Academic journal article Library Technology Reports

Broadening Gaming Services in Libraries

Academic journal article Library Technology Reports

Broadening Gaming Services in Libraries

Article excerpt

Libraries ain't what they used to be ... and that's a very good thing. At the college where I teach, our new librarian willingly gave up his own office (it was actually his idea) to create more community space for events like garner nights, coffee-house style discussion groups, and trading card sessions. This trend is clearly spreading, and more librarians than ever are thinking hard about gaming and other new media and their impact on teaching, learning, and the acquisition and distribution of knowledge and information....Hey, gamer, when was the last time you hugged a librarian?

With new audiences and an expanded palette of offerings for consideration, libraries can branch out in even more innovative ways to integrate gaming and game culture into their services. While gaming won't solve every issue and is not applicable in every instance (or even in every library), when the fit is right, libraries can create new connections and partnerships that benefit a wide range of users, not just the library itself.

Libraries should always be re-evaluating services for improvements or determining if they should be ended, but taking into account the pervasiveness of gaming in our culture and armed with a new understanding of its benefits, we can use gaming as one criterion for evaluating how to enhance existing services. Some libraries have already begun adding gaming aspects to traditional library programs in an effort to make them more relevant to today's patrons.

It can be difficult for nongamers to explore ways to add game culture other than by just offering open game play. Perhaps the easiest way is to update the content of existing programs to include those pieces of gaming that are relevant to the services being examined. More obvious ways include collection development of games themselves and/or books about gaming (strategy guides, etc.) and introducing programming that focuses on game culture. At the Orange County Library System in Florida, this is exactly what librarians have done, adding gaming to career education since many universities now offer degrees in game design. As Sheri Chambers notes in this case study, the library system gained new partners and expanded its outreach far beyond its own walls by adding some gaming to the mix. (2)

Case Study 6

The Orange County Library System's (OCLS) Gaming Taskforce was started in 2006 by a group of staff volunteers. When the group came together for one of their first meetings, coordinator Sheri Chambers told them she wanted "full-time" gaming. Many of them balked, saying, "No way--we can't do it," predicting that the proposed gaming pods would be too loud, that customers would complain, that it would need to be in a meeting room, and that it would be too much work for staff, especially at the branches. Chambers was surprised to hear this reaction because the majority of these staff members were garners themselves. However, she repeated the same mantra she used with her team in other situations: "Don't tell me you can't do something. Tell me I can't do it that way, but I can do it this way," and it worked.

While the program was in beta mode, a subgroup of the task force wrote a successful grant proposal that was submitted to the videogame company Electronic Arts (EA). The well-known publisher of such popular games as The Sims and the Madden football series provided $15,000, which the library matched ($17,000). This allowed OCLS to take the game pod and gaming nights systemwide.

The program funded by the grant was titled "Gaming Is Life: Extreme Technology for Teens," or "ETT" for short, with the focus on helping teens make a career out of gaming. The team's goal was to do three large gaming events, monthly gaming nights at all locations, and fulltime gaming pods systemwide.

They created, tested, and implemented several "game pods," mobile gaming units that could be used daily at all locations with little staff interaction. …

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