Overheard at Gaming Night

I went to a local library last night for a final Teen Tech Week program. Have XBox, will travel! We couldn’t get the digital projector to work (fancy schmancy setup for audio, laptops, dvd, etc – no gaming), so we plugged the console into the TV and let the kids play Dance Dance Revolution on the small screen.

I brought along some card games (Set Game and Quiddler) and my Nintendo DS for between rounds, and the DS, loaded with Brain Age,, was passed from hand to hand.

“I want to do math!” cried one teen.

How often do you hear THAT? Brain Age, a mind calisthenics sort of program, makes math compelling.

As I was leaving, a parent inquired, “When are you going to do this again?” I hear it at EVERY video gaming program I do, and my traditional reply has become:

“This was a one time event, but ask for it! It would be great if the library had their own set up and could offer it frequently. Send a letter to the director, the paper, and the YA librarian about what a great program this was.”

This was so effective in one town, the Friends bought Red Octane pads, a PS2 and a handful of games for young adult programming. Such requests mean more coming from tax paying citizens than from wacky young adult librarians.

Gaming programs for teens are not just about sticking the loud crowd into one room or giving them something fun to do. These are entertaining events, sure, but there is reading involved, social rules to establish and practice, and stories that emerge.

I was dismayed by the recent Boston Globe article that implies gaming programs are only good to lure in teens so we can put books in their hands–thank the gods they are still reading books! (Come for the XBox, stay for the books, Boston Globe, March 11, 2007)

Teens today are platform agnostic, and games, film, blogs, photos and songs are vehicles for both storytelling and for delivering information that must be identified, analyzed and expressed. Stories and information, regardless of format, are the core of the library.

Gaming is not an activity to undertake “in an effort to lure teens and build a base of lifelong patrons;” it should be undertaken to contribute to teen development in the same way the children’s library contributes to children’s development. Rap, gaming, and myspace are meaningful to teen patrons RIGHT NOW, and we should support these pursuits not because teens will be taxpayers in ten years, but because their interests and their needs matter today.

About Beth Gallaway

Beth Gallaway was named a Library Journal Mover & Shaker in 2006 for her work in advocating for videogames in libraries. She is an independent library trainer/consultant specializing in gaming, technology, and youth services, and is a YALSA certified Serving the Underserved (SUS) trainer.
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2 Comments

  1. joseph wilk [Member]

    What a brilliant post. Thank you for communicating so clearly that we need to not look at these other formats as merely rest stops on the highway to books. While connecting receptive teens to various collections and services will increase our overall circulation and involvement in our libraries, books and print text can not be seen as the culmination of a narrative of literacy for our teens. A book can lead to a graphic novel which can lead to a video game which can lead to a CD which can lead to a zine which can lead to a DVD which can lead to a magazine and so on and so forth through all of that in which our teens can and will be interested.

  2. Thanks Joseph. I sent a letter to the editor, saying much the same, and got a phone call from a reporter – hopefully we’ll be able to connect today or tomorrow. I’m by NO means anti-book, and I do feel sympathy for YA authors who want to be read (I read YA pretty exclusively, when I read),I just think other formats need validation and consideration too.

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