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Whack-a-Dewey-Deci-mole!

Salt Lake County Library Services, UT
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Innovation Summary

In January 2013 the Salt Lake County Library launched the newest addition to its custom-designed Kid Zone web site—library-themed interactive games such as “Whack-a-Dewey-Deci-mole” and “Sort-a-Book.” Children’s librarians and the Web team designed these interactive games to teach important concepts about the library within an entertaining and engaging experience.

Innovation Leader: Gretchen Freeman, Associate Director, gretchen@slcolibrary.org

Problem Statement

Salt Lake County Library looks continuously for innovative ways to teach children how to use their library and the services it provides. Our custom-designed Kid Zone web site drew 4,578 visits per month in 2012 and our learning specialists noted that children spent much of their time in the “Fun & Games” section of the site. They saw an opportunity to design a series of interactive quests for children to undertake to explore the features of both our physical libraries and our online virtual library. The quests were designed using an exploration-driven computer-animation paradigm that most children find irresistible and familiar from other gaming experiences.

Innovation

The children's Library Game was created entirely through collaboration between children’s librarians, the Web services team and a third-party design group (Redirect). The game is comprised of an exploration-driven quest or series of tasks that kids are asked to complete in either our online branch or in a representation of a physical library. The tasks rely on fun, animated cues and decisions that compel the children to keep searching, experimenting and learning how to use their library along the way. Once a task is completed, the child is rewarded with a choice of five games. The library-centric games provide a fun learning experience about using the library: • “Whack-a-Dewey-Deci-mole” reinforces subject categories by Dewey Decimal classification number; • “Sort-a-Book” mimics an automated sorting system such as those seen in our libraries; • “Library Dash” resembles the classic “Frogger” video game except with a library visitor dodging obstacles in the aisles; • “Crazy Tales” helps children author their own stories by filling in the blanks; • “Puzzler” offers a child interactive puzzle pieces to assemble on the screen. The games are scored and children are motivated to play again and again by completing another library quest. A link to the games is included below: http://www.slcolibrary.org/kidzone/index.htm

Progress

Our learning specialists emphasize that this children's Library Game has the attractive force to engage children in learning how to use our library while still entertaining them and providing the computer game experience they obviously value. The combination of play and instruction is proving attractive to kids both inside and outside the library. Use of the Kid Zone web site has increased 25% each month in the three months since the games were introduced. We anticipate refreshing the games periodically to keep the user experience fresh and appealing. As side benefits, the games help young children practice their hand-eye coordination, following instructions and computer use skills. Kids visiting the library web site are finding and playing fun interactive games in the Kid Zone while learning more about using their public library.