Gun Violence, Videogames, and Libraries
Jones, Barbara, American Libraries
The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School this past December--and the courageous response of our school and library colleagues in Newtown, Connecticut--was a horrific reminder that senseless killing can happen anywhere.
Along with calls for ammunition and assault-weapon restrictions, as well as heightened school security nationwide, came renewed concerns about violent videozames. The Ohama administration directed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January to study the causes of gun violence, including the effects of violence in videogames, the media, and social media on real-life actions.
Inevitably, the presence of video-games in several community libraries also became part of the debate:
* The Paterson (N.J.) Free Public Library board backed a staff petition February 27 to bar children from playing any online videogames onsite until they reach the 7th grade. Director Cindy Czesak told American Libraries the concern arose from the "boisterous behavior" that erupts at the main library during gameplay.
* At the request of several patrons, Elmhurst (Ill.) Public Library is reviewing its policy of purchasing popular videogames rated M for "mature." Patrons are already required to show identification to prove they are at least 17 to borrow an M-rated game, according to the March 18 Chicago Tribune.
Instead of considering bans. ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom recommends that libraries cultivate videogame creation, play, and contests. Many reluctant learners are at-risk youth, and gaming helps bring them into the library. James Paul Gee (What Video Games Have to Teach Us about Learning and Literacy) has documented how gaming leads to positive classroom outcomes, as has David Williamson Shaffer (How Computer Games Help Children Learn).
In 2005, California barred the sale of certain violent videogames to children without parental supervision. Unconvinced by the research claiming that engaging in virtual violence leads to the real thing, the Supreme Court struck down that law 7-2 in 2011 (Brown v. …