Libraries and playing games

buy booksThe American Library Association just sponsored the fourth annual National Gaming Day @ Your Library. More than 1800 libraries participated last year.

This year, an Australian librarian altered the poster to read International Gaming Day and organized a similar event there at one library.

Next year, the ALA has announced that the event will indeed be the International Gaming Day @ Your Library.

For most of the general public, I suppose, it’s news that libraries and games have anything in common at all.

So you may be asking why it’s so important that one day a year is set aside for hundreds of libraries to hold game days at the same time: board games, card games, and all manner of video games.

  • Libraries have supported games–at least chess–for a hundred and fifty years.
  • Three generations of Americans (Gen X, Gen Y, and Millenials) have grown up with video games. Older people are also getting into the act.
  • Libraries have been about recreation ever since they started collecting fiction and best sellers for leisure reading.
  • Libraries have been about information and education longer than that. Games promote problem solving, strategic thinking skills, map reading, managing multiple resources, anticipating possible outcomes, among other things–not to mention basic literacy.
  • Games often require good reading and mathematical ability. For reluctant students, they can provide the incentive to learn that other skills and information sources do not.
  • Games can be expensive. In common with the rest of the collection, games in libraries level the playing field, providing access to all socioeconomic levels.
  • The library is a “third place,” a place for people to gather that is neither home nor work (or school). Library game nights provide a social opportunity that cross generational and class lines.
  • Librarians carefully select everything in the collection, games included, for usefulness and appropriateness. In particular, they select games for public occasions to be family friendly according to ratings by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board.
  • Public libraries and academic libraries are both becoming more actively involved in gaming. Patrons who don’t ordinarily use the library can come for game days or nights, get comfortable in a library setting, and decide to check out what else it has to offer. It’s a good experience all the way around.

National Gaming Day, 2009 at Monterrey Public Library

Libraries have some great strengths to offer to their communities. Unfortunately, promoting what they do and why it’s important is not conspicuous among them.

See if your library has a game night planned. Then check it out, enjoy yourself, and spread the word.

Photo credits:
(Inter-)National Gaming Day 2011 poster. American Library Association
National Gaming Day, 2009. Some rights reserved by Monterrey Public Library.

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