in an innovative and enjoyable manner. If you cannot change the student, then you can shape the student’s user experience to meet his comfort level.


Convince online college and university students that by participating in a library orientation game they will learn valuable skills which will assist them in their studies because of the necessity of information literacy in higher education.


Gamification can encourage imaginative learning and provide useful data and metrics for improving library user engagement. There are many different aspects of the library that lend themselves well to gamification, and many resources available for libraries to use for inspiration.


The mission for this plan is to raise online students’ awareness and level of engagement with the university’s library website and digital resources by adapting game dynamics to library instruction.

The mission of the university library is to provide quality resources and innovative services to promote intellectual growth and creativity by facilitating access to information resources and teaching the effective use of those resources. Gamification of these processes using technology and imagination will assist in this endeavor.

Guidelines and policies for this plan will be set by a team consisting of librarians and faculty of the university. Policy advisement will be sought from these libraries that have successfully implemented gamification into their programs:

  • University of California, San Diego, Libraries
  • Grand Valley State University Libraries
  • Ohio State University Libraries
  • Utah Valley University Fulton Library
  • University of Huddersfield Library

The library orientation game will provide an introduction to the library’s online resources through an interactive game similar to an online scavenger hunt, with tasks that involve students searching the library’s website to solve increasingly difficult challenges. The game will use “gating” for key concepts, which will prevent players from progressing until they have mastered a skill. A progress bar will show students how far they have advanced in the “quest”. While intended for new distance learners, the game will be open and available to any student with access to the library’s website.


This project will require staff time of three to four librarians to determine the challenges. Students and faculty of the Information Technology department will provide technical expertise in game design techniques. A budget of $200 will be allotted from the discretionary fund to be used for marketing and promotional needs. Acquisition of necessary hardware and software will be funded as needed through the IT department.


Phase I:

  1. Identify essential library skills needed for distance learners
  2. Obtain necessary permissions and collaborations from faculty and department heads
  3. Establish the project team
  4. Examine games put in place by other institutions
  5. Obtain necessary software and/or hardware

Phase II:

  1. Implement game elements into curriculum for library orientation (actual game design)
  2. Playtest the game with library staff
  3. Incorporate game promotional materials into orientation packets for new students
  4. Promote the game through library and university websites and campus initiatives
  5. Evaluate results through student feedback and data obtained through game play

Game design will occur during the 2017 Summer session, with the game to be launched one week before the start of the 2017 Fall semester for online students and during orientation week for onsite students. The game will continue to be available throughout the academic year, with evaluation of the results to be conducted during the 2018 Summer session. Necessary adjustments will be made as needed at that time depending on the success of the project as determent through the evaluation process.


This project will require a project team consisting of four librarians, students and faculty of the Information Technology department (with experience in coding, graphic design, and JavaScript), and student advisors for the initial research and development phase. Input may be sought from game designers on a voluntary basis as needed. Project librarians will remain available throughout the academic year when required for user assistance. Building a game in-house with permanent library staff allows the game to be completed and updated as library resources change and student advisers graduate.


All public services staff and library tech personnel will be trained to troubleshoot the game, and to assist students with their progress. Training will be scheduled one month before the start of Fall 2017 semester. All library staff will be required to playtest and complete the game prior to its launch. Training will be provided by the members of the project team.


As this game is intended for students of the university, promotion will be directed at students and faculty. Through teacher collaboration, class credit may be offered upon completion of the orientation game, particularly in lower-level English courses. Extrinsic motivation is often necessary for students to voluntarily play an educational game. The game will be promoted to students with emphasis on “fun” through university orientation packets delivered via email, and on the websites of the library and the university, as well as linked to on Canvas. The game will be promoted to teachers as “an innovative method for introducing new students to the library and its services through educational games”.


