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Library launchpad: SCVNGR treks at Seneca

As Seneca College students trekked through the library this fall via their smartphones and text messaging, they not only learned about library resources but also provided valuable information about their experiences and preferences as library users.

During the 2012 fall semester, Seneca Libraries launched a SCVNGR trek to introduce students to the library’s resources, services, and spaces. SCVNGR (pronounced scavenger) is a location-based social gaming platform for mobile phones which encourages users to complete challenges to earn badges and rewards. Users can play SCVNGR using a smartphone app or through text messages.

Seneca’s User Experience team planned a space-themed trek to experiment with using a game layer to engage and instruct students while simultaneously collecting survey data.  Students chose from 10 challenges which were designed to:

  • Introduce students to library offerings
  • Prompt students to use library resources
  • Invite students to connect with the library via social media
  • Ask students for feedback on their academic habits, preferences, and expectations

Each challenge was written to deliver a marketing message (e.g., our library staff can help you with research and citations) and trigger an action (e.g., find our research help desk).  For example, one challenge asked students to submit a photograph of themselves in their favourite study space while another asked them to find library subject guides and identify which ones would be most useful to them.

During the one-week program, 147 challenges were completed. The most popular challenges included open-ended questions about favourite websites, most recently read books, and the best time of the day to study. The positive response to the project indicates that SCVNGR, and other location-based social gaming apps, could be used to collect user feedback, throughout the year.

Ubiquitous wireless networking, the rise of smartphones and tablets, and the popularity of social media have created new opportunities for students to communicate with libraries.  To facilitate these discussions, libraries need to be active in developing their social media presences and create stimulating virtual experiences for students.

SCVNGR is just one example of how social smartphone applications can be used by academic libraries to support their marketing, user research, and instructional initiatives.


Lydia Tsai, User Experience and eLearning Librarian, OCULA New Librarian Resident 2012, Seneca College. Lydia can be contacted at Lydia.Tsai[at]

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