I consider myself fortunate to work in a small but energetic team of liaison librarians at Charles Darwin University (CDU), and I love that new ideas for providing innovative and relevant services to our clients are encouraged here. This year we created a fun activity that incorporated library orientation, mobile technologies, learning about our on-campus and online students, promotion, and activity-based learning.

Last year, when the call for abstracts for the Third International m-libraries Conference went out, we decided to pool some of our ideas together into a project that we could report on. As a regional and remote university, we decided to develop a project that would find out more about our students' engagement with mobile technologies. We'd heard about the use of QR codes in treasure hunt activities, and decided that we would develop a project incorporating QR codes into our Semester One library orientation program.

Our abstract was accepted, and the team quickly got to work developing an engaging orientation program that had the dual purpose of answering some questions about our students’ use of smartphones and QR codes, and being a fun and informative activity for the students taking part. The program took the form of a library treasure hunt that could be done either online or on campus, and with or without a smartphone - we have a large external student cohort and wanted to ensure that the activity was inclusive. The activity had to be fun too, so we used free online tools to create silly video clips (you can view some of them in the Slideshare presentation below).

We also wanted our findings from the orientation program to be measurable. As much as possible, we built in metrics in ways that wouldn't be obvious to the students taking part. For example, we differentiated the four modes of entry by using mascot animals and distinct 'secret phrases' for entering the competition. We also used website statistics, clicks on links, and QR code usage statistics. We did all this on a very small budget, and learnt a lot about mobile technologies in the process.

CDU Library Treasure Hunt

In May, my colleague Michelle and I attended and presented at the m-libraries conference on behalf of the liaison librarian team. I'm happy to say our presentation on the library treasure hunt and its findings was very well received – the seminar room was standing room only, and there were lots of questions following the presentation and throughout the conference. As first-time presenters, the experience was extremely rewarding. I'll write more about the conference itself in a future blog post.

Michelle and I representing CDU at m-libraries

You can now view our presentation on SlideShare. Since the conference, the liaison librarian team has also prepared an accompanying paper, which we hope will be published in the upcoming conference proceedings book.

The positive outcomes of the project have continued to roll in. I recently blogged about the 2011 ALIA NT Recognition Award, which the CDU liaison librarian team was nominated for. We also received a CDU Corporate Services "Gnome" for our efforts. And today we learnt about how our use of QR codes in the treasure hunt has inspired others, with QR codes being incorporated into VET carpentry assessments at CDU.

CDU Corporate Services Gnome

As a result of the orientation program, we're planning to use QR codes in the library on a longer term basis. We'll start with using QR codes to link students with information right at the point of need, such as QR codes in the print room linking to video tutorials for printing and photocopying instructions. We'll also use them in our promotional material to link to more information about library events and services.

Finally, I just want to emphasise that smaller libraries with tight budgets can still create engaging activities like this by making use of free online tools, encouraging play and making the most of existing staff knowledge and enthusiasm for building fun learning activities. It's worth it :)