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.