January 18, 2022

Journal Article: “Scavenging for Evidence: A Systematic Review of Scavenger Hunts in Academic Libraries”

The following article (full text, open access) was recently made available online by The Journal of Academic Librarianship.


Scavenging for Evidence: A Systematic Review of Scavenger Hunts in Academic Libraries


Rachel Keiko Stark
California State University, Sacramento

Eugenia Opuda
University of New Hampshire

Jenessa McElfresh
Clemson University

Kelli Kauffroath
California State University, Sacramento


The Journal of Academic Librarianship
Available online 7 April 2021

DOI: 10.1016/j.acalib.2021.102345



Scavenger Hunts have longstanding popularity as an outreach and instruction learning tool in academic libraries. This systematic review examines the implementation and assessment of scavenger hunts in academic library settings to determine trends in implementation and effectiveness.


A systematic literature search in multiple databases was performed to identify studies that assessed academic library scavenger hunts. Results that did not include some physical aspect of a scavenger hunt in a library building, and results that lacked some form of assessment of the scavenger hunt were excluded.


Thirteen case studies utilizing various forms of formal and informal assessment were included. Only four articles explicitly stated the population involved in the assessment, and one article provided a decisive timeframe for the scavenger hunt. The most commonly stated desired outcome was for students to have fun and/or be engaged. Assessment tools reported in the included articles were rarely reviewed or tested for validity.


The available literature on scavenger hunts in academic libraries does not provide enough evidence to make an evidence-based decision on utilizing this modality. Recording participant demographic data, and focus on assessing the scavenger hunt as an effective tool are suggestions for improving future library-based scavenger hunts.

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About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.