There is something about play that we humans are wired for and, even as adults, we get a charge from the opportunity to combine skill, chance and a bit of moxie. Gaming and gamification have brought elements of play into previously staid realms. Similarly, they have transformed the way libraries offer learning for patrons of all ages. From escape rooms to competitive reading, libraries are finding new ways to up their game.


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Using research of their own, North Carolina State University librarians investigated how to best engage new students with the library’s resources and programs. What they found was the need for speed, collaboration, and fun. The NCSU Libraries Mobile Scavenger Hunt intentionally requires students to interact with the library—its people, its materials, its spaces— in positive and fun ways. Students document those experiences working together, and they discover a library that is a supportive partner in learning.

Capitalizing on a popular gaming trend, Cal Poly Pomona’s Library offers a Pok√©mon Go Library Scavenger Hunt. This self-guided orientation introduces students to library resources and to augmented reality, with one-to-one assistance along the way as needed. Pre- and post-questionnaires assess what students learn and help librarians determine how the orientation can be tweaked for future use. The program was launched this fall to great fanfare and surprise guest appearances!

A few years ago, Ann Arbor District Library launched Play at AADL, a restyled summer learning program for patrons of all ages. Points are accrued and badges are earned for a wide range of activities, from reading to attending events to answering trivia questions. The program is incentivized with online leader boards that track top point earners and prizes for reaching certain milestones. Thousands of Ann Arbor residents participate each year.

In many libraries, gamification is closely linked with digital badging; you can see more examples on our digital badging trends page. And, don’t forget to let us know how your library innovates through gamification, digital badging, or other trends! Email: