NCSU Libraries Mobile Scavenger Hunt

The NCSU Libraries Mobile Scavenger Hunt is an interactive, technology-rich way to introduce students to the library. Developed in response to student and instructor feedback,  it leverages the motivating power of situated learning and the fun of team game dynamics to orient students to the Libraries’ spaces, promote the use of emerging technologies, and foster confidence in using the Libraries’ collections.


The NCSU Libraries Mobile Scavenger Hunt is a unique, interactive way to introduce students to the sometimes overwhelming library environment. Students are assembled into teams and given fifteen questions about the Libraries' spaces, services, and collections. In this fast-paced game, they have just 25 minutes to answer as many questions as they can.

Each team uses an iPod Touch and an Evernote account to submit their scavenger hunt answers. Students submit text or photo answers, and staff keep score in real time by monitoring the teams' shared Evernote notebooks. At the end of the scavenger hunt, the teams reconvene to learn their scores, see their pictures, and get the answers to lingering questions about the library. The winning team gets a prize!

By the end of the activity, students haven't just learned about the library; they have interacted with it by exploring its spaces and the website, they have taken photos with a librarian, and have found a book in the stacks. The Mobile Scavenger Hunt presents our library as a place of discovery in a fun, low-stakes, collaborative way and reduces library anxiety by using situated, problem-based learning.

How We Did It

Each team is supplied with a clue sheet with 15 questions about the library and its services, a map of the library, and an iPod Touch for entering clue answers. Students are given a brief introduction to the activity and its rules, as well as basic instruction in use of the iPod and relevant apps, before being sent off to answer their clues. Teams are allowed 25 minutes to explore the libraries and answer the questions before returning to the starting location to review correct answers, learn which team won, and receive prizes.

The teams' iPod Touches are equipped with the Evernote multimedia note-taking application, which the teams use to submit text- and photo-based answers to the clues. Each team's Evernote account is shared with a master account monitored by the librarians running the show; through the Evernote web or iPad app, librarians can see each team's notes in real-time as they are created. Scorekeeping is performed using a Google Spreadsheet, which is configured with the expected answers for each question. As teams submit their notes, the librarians are able to mark which questions were answered correctly by modifying the corresponding spreadsheet cells. Scores are tabulated automatically based on which questions are marked correct.


  • 2012 Association of College and Research Libraries College Libraries Section ProQuest Innovation in College Librarianship Award, honoring ALA member(s) who have "demonstrated a capacity for innovation in their work with undergraduates, instructors and/or the library community."
  • Lai, A. and Rogers, A. (2012). "Mobile learning, game dynamics: engaging library orientation." Webcast session, Handheld Librarian Online Conference VI, online conference, February 1-2, 2012.
  • Burke, A., Lai, A., and Rogers, A. (2012). "Mobile devices, situated learning and game dynamics: tools for a more engaging library orientation." Concurrent session, Lilly Conference on College and University Teaching at Greensboro, Greensboro, North Carolina, February 10-12, 2012.
  • Rogers, A., Lai, A., and Burke, A. (2012). "iPod apps, mobile learning, game dynamics: a more playful library orientation." Part of the "Playful interventions: libraries, college access, after school and media arts" short talk panel, 2012 Digital Media and Learning Conference, San Francisco, California, March 1-3, 2012.
  • Lai, A. and Burke, A. (2012). "iPods, games & mobile: engaging library orientation." Lightning talk, 2012 LAUNC-CH Annual Conference, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, March 5, 2012.
  • Burke, A. and Lai, A. (2012). "iPod apps, mobile learning, game dynamics: this ain't your typical library orientation." LOEX 2012, Columbus, Ohio, May 4, 2012.
  • Lai, A., and Rogers, A. (2012). "Building and sustaining a mobile, game-based library orientation." Part of the "Focusing on students" breakout session, TRLN Annual Meeting 2012, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, July 13, 2012.
  • Burke, A. (2012). "NCSU Libraries Mobile Scavenger Hunt." LITA Mobile Computing Interest Group, ALA Annual Conference 2012, Anaheim, California, June 24, 2012.