Thursday, 24 November 2011

Library Scavenger Hunt

We have recently been running a scavenger hunt in our library which has caused great excitement amongst both the staff and the borrowers. Finally I'm getting around to blogging about it.

I had been browsing library blogs for a while and reading about scavenger hunts that other libraries have been holding and I thought to myself 'I want to try that'. Every October here in Ireland we hold the Children's Book Festival which comprises of a month-long treat of storytellers, author visits and other events in all the public libraries around the country. Of course, like everywhere, budgets are tight these days and it's not the lavish affair it once used to be. I was keen to come up with library programmes for our library to include in the book festival that were cheap or even free to run and easy to do, while still being book related. It was the perfect opportunity to try out the scavenger hunt.

Many librarians very generously shared the questions from their own hunts online and I dutifully pilfered them and made up a few of my own to go with them. I had been thinking about Foursquare for a while also and trying to come up with ways to incorporate it into the library in some way. I liked the idea of the badges or titles that you earn and thought this would really appeal to the children.

So I came up with a plan to have a scavenger hunt with six levels. Every level had it's own name and badge to earn. The levels started off with very easy questions about the basics of the library such as the difference between fiction and non fiction. As the levels progressed the questions got harder, such as looking books up on our catalogue and the final level required the use of the encyclopaedias in our reference section to find the answers. Having six levels and a varying degree of difficulty meant that the scavenger hunt appealed to a wide range of ages from 7 to 11 years.

I kept the titles of the badges book related as much as possible. We have Bookworm; Library Mouse; Brainy Badger; Clever Rabbit; Cunning Fox and Wise Owl. I was able to find bookish looking clip arts for all of them online. Along with the questions I designed a 'detective card' which had a map of the library and space to collect stickers as the children completed the levels.

A lot of the questions were open enough that there was no definitive answers to them, such as: 'how many books about Anne Frank can you find in the library' or 'write down the title of your favourite book'. The idea was to get the children thinking and exploring the library rather than testing their knowledge. I also made sure the questions covered all areas of our collection such as the Local History Section, and that the children learned about the history of the library by finding out when it opened etc. One great question we used (and I can't take credit for it) was 'introduce yourselves to the librarians and have them sign this clue'. This was one of the questions I 'borrowed' from another library scavenger hunt. It meant that we got to chat to the children and learn their names, and they now knew our names too! Suddenly we weren't fearsome dragons that the children were too afraid to talk to ( not that we ever were). The last question we ask in level six is ' what part of the scavenger hunt did you like the best?' and a lot of the children said introducing themselves to the librarians was their favourite.We also gave hints with the questions as to where to look for the answers as well as plenty of encouragement along the way.

We 'launched' the scavenger hunt over the duration of the book festival by doing it with classes that came to visit the library. Most of them got through two levels that way and a lot of them are continuing to do the other levels in their own time.

Once the children have completed the six levels they hand in their detective card and we send them a certificate. I think we, as adults,  tend to underestimate the value children put into achieving or completing something and receiving praise or notariety for it. We were hoping to do prizes but again.... money money money so we stuck with certificates. We send them to the children in the post and they are thrilled when they get them!

In the true tradition of paying it forward I am happy to share the questions we used with anyone that is interested. Just email me or leave a comment below.

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