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Games in the Library? (Or Convincing Stakeholders)

If you haven’t been asked already, you will be.  Why offer games in the library?  What do games have to do with literacy?  Let me share some very awesome and convincing reasons exactly why libraries are the perfect place for gaming.

1. Playing games builds community. Along with tight financial times and the explosion of internet and web 2.0 content, libraries have found themselves reinventing their service paradigms across the nation.  Libraries are now carving out a space for themselves within the community as centers for entertainment, gathering, and education.  Adding gaming to a library’s roster of events furthers that goal. Games bring in new customers and connects generations and groups together that don’t have many opportunities to gather and interact.

2. Playing games promotes literacy.  (You heard me right.)  Libraries are more than just books; they’re about learning and community as well.  Today’s youth engage in tangential learning more than any other type of learning.  Tangential learning is where one topic leads to another topic which leads to yet another topic (think hyperlinks and internet browsing) creating a nearly endless and limitless cycle of learning.  Games play into that dynamic.  A game of Risk may inspire a teen to learn more about World War II.  Playing Bioshock on the XBox 360 will make another curious about Ann Rand’s The Fountainhead once they google a quote found in the game.

Games also require reading.  Few games have absolutely no words (ie. Candyland).  Most games require the ability to read – words and sentences can be found in the rules, on cards, the board itself, an onscreen menu, subtitles, or in other supplemental materials.  For example, those wishing to build bigger and better things on Minecraft visit wikis and blogs to read about new materials available to players, how to find/mine them, and how to combine them with other resources.  Fantasy role playing games, such as Dungeons & Dragons, also require information literacy skills as they utilize extensive and complex sets of rules that are documented in various rule books and hence must be retrieved throughout the gameplay.

3. Playing games builds skills.  Different types of games (video, board, card, dice, etc) build different skill sets – mental, physical, and social.  Strategy board games can impart skills of analysis, problem-solving, and reasoning.  Adventure and combat video games can hone fine motor skills, team building, and memorization.  Puzzles inspire spatial literacy, concentration, and pattern recognition.  Playing games also teaches information processing, flexibility, and the determination to succeed (or the try-it-’til-you-win approach).

4. Libraries support a wide array of media formats.  Libraries have always been the place where folks go to use materials they can’t afford or don’t have access to from their homes – this is a part of a library’s mission.  Video and board games can be expensive and require space to store and play.  Libraries currently fill the demand for books, DVDs, Blu-Rays, music cds,mp3 cds, audio book cds, playaways, playaway views, etc.  Some libraries also circulate ereaders and tablets preloaded with content.  Games are yet another format of recreational media that we can offer to our patrons.

I could go on and on but how about I give you a list of very good resources on the topic if you want to read more:

Levine, Jenny.  Gaming & Libraries: Intersection of Services.  Library Technology Reports, ALA TechSource, 2006.

  • Particularly, the Introduction (p.5) and Chapter 1, “Why Gaming?” (p. 10)

Mayer, Brian and Harris, Christpher.  Libraries Got Game: Aligned Learning through Modern Board Games.  American Library Association, 2010.

  • Take a look at Chapter 1, “Designer Games” (p.3),  Chapter 2 “Why Games Matter” (p.11), Chapter 4, “Library and Information Skills” (p.25), and Chapter 5, “Alignment with State and National Curriculum Standards” (p.47)

Nicholson, Scott.  Everyone Plays at the Library: Creating Great Gaming Experiences for All Ages.  Information Today, Inc. 2010.

  • Read the Introduction (p.xi) and Chapter 1, “Games and the Library’s Mission” (p.3)

What reasons for bringing games into the library can you add to the list?

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2 responses to “Games in the Library? (Or Convincing Stakeholders)

  1. Couldn’t agree with you more, Hillary. I loved it when I read about a school in the east that is entirely based on gaming theory. I believe it was an educator there that said, “Games require players to problem-solve in order to win. And, when they succeed, their ‘reward’ is to play a harder game.”

    Can we claim that kind of intrinsic motivation with our other instruction?

  2. Not often, at least.
    Games have been played for hundreds of years. It’s about time we start really thinking about their potential.

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