Case Studies: Public Libraries
Worth Public Library
Of the types of libraries that have implemented gaming services within their buildings, public libraries were among the first to implement gaming-related services and programs. And these public libraries offering gaming are not just the larger, better-funded institutions (ones with line items devoted solely to gaming); many small, public libraries are innovating and finding ways to incorporate gaming into their services as well.
An excellent example of this is the Worth Public Library (WPL) in Worth, Illinois, a small library without many resources to devote to a gaming program. WPL's head of Youth Services Dan Braun-who ultimately served as the catalyst for a gaming offering at WPL and is referred to and addressed by his gamers as "Mr. Dan"--had been contemplating the idea of offering console gaming for a while, but he wasn't sure how the service would be received by staff or by the community. Braun, an avid gamer, was also concerned about legal issues, such as the public-performance rights and violating terms of service, so he tried to contact Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony. When he still had received no replies to his inquiries after several months of waiting, he began holding gaming tournaments in April 2005. (1)
The tournaments began with Halo 2 (for the Xbox platform) and Mario Kart (for the GameCube platform), in part because those are the games and consoles that Braun owned. Because the library did not own any gaming equipment, Braun started the tournaments using his own equipment. "I thought it would be cool to be able to provide a safe, social environment for gamers.... We were hoping to draw new patrons and to boost our program attendance, and we have been very successful in accomplishing these goals. We have since made attempts to use these programs to boost our material circulation, but we have not been as successful in this endeavor," Braun noted.
In fact, the gaming program has been so successful for WPL it has been expanded and integrated into the library's summer-reading program (by implementing a weekly gaming club). This has been possible, in part, because WPL's library board was so impressed with the attendance figures and positive feedback from users, the board members authorized staff to purchase an Xbox 360.
On Wednesday evenings (4:00 until 6:00) during the summer, the library hosts open gaming. Children, ages five through twelve, are invited to bring in any GameCube game rated E or T to play. Usually, there's an assortment of games from which to choose, so Braun ends up picking three of them, and then the group votes on which game to play.
Despite the multitude of titles, the choices are usually the same. "Quite honestly," reported Braun, "Super Smash Brothers and Mario Kart ALWAYS win out, and we continue play on a winner stays on basis. Once everyone has played, I'll either start a simple tournament for fun or just keep rotating players." (2)
Braun uses other creative methods to make the gaming program more enjoyable for all of his patrons as well.
From 7:00-8:30 P.M., my teen gamers play on our Xbox 360. I bought a monthly game pass from Blockbuster for $15, which I use to rent a new T- or E-rated game every week. Most of these games only allow for two players, so I rotate pairs of two to square off against one another until everyone has played.... I also keep the GameCube hooked up to a television in the room and allow teens to play any E or T games they want. I'm fortunate to have a great group of kids whom I trust to be honest and fair with one another when it comes to playing time.... To this day, I have not had to ask any participant to leave because of inappropriate behavior. (3)
Although he had the full support of his director, Carol Hall, in the beginning, some staff and board members were skeptical about allowing gaming in the library. …