Feedback from students, teachers, and playtesters will be the primary means of evaluating the game. Data on the number of times the game was begun and the number of times it was completed will be obtained and analyzed. Upon completion of the game, players will be required to complete a survey on the game’s usefulness, level of difficulty, and entertainment value. The game will be considered successful when the initiation vs completion ratio is 85%, and survey feedback is numerically scored at eight out of ten positive responses.


My interest in gamification came about as a result of the virtual scavenger hunt that was designed by my library when the new website was introduced. Before it was unveiled to the public, library staff were asked to participate in this game in order to determine the website’s usability. Using gamification as a tool provided feedback from a greater number of participants than simply asking for comments. In researching the topic I was intrigued by some of the fun ways that other libraries, particularly academic libraries, have of providing education and learning to their users. I hope to encourage my library to make our website more participatory and interactive, possibly by utilizing LibraryGame.


Bigdeli, Z., Haidari, G., HajiYakhchali, A., &   BasirianJahromi, R. (2016). Gamification in library websites based on motivational theories. Webology, 13(1), 1-12.

Broussard, M.J.S. (2012). Digital games in academic libraries: A review of games and suggested best practices. Reference Services Review, 40(1), 75-89.

Felker, K. (2014). Gamification in libraries: The state of the art. Reference and User Services Quarterly, 54(2), 19-23.

Green, G. (2012). The innovative use of technology in libraries [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://uklibchat.wordpress.com/2012/11/30/feature-01-innovative-use-of-technology-in-libraries.

Johnson, L., Adams, S., & Cummins, M. (2012). The NMC Horizon Report: 2012 higher education edition. Austin, TX: The New Medium Consortium.

Kim, B. (2012). Harnessing the power of game dynamics. College & Research Libraries, 73(8), 465-469.

Kim, B. (2015a). The popularity of gamification in the mobile and social era. Library Technology Reports, 51(2), 5–9.

Kim, B. (2015b). Gamification in education and libraries. Library Technology Reports, 51(2), 20-27.

Kim, B. (2015c). Designing gamification in the right way. Library Technology Reports, 51(2), 29-35.

Mallon, M. (2013). Gaming and gamification. Public Services Quarterly, 9(3), 210-221.

Pun, R. (2016), Winning ways to gamify your library services. Computers In Libraries 36(9), 12-15.

Schneider, K.G. (2006). The user is not broken [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://freerangelibrarian.com/2006/06/03/the-user-is-not-broken-a-meme-masquerading-as-a-manifesto.

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Stephens, M. (2012). The age of participation. Library Journal, 137(3), 40.

Young, J. (2016). Can library research be fun? Using games for information literacy instruction in higher education. Georgia Library Quarterly, 53(3), 1-7.


5 thoughts on “Emerging Technology Planning – Gamification of Library Instruction and Orientation”

  1. Hi Mollie, what a terrific plan, very clear and detailed and well documented. And what a wonderful idea! I’m going to steal some of the resources that you list, for future reference. I attended a training session a few months ago that included a brief presentation on using gaming activities to enhance participation in the institutional repository. It completely blew my mind – I never would have thought that gaming could be such a powerful motivator, but, boy, is it. Thanks for this great information.

  2. Hi Mollie,
    I just love this idea and your proposal is so well articulated! Our library is planning to install a new OPAC and revamp the website, this may be a great way to introduce the systems to our customers (teens especially).
    I am seriously considering this topic for our director’s brief assignment (which I will share with our emerging technology librarian). Thank you so much for all the information.

  3. Gamification is definitely becoming a buzz word in education lately-right now, the game of the moment at the middle school I work at is Kahoot!-a trivia type game that classes can log in and play together. The kids love it. I always try to do scavenger hunt type games for learning library skills, but I wish I had the know-how to create a game for digital resources as your plan does.

  4. I wholeheartedly agree with the prior comments regarding the sheer awesomeness of your plan; great work!
    Gamification is definitely the buzz word in all levels of learning today. As with all change, there will be plenty of resistance, but I think learning should be fun to everyone!

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