Methods of motivating visitors
You and your smartphone on a voyage of discovery

Playful exploration of the library with digital media
Playful exploration of the library with digital media | Photo (detail): © Adam Radosavljevic -

From the classic guided tour to the virtual paper chase – to arouse the interest of the users in their collections and provide a contemporary learning environment, more and more libraries are relying these days on digital tools.

As a rule, libraries in Germany cannot complain about having fewer visitors. Nevertheless, opening up their entire range of products and services to visitors of all ages still remains a challenge. Karin Ransberger, who works at the Fachstelle für Berufsbezogenes Deutsch (specialist unit for occupational German) in Hamburg and who has been involved in various areas of further education for a long time, has selected a number of issues that librarians need to address today, “They should be able to accommodate a young, media-savvy audience and create settings that stimulate independent research – as well as media and information skills.”
Of course the exploration of the library can take place along the “classic” path as a guided tour. However, cooperative, playful formats, which also use digital media, are increasingly being used as methods of motivating visitors.

Cosy corners and coffee lectures

If different people come together in one big group, the “Eckenstellen” (cosy corners) approach is recommended. The librarian asks the group questions (maybe about their favourite literary genre) and gives them a choice of four possible ways of answering. The individual options are written on sheets of paper that hang in selected locations in the library. The visitors then position themselves in the cosy corner location that has the answer they identify with. This is a great opportunity for the group members to get to know each other by establishing their common preferences and to get to know what the library has to offer.
The scientific libraries are also offering a similarly playful, accessible approach, says Ulrike Scholle, a specialist in educational science at the University of Duisburg, who has long been active in the field of further education for librarians. “The trend is towards small formats, such as 'coffee lectures' that are also geared to casual customers. 10 to 15-minute computer presentations are on display in the entrance area that draws people’s attention to any new products the library may have acquired, for example, a new databank.”

Learn as you go with your smartphone

The actual exploration of the library, as Karin Ransberger sees it, could also take the form of an interactive rally. The players are given certain tasks to be carried out at certain points along a specially devised course through the library. Information is collected on the way. The tasks could be, for example, to scan QR codes, to estimate numbers or to sort a list, says Ransberger. More open tasks could also be an option, in which a group produces a text or a video.
Throughout the course, the participants use either their own smartphone, or mobile devices that the library provides. The activity requires the use of the educational app “Actionbound”, which is mainly used by libraries and museums. The app enables users to design interactive guides and “paper chases” for several players. In North Rhine-Westphalia, the app is known as “Biparcour” and is provided free of charge for schools and other educational and cultural institutions. “With great success,” says Ransberger. “The feedback from pupils has been very positive, the app is perceived as up-to-date and innovative”. There are already training courses to train librarians on how to make meaningful use of Actionbound. In general, exploration tours with a playful approach are “very motivating”, because gaming effects work in very much the same way as reward mechanisms.

Speed dating und quiz questions

When it comes to the evaluation of the library tours and what people think about them, “We can go back to the analog approach,” says Ransberger. One example of this is “speed dating”. If the visitors have worked before in small teams on their literary preferences, two people, each from a different rally group, can share their impressions. After one minute, they move on to the next conversation with a different person. In this way the participants get tips from others and are able to expand their knowledge about what the library has to offer.
A digital way to obtain feedback about workshops and seminars is to use the “Kahoot” app. “With this tool you can create a mini-quiz,” says Ulrike Scholle. “You ask people a question about what they have just heard and you give them three or four possible answers. Each participant can then answer the questions live on their smartphone”. This can be used both at pupil level, as well as with students for whom I have placed some literary research in the database.”

Tailor-made solutions

Scholle also emphasises, however, “that we do not just use apps in libraries to be up-to-date.” The question of what we want to achieve by using a particular method is very relevant. “Customisation – which tool for which target group – is now more important than ever. Especially in view of the fact that there is so much on the market these days.