Gaming in the Library

By Linda Fields, Richfield Public Library Director

I received a Professional Excellence Grant from the Utah State Library to attend the Association for Rural and Small Libraries Conference in Sacramento in September. I’ve attended the ARSL conference when it was only being held in Columbus, OH and I felt I gained enough from those meetings to make it worthwhile to attend again.

One of the programs I attended was “Video Games in the Library” by Kieran Hixon. I chose to attend this because I thought “Gaming in the Library? No way!” Sometimes I find it wise to learn about something when I have a poor attitude toward it.

The misconception that gaming is done on the internet was the main basis for my attitude. Over the years, children and internet use has proved a challenge to libraries and it was a challenge I didn’t want to tackle. So gaming is not a new activity. If you think about gaming as internet games, board games and card games, gaming has been done in libraries for years.

Gaming is also more prevalent in libraries than I ever had imagined. Scott Nicholson wrote an article for American Libraries Aug. 2008, that indicates approximately 77% of libraries game. Although when I recently attended a class at the USL I found that of the 20 libraries represented, only one allowed gaming.

Libraries need to decide whether they will allow gaming in the library, whether they will circulate games, or if they will host an occasional tournament.

Why should we support gaming in the library? Game playing is not just recreational. But literacy isn’t just about print anymore. According to Eli Neiburger in the School Library Journal, “literacy is the ability to rapidly decode abstract meaning from symbols.” And in video games these symbols can be anything. A player also needs to be able to read and understand directions, which often times are complicated. Gaming also helps develop spatial reasoning. Young gamers are learning how to learn.

So take a minute and assess the place for gaming in your library. You could throw a tournament at your library. In a small library in Colorado, Kieran attracted 75 young people to the first tournament they sponsored. The only requirement to participate was a library card in good standing. If teenagers come to the library to play educational games and they think the library is a fun place to be, they will come back again and again. For libraries to be relevant in our technological society they must engage students in the digital culture. I do intend to host a gaming tournament in the future.