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Mar 13 2012

NCSU librarians honored for Mobile Scavenger Hunt

Three librarians from the NCSU Libraries have been honored for transforming how first-year students learn to use library resources to perform the skilled writing and research expected in university courses.

Anne Burke, Adrienne Lai, and Adam Rogers have been named the 2012 recipients of the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) College Libraries Section (CLS) ProQuest Innovation in College Librarianship Award for their work on the NCSU Libraries Mobile Scavenger Hunt.  This annual award from the American Library Association honors “an ALA member who has demonstrated a capacity for innovation in . . . work with undergraduates, instructors and/or the library community.”

Lai, Rogers, and Burke

The Mobile Scavenger Hunt has radically transformed how undergraduates are oriented to spaces, services, and collections at the NCSU Libraries—and to the sophisticated, college-level research that these enable.  Rather than asking students to follow a librarian on a traditional tour of the physical building or to work through a website-centered computer lab session, the Scavenger Hunt throws teams of first-year scholars into a fast-paced game using iPod Touches and the cloud-based multimedia note-taking app Evernote. As a result, students don’t just learn about the library; they interact with it by exploring spaces and the Libraries’ website, asking questions of library staff, taking photos, and texting information back to librarians. Using the mobile and online technologies that today’s students live and breathe, the mobile scavenger hunt presents the library in a fun, low-stakes way that reduces library anxiety by using situated, problem-based learning.

After a small beta trial in the 2011 summer session, more than 900 students, mostly from the university’s first-year writing courses, participated in the scavenger hunt in the Fall 2011 semester.   In surveys given after the hunt, 93% said that “they learned something new,” and 95% said they now “feel comfortable asking a library staff member for help.” The project has also sparked productive conversations about teaching and gaming among NC State’s First-Year Writing faculty.

According to Dr. Casie Fedukovich, associate director of the First-Year Writing Program at NC State, “I found that this activity engaged students with library operations on a level that led to increased understanding, deeper learning, and almost complete recall of important library functions . . . . The Scavenger Hunt was able to meet a tough but necessary goal: to engage first-year students in practical methods of academic research in a way that leads to deep learning and which transfers between contexts.”

“The NCSU Libraries embraces the role of incubating new technologies and innovative learning approaches, both for our own university and for the library community around the world,” says Susan K. Nutter, vice provost and director of the NCSU Libraries.  “We are proud to continue to explore the use of mobile technologies that we pioneered through such tools as WolfWalk, an app that uses GPS-enabled devices to give students self-guided historical tours of campus, and Red, White & Black, another popular self-guided mobile tool that lets the NC State community explore of the rich history of African Americans at NC State.”

Other recent awards to the NCSU Libraries for adventurous and effective use of technology include the 2010 and 2011 ALA “Cutting-Edge Technology” awards for the Libraries’ website and for the Course Tools service, an application that pinpoints useful library resources for students by automatically creating a library web page for every course taught at NC State.

In January 2013, the NCSU Libraries will open the new James B. Hunt Jr. Library, which will be one of the most technology-enabled learning and collaborative spaces in the country.