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Digital Pedagogy - A Guide for Librarians, Faculty, and Students

This guide is meant to inform the user about Digital Pedagogy. It includes information on educational theory, a collection of case studies, and resources relevant to the study of digital pedagogy.

Libraries, Librarians, and Games

Gaming, Libraries, and Librarians


It is important for Librarians to know about games based learning because it can be applied to both subject content and Information Literacy sessions.


In her article, “Learning Through Quests and Contests,” Smale states that games based learning has much to offer in information literacy instruction, and that games can provide structure and organization to complex domains like the navigation of information. According to Smale, games can create intrinsic motivation in fantasy, control, challenge, curiosity and competition.


When writing about academic library instruction, Porter states that traditionally, the teacher and the textbook have acted as the authority in education. Porter emphasizes, that in the context of information literacy and the associated learning outcomes, games have the capacity to teach students

  • critical thinking
  • problem solving, and
  • discovery based learning


Porter also emphasizes that it is important for librarians to change and adjust IL sessions to include games because millennials are adept, multi-taskers, adroit with technology, abysmal at sustaining attention spans, and thus librarians must broaden perspectives in order to accommodate learning styles.


In her article, “How Gaming Improves Information Literacy,” Ameet Doshi states that there is an increased need for interaction between students and librarians in the context of information literacy. There is a need for a more conversational, two way method for teaching library skills, so that instruction can move past the "one dimensional, pedantic demonstrative (with handouts) approach." She states that incorporating gaming in IL can improve learning as well as perception of the relevance of  librarians, and gives librarians an opportunity to engage students in their own realm. If librarians were to incorporate gaming into information sessions, the potential exists to excite the millennial generation, as well as a chance to  infuse them with lifelong library skills.


Toccura Porter argues that although the trend began in the early 2000s, with the hope that games facilitate student understanding of how to interact with information for problem solving and discovery based learning when using the library to conduct research for class work, which is what librarians try to foster during information literacy sessions. Although there has been some documented success with using games for Information Literacy sessions, there is still much to discover about this approach. Porter states that academic librarians can find inspiration from other librarians who have integrated games into information literacy sessions. Maura Smale’s article offers a slew of existing examples (please see section on case studies). Porter also states that the benefit for students using games is in the simplifying of library jargon and developing familiarity with library resources. For librarians,  it allows for another approach to promote communication with and instruction for students. Please see "Game Based Pedagogy - Case Studies," for specific examples of libraries using games for information literacy.

In "Learning through Quests and Contests," Smale concludes that a compelling reason to use games in IL sessions is that "IL competencies and research behaviors are an intrinsic part of many games." When they are working on a research projects, students must go through many of the same processes as they do when they play various quest games (for example, the Legend of Zelda). They:

  • search for and gather information on a topic
  • decide which sources are relevant and useful, and
  • use that information to accomplish their goal

Smale refers to another comparable analysis in the area of IL, that of VanLeer, who asserts that “games provide an information pull [emphasis in original], because players must figure out what they need to do, and what tools they need to accomplish their goals. They go into the game seeking information about their tasks.” Smale also refers to the infamous "one shot" library session, and states that incorporating games into library instruction allows librarians to include opportunities for active learning and refers to Leach and Sugarman's statement that “instruction is more effective for students when it includes a high level of student participation.”

Like all methods of information literacy and library instruction, games-based learning must be tied to specific learning goals and outcomes for class sessions or a course. Academic librarians using games in the classroom “should select, adapt, and direct the game so that it is enjoyable for the students but also has a definite purpose and defined learning outcomes” (Leach & Sugarman, 2006, p. 200). An additional benefit of many games is that they provide instruction librarians with valuable feedback on student comprehension of topics discussed during class sessions (Leach & Sugarman, 2006, p. 196), thus topics that are unclear or confusing may be reviewed with students immediately. Academic librarians should incorporate games into information literacy and library instruction. While many information literacy games created by librarians are lengthy and feature-rich, it is important to realize that it is not necessary to develop a complex game. As demonstrated by many of the games discussed above, it is possible to create short games for instructional use—both digital and non-digital—with a small investment of time and funding. Further, the use of game principles and mechanics for information Journal of Library Innovation, Volume 2, Issue 2, 2011 49 literacy instruction can be implemented with very little overhead; for example, using commonly available materials to create dice, card, or quiz-based games, among others. The benefits of games-based learning—increased student engagement, motivation, and, ultimately, greater learning—are too compelling to ignore. Games-based learning has the potential to transform information literacy and library instruction.

American Library Association - Gaming and the Library

American Library Association and other Resources for Librarians and Gaming

In 2008, ALA TechSource, held a symposium on Gaming, Learning, and Libraries. In addition to this, the ALA has a Games and Gaming Round Table ( that “provides a venue for librarians interested in the use of games and gaming in libraries of all types a place to gather and share.” This group has created a resource specifically for academic librarians, in terms of best ways of incorporating games into IL sessions. It can be found here:

ALA Wiki - Gaming @ the Library

ALA Gaming Toolkit

ALA Connect: Games and Gaming Community

Game on: Games in Libraries 

Gaming: A Best Practices Wiki