Gamifying in Special Libraries

Lauren Hays

Lauren Hays

October 06, 2020

You might be thinking, “why would I want to gamify my library?” I completely understand that question; games are not for everyone. However, I hope you read on to find out more and why you might want to consider gamifying activities in your library.

What is Gamification?

Gamification is often discussed in K-12 education, and game-based learning is growing in use at many colleges and universities. Additionally, gamification is used by many companies to attract and keep customers, as well as to promote employee training. 

Wikipedia (2020) defines Gamification as “the application of game-design elements and game principles in non-game contexts. It can also be defined as a set of activities and processes to solve problems by using or applying the characteristics of game elements” (para. 1). In other words, gamification is a way to add a game-like experience to something you want people to do. 

How to Gamify

To gamify anything, you need to identify game mechanics. “Game mechanics are the rules that guide the player’s moves or actions, as well as the game’s response to them. A game’s mechanics thus effectively specifies how the game will work for the people who play it” (Wikipedia, 2020, para. 1). 

Examples of game mechanics include:

  • Time limits
  • Badges
  • Races
  • Role-playing
  • Roll and move
  • Voting
  • Memory
  • Dice

There are many more mechanics than are listed here. To explore additional lists see the lists from Wikiversity and BoardGameGeek

Examples of Gamification

To gamify an activity or task, you want to select a game mechanic and apply it. For example, to encourage employees to participate in professional development you can award badges for each professional development seminar they attend. Another example is to have stakeholders vote on new furniture options.

There are two areas where you can add gamification: 1) for stakeholders and 2) for library staff.

First, let’s consider examples of gamifying an experience for your library stakeholders.

  • Award badges for stakeholders who use library resources or engage in library training sessions. 
  • Award badges for knowledge sharing. 
  • Enter users in a drawing.
  • Create leaderboards for team competitions when you are seeking feedback or needing to gather information. 

Second, let’s consider examples of gamifying experiences for your library staff. Gamification can be added to employee training, professional development, and team management. Specific examples include:

  • Role-play reference interviews
  • Use memory to find information
  • Award badges for professional development

For ideas from companies on gamification read this article from InSyncTraining, and for ideas from other types of libraries review this resource from the American Library Association

Why Gamification?

Gamification can increase engagement and motivation. While it may not be a good fit in every special library, it can be an excellent fit for some. If you are looking for ways to increase involvement and initiative, gamification may be a good fit.


Wikipedia. (2020). Game mechanics.

Wikipedia. (2020). Gamification.

Lauren Hays

Lauren Hays

Lauren Hays, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Instructional Technology at the University of Central Missouri. Please read her other posts about skills for special librarians. Lauren will be a panelist for our SLA 2020 session on Virtual Libraries; stay tuned for details. And take a look at Lucidea’s powerful ILS, SydneyEnterpriseused daily by innovative special librarians.

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