Monday, March 24, 2014


Handheld Librarian is a web conference that focuses on innovative technology use in libraries.

Scott Nicholson is a professor at the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University who has  also created games for libraries and community groups. Gamification is applying gameful layers on top of the “real world” to motivate and engage  participants. It’s not just  having a program where people play games.  It’s not actually a new thing in libraries - Summer Reading Program is gamification, as are frequent flier miles and the old Green Stamps. Apps that use gamification include Foursquare (check into locations such as businesses and libraries, get coupons or the title of “Mayor” for a day), TVTag (check that you are watching a TV show, get badges), and Zombies, Run! (pretend zombies are chasing you to make exercise fun).

Elements of reward-based gamification:

1.Points -checking out, visiting , attending programs.

2. Levels - assign rewards by level - helps you remember what your points are.

3. Leaderboards - ranking people by level.

4. Achievement - could be known or secret -badges can publicly display achievement.

One example of libraries using gamification to encourage library use is Librarygame.

Drawbacks of reward-based gamification:

  • Concerns about publicness of patron information.
  • Once you start giving a reward, you create an expectation that you will do so forever.
  • Patrons only wanting to explore things that they will receive a reward for,  like students not wanting to study anything not on the test.
  • Libraries that don’t participate could get left behind.
  • It may only create a temporary bump in use, not something lasting.
  • Libraries should be considered dessert, not vegetables - something fun in themselves, not something you slog through to get a prize.

Meaningful gamification has intrinsic motivation, not external. The library has a lot to offer - remember, EPCOT charges $100 for playful learning, the library costs a lot less.

The recipe for meaningful gamification:

1. Play - The library as a place for experimentation & creation. Makerspaces =an  adult playground. Instead of READ posters, PLAY posters  Encourage patrons to create by making a costume or art or a game based on a book, not just read a lot of books.

2. Choice - libraries have a lot of choices. Libraries are a system, not just a path. The patron should be in control of how they engage with the library.

3. Exposition - narrative can be a valuable metaphor. Kids can help tell the story of why libraries are great. Create an interactive library orientation -  A ghost is haunting the library, patrons have to find out why with library materials.

4. Engagement - patrons can enter reviews. Remember when you could look at check out card to see who checked it out?  (This reminds me of our new Awesome Box program).

5. Reflection - Book clubs allow patrons to reflect with others, or they can share the games or costumes they made based on a book.

6. Information - the activity should provide the patron with “Why” and “How”, not just what to do and how many points they get.

One way to create meaningful gamification is to encourage people make games, not just play games. This doesn't require technology - you can do it with a pen and paper.  The participants learn more if they make the game themselves.

Meaningful gamification focuses on the user, not library stats. Instead of library use leads to reward, the library is the  reward.  Rewards offer short-term benefits, but long-term consequences.

Web links:

World Tabletop Day - a day to encourage people to play board games.

ALA Games & Gaming Roundtable.

A free YouTube class by Scott Nicholson on gaming in the library.


--Andrea @ Central

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