Librarians have a history of effectively providing information requested by users and creating usable systems. However, the user experience is created by interacting with the system and the emotional aspects play a fundamental role… this is where games come into play.

Read below our chat with Ana Ordas, a specialist in games and gamification in libraries from Spain. She gives some great insights on engaging library visitors through gamification.

1. First of all, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your activity in the library world?

Hello, I am a vocational librarian and although I started working in a university library, most of my professional experience has been developed in the private sector, in the IT department for libraries. A couple of years ago, I embarked on an adventure to teach libraries the power of the games to transform the way they relate to users.

I embarked on an adventure to teach libraries the power of the games to transform the way they relate to users. - Ana Ordas Click To Tweet

2. What is gamification and how can it be applied in libraries?

Gamification in libraries is the use of elements of games to engage people with libraries, it has to do with changing behavior and creating emotional links that involve them with services and spaces. From a broader standpoint, it is to use games and gamification to get closer to the physical and digital spaces.

Prepare an environment where users are encouraged to interact with the #library. #gamification Click To Tweet

In the end, the significance of gamification in libraries is to put the user in the center of the design of the gamified system, taking into account the user’s needs. To do this, you must first focus on preparing an environment where users are encouraged to interact with the library.


3. How can the user’s experience be modified by using gamification in libraries?

Every gamified system has to be designed to achieve a goal. In the case of libraries, gamification will be in line with their own objectives, promote reading, train in the tools of access to the information and improve communication channels to spread their services.

As Fernando Amigo says, “social gamification pursues the promotion of responsible behavior in relation to public services or the achievement of objectives for the common good and the welfare of society “.

For librarians, gaming and gamification could be used for everything that has to do with Human Resources, such as team management, staff training (game-based learning or serious games), or for process improvement.

Social #gamification pursues the promotion of responsible behavior in relation to public services. #libraries Click To Tweet

4. Would there be any risk in using gamification?

The risk in gamification has to do with the use of game mechanics in the short-term and the use of the rewards that have to do with extrinsic motivation (prizes, points, rankings or badges). We must think about long-term behavior change through the use of stimuli on intrinsic motivation for which many studies already exist.
The danger is perhaps more evident in other fields, but that is why an ethical code must always be taken into account.

5. How can libraries motivate users to participate in this kind of program? What would be the right incentive?

The main thing, apart from having a clear goal and using the mechanics of the appropriate games, is not forgetting the fun. If we have a challenge that seems fun to us, we go ahead, and that is what the game is about; being motivated to do an activity.

Game designer Jesse Schell defines games as “an activity to solve problems from a playful approach”. Games create a feeling of participation, of being immersed in something that evades us, therefore let’s use the power of the games! We do not all like the same games, so we must know our players very well.

Games create a feeling of participation, of being immersed. #gamification #libraries #libraryinnovation Click To Tweet

Thanks to studies in the field of cognitive science, we know that there are four intrinsic motivations that get users to take action. The good news is that they correspond to the areas within libraries: places of meeting, learning, inspiration and creation, and places to share and cooperate.

In this order, they correspond to the motivations of relating (relatedness); improving skills (mastery); being autonomous, exploring and creating (autonomy); and doing things because we believe in them (philanthropy).

Use the right incentive in libraries

6. Also, in your work, you mention the MDA Framework of Leblanc. Can you elaborate more on that?

With games and gamification, the library must provide places of enjoyment, and the mechanics of the games are the elements that can introduce and encourage users to create those experiences. However, these positive experiences must be accompanied by an emotion.

This is what makes them unforgettable and moves the experience into our memory to become part of ourselves. That feeling is what creates an emotional bond between the library and the loyal users and prescribers.

With #gamification, the #library must provide places of #enjoyment. Click To Tweet

And how can users be engaged through gamification?

Consider the MDA Framework of Leblanc:

A. Sensation: Attractive interfaces
B. Fantasy: Interfaces that allow you to enter worlds where anything is possible
C. Narrative: Libraries know a lot about this – a good story makes an emotional
link and the message is well received.
D. Discovery: You like discovering what others read
E. Challenges: You like challenges and to be rewarded
F. Fellowship: You like social areas (physics/online) and recommending (social
G. Expression: Self-discovery and social networking utilities
H. Submission: You like games as a pastime

7. Finally, can you share some examples of libraries that have used gamification in their services?

Find the Future in the New York Public Library

“Find the Future: The Game” is a pioneering and interactive experience created especially for the centenary of the New York Public Library by the famous game designer Jane McGonigal, with Natron Baxter and Playmatics. In an adventure that took place during the night inside the library and that was accompanied by an online game, real-world missions were combined with virtual tracks inspired by 100 works from the NYPL collection.

Rules of the game: The players (aged 18 and over) explored miles of bookshelves and, using laptops and mobile phones, followed clues to treasures such as the copy of the Declaration of Independence or the Gutenberg Bible. Once the objects were found, each of the 500 players wrote a short essay inspired by the search. Winning the game meant for the participants to write a collaborative book based on those personal stories about the future, which would be added to the library’s collection.


Conquest of the Realm

In the school library of the O’Neill Middle School in Downers Grove, Illinois, they increased participation in the reading program from 17% to 80% thanks to a gamified experience. The challenge helped to highlight the library’s commitment to information literacy and to help students enjoy reading and writing. The Conquest of the Realm aimed to challenge students to create critical thinkers who would collaborate voluntarily and who were original and creative in their written work.

Rules of the game: All students who wanted to participate were grouped into 4 “houses” that would be their team during the game. Those houses had to claim the throne of the lands of Oneillia and the house that had the most points would win the throne. Many challenges included critical thinking, collaborating and interacting with teachers in a different way. The communication between them was done through Edmodo and the points and classifications were managed in a google spreadsheet.

Data: 120 members in each team, 34 videos created to promote books, 30 original stories for a state competition, 42 collaborative blog presentations, 63 stories about game characters and 217 book comments in the catalog.


Hope you have enjoyed our talk with Ana Ordas. In case you want to find out more about engaging library visitors through gamification, you can get in touch with Ana on Linkedin here. We will be back next week with another interesting article!