Searching for Hidden Treasure

I admit to being a bit late to the geocaching party—I only found out about it a year ago, when I chanced upon some related iPhone apps—but I immediately saw how well it could lend itself to library programming. Turns out I’m not alone in thinking that; a quick Google search revealed libraries have been offering geocaching events for years. For those of you who are also new to the phenomenon, I’ve gathered some information you may find useful for planning your own geocaching programs. For those already in on it, you may uncover some new ideas—and don’t forget to share your own experiences in the comments below!

So what is geocaching, exactly? According to the official geocaching site, it’s:

a high-tech treasure hunting game played throughout the world by adventure seekers equipped with GPS devices. The basic idea is to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, outdoors and then share your experiences online. Geocaching is enjoyed by people from all age groups, with a strong sense of community and support for the environment.

The site has a number of great resources, including how geocaching got started and the types of geocaches as well as a glossary and FAQ. You can also hide and seek a cache through the site and visit a forum for geocachers.

Now that you know a bit about geocaching, how can you incorporate it into your library? Here are a few ideas:

  • To acquaint first-year students with the library, Notre Dame’s Hesburgh Libraries developed Cache In @ the Libraries! Inspired by geocaching, this hunt featured caches hidden throughout campus libraries. Students who were able to find all of the caches were entered in a drawing for an iPod Shuffle, and t-shirts and other prizes were also awarded.

  • The Toledo-Lucas County Public Library offered two geocaching programs. Geocaching—What’s That?? featured a Skype interview with a well-known geocache expert, Andy “Head Hard Hat” Smith, an introduction to the game, and details on alternative ways to participate, such as Letterboxing. The program concluded with an actual treasure hunt and raffle with prizes that included child and adult GPS units. Treasure Hunt @ Your Library was a two-and-a-half-week hunt for caches hidden in the system’s libraries that offered successful participants the chance to win a handheld global positioning system (GPS) unit.

  • Washington-Centerville Public Library celebrated its 200th anniversary with its Historical Geocache Adventure, which gave participants the opportunity to “look for clues (caches) hidden in our community, learn something about our Library’s history, and have fun in the process!” The year-long program offers new cache coordinates each month; those who find all twelve caches will receive a t-shirt, and one person will receive a GPS unit.

  • The Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County tied geocaching into its Big Read program on To Kill a Mockingbird. The library was able to borrow GPS units from the Geospatial Information & Technology Association’s Location in Education Program to lend to patrons. Clues pointed to certain page numbers in To Kill a Mockingbird, which in turn provided coordinates for successive caches.

  • Chicago Public Library also used geocaching to tie in with its One Book, One Chicago read on Carl Smith’s The Plan of Chicago: Daniel Burnham and the Remaking of An American City. Designed for teens, the hunt contained caches with historical information about Burnham and his plan.

  • Waterville Public Library offered a workshop on geocaching led by the library’s director, Heather Bente, an avid geocacher. Participants met at the library for a hour of computer time setting up online geocaching accounts and learning about GPS coordinates and devices, then spent two hours at Waterville Farm Park putting their new geocache skills to the test.

What programming treasures will your patrons find at your library?

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