You are here

Katy Kelly's Profile Image

We're Going on a Photo Hunt: A New Take on the Library Tour

June 5, 2015
Young Adult
Short Title
We're Going on a Photo Hunt

The University of Dayton Libraries has replaced its traditional library tour with something more engaging.

Like many libraries, the University of Dayton Libraries has worked to implement a fast, informative and fun orientation activity to replace the traditional library tour. We started with a scripted, librarian-led tour and scavenger hunt with clues posted around the library. However, this format required both librarian time and a lot of that awkward, backward walking that tour guides do. The scavenger hunt's clues, though clever, required set-up and tear-down time.

So we converted the tour to a photo hunt, which eliminated both the backward walking and set-up/clean-up time. Using informative scavenger hunt clues inspired by a presentation¹ by librarians at the University of Dubuque, we created packets of clues and directed participants to take photos of various spaces, services or objects throughout the library. 


The need for an orientation activity stemmed from our active instruction program. Our librarians provide in-person instruction for all sophomore-level English composition classes and an online library tutorial for Principles of Oral Communication. However, despite this specific need, we still wanted to make a broad “a la carte” library tour available for our various audiences. The University of Dayton Libraries works with high school students — such as the Dayton Early College Academy (DECA), a public, early-college high school located on campus that visits the library up to four times each semester for a library orientation before students attend college classes, and the Miami Valley School, a private, independent P-12 academy — and college instructors. The UD Intensive English Program (IEP), an immersion and instruction program for speakers of other languages, visits to help their students become comfortable using the library. Other instructors just want their students to complete a library tour. The photo hunt has been an ideal way to provide a tour to all of these groups with varied needs. 


Materials and photos from the scavenger hunt - "Pride and Prejudice" on a shelf,team clue packets, and a drawing of a bird We created 10 photo-hunt packets, placing the 12 clues in random order to reduce the likelihood that more than one group would be photographing the same clue at any given time. The clues guide the participants to all eight floors of the library, showcasing the most popular or important areas on each floor. The instructor or librarian simply hands out the packets and then collects them as the teams finish. We use plastic report covers to keep the pages together, and after more than 25 uses, they are still intact. Some clues have a landscape orientation, so the team has to rotate the packet in order to read them; we did that to keep the clues visually interesting.

Clue Content

A student marketing intern wrote the original scavenger hunt clues, which we modified for the photo hunt. Many of the clues cleverly explain aspects of the student culture here at UD. For example, students paint messages on bed sheets and hang them from their porches in the student neighborhood. One of the clues says, “An awesome porch sign in the student neighborhood has gotten noticed, and the photo made the front page of the local section of the Dayton Daily News. Find the Dayton Daily News on the second floor and take a photo of the front page.”

Even the beloved “movie channel” available on the campus cable provider’s network gets a shout-out: “You took a study break last night and watched 'Pride and Prejudice' on one of UD’s movie channels. You start to wonder what the book is like compared to the movie. Time to hit up the library. Using the library catalog, you search for the title and find out that Jane Austen’s 'Pride and Prejudice' is on the fifth floor (call number: PR 4034 .P7 1949). Head to the stacks (that’s library talk for “high-density shelving units”) and find it in the row labeled 38. Hint: The stacks are arranged alphabetically by the first letters of the call number. When you find the book, take a picture of it.”

Some clues require team members to complete a task; this makes the group have more fun as they get to apply a bit of creativity. One clue reads, “The library has lots of dry-erase boards for studying and group work. Draw a picture of a bird on one of the whiteboard surfaces on the first floor and take a photo. Erase the bird when you’re done!”

Another clue that is entertaining to watch is, “Every year during final exams, the library offers FREE chair massages, free pizza, free taxi rides, free coffee and tea, visits from therapy dogs, and sometimes a midnight dance party in the lobby. Take a photo of a group member dancing in the first-floor lobby.”

That's a Wrap

At the end of the activity, which takes about 30 minutes, participants can stand in a big circle and share their favorite photo from the hunt with the rest of the group. The whiteboard bird and the dancing photo are two of the most shared photos. The last page of the photo hunt packet invites participants to share their photos on their own social media and tag the library (@roeschlibrary).

The libraries photo hunt packet provides participants an engaging introduction to the Libraries and the UD campus culture. Download the photo hunt packet from eCommons, UD’s institutional repository.

¹Canovan, Becky & Wolff, Katelyn. “Chaos, Madness and 1st-years Run Amuck: The Library Scavenger Hunt and Why We’d Do It Again in a Heartbeat.” Presentation at the 2nd Annual Indiana University Libraries Information Literacy Colloquium, New Albany, IN, Aug. 9, 2013.

Materials from the photo scavenger hunt
Library Type
Academic / College
School (K-12)
Job Functions
Resources and Program Starters
Space / Facilities
Young Adult
Programming Librarian Forum