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““All of the stages were a lot of fun, and I met some really nice people working in the libraries. I read To Kill a Mockingbird …when I was a teenager, and it still ranks in my top 15 best books ever read. I was so jazzed about finishing the cache that I checked out a copy to re-read and celebrate. Thanks for setting this cache up.”

~Geocasting participant

Big Game: Geocaching

The Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County, Charlotte NC

The Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County (PLCMC) serves a population of 850,000 in 24 locations.

To Kill a Mockingbird   In 2009, the Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County participated in a Big Read program(a month-long program the library builds events around one book title) focused on To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

The library wanted to add a gaming element to attract new users to the library as well as to engage them in a different way. They came up with a geocache treasure hunt. Geocaching is a game of hiding and seeking treasure. A geocacher hides an item, or cache, then pinpoints its location using GPS technology. The geocache’s existence and location is shared via clues posted online at a site like Anyone with a GPS unit to attempt to locate the item. PLCMC hid caches across town to expose people to various library branches and landmarks in the community they might otherwise not know about.


Running the Program

Geocaching poster   A program called Location in Education by Geospatial Information & Technology Association (GITA) lends out Global Positioning Systems (GPS units) which are used for geocaching to organizations.

Teachers or educators (including librarians!) can use the kits for middle and high school students and are only required to pay shipping and handling fees. An instructional video, 12 units, and a manual are included.

The Library also hired a consultant from a local organization called GPSeeker to give advice on developing a viable geocaching program.

Initially, the clues for the caches involved people going to eight library branches as well as some other landmarks in the community to find the treasures. This was eventually pared down to five places so that the hunt wouldn’t be so spread out.

The library set up an account at under ‘Charlotte library’ which is where most people post information for their caches. Caches are searchable through zipcode or keyword so that people in the area can easily locate information on a cache near them. Before a geocache is posted for all to see, it is scrutinized by a moderator. The coordinates of the caches are checked for accuracy and completeness: do the clues makes sense, is it accessible for disabled users, is its log book in place, and so on.

A few months before the actual geocache hunt was launched, library staff from all over the system were part of an outdoor retreat where they got to practice using the units to find caches hidden in the woods. When it came time to start the geocache for the public, these staff were used as the contacts at each branch near a cache to explain to frontline staff how this would work. Units borrowed from GITA could be checked out by patrons and were entered into our ILS. “How to use the unit” sheets were given out to distribute to patrons. Hints were given to library staff if participants were stuck. If participants had their own units and found out about the information via, they were more than welcome to take part in the event.

Allow enough time to obtain the coordinates from where you are going to place the cache (it doesn’t have to be spread out across many branches but the units will not work indoors). Since the information from one cache usually leads to the next you’ll want to allow time to put it all together instead of doing it one by one. For example, players are usually given all of the coordinates for the first cache when they go to When they locate the first cache, they may find a note in the cache to find a page about a certain topic in To Kill a Mockingbird. The page number they locate that on is used to make up part of the coordinates for the next cache.

Singles and familes participated in the event. When they completed a multi-cache (located at more than one place) they logged in their comments. We also provided a log book at the end to jot down their experiences. A camera was provided at the last branch to take a picture of the participant, which was then uploaded to the library's Flickr page.



The geocache hunt was posted on as well as the library’s Big Read blog. Flyers were posted at library’s where the GPS units were available for check out.



Literacy Connections

In order to participate in the treasure hunt, people need to be able to read and decipher the information regarding the caches. Once they locate the caches, they need to read and sometimes write about what they have found. Using the GPS unit itself involves having to read the coordinates to determine the direction that one needs to be headed.


Funding: $450.00

  • Materials: $225.00
  • GPS Units: $25.00 (shipping/handling)
  • GPS Consultant: $200.00


For more information, please contact Kelly Czarnecki at

Poster to promote the Geocaching Big Game

Circulation Policy for GPS units

Big Read blog

Geocaching. Wikipedia. February 24, 2009. Groundspeak, 2009. February 4, 2009.
The official Global GPS Cache Hunt Site, with information about seeking and finding hidden caches, finding local geocachers, and more

Location in Education Program. Geospatial Information & Technology Association. GIT, 2009. February 4, 2009.
Lends out GPS units, which are used for geocaching, to organizations such as schools and libraries.

GPSeeker. GPSeeker, 2009. February 4, 2009.
A Charlotte (NC) organization that offers coaching on how to set up a geocaching program.


  That Was Then: A brief history of gaming in libraries.

This Is Now:
A snapshot of gaming in libraries today.


Talking Points: Connecting games & literacy.

Tools to measure your success.

  First Steps:
Easy, low-cost models for beginners

Next Steps:
Models large in scope and scale.

Gaming @ your library is an initiative of the American Library Association.
This initiative is generously funded by the Verizon Foundation