Thinking Big About…Advocating for Gaming in Libraries

Last week, we posted about YALSA’s Thinking Big About Advocacy Contest, an opportunity for you to share your advocacy successes, inspire your fellow librarians, and win $500.00 for your efforts. Today, we are highlighting one of the biggest advocacy movements championed by librarians in the past five years: Gaming in Libraries.

In reality, gaming in libraries is not a new idea: chess has been played in libraries for nearly 150 years, and during the Great Depression, toys and games were often circulated in public libraries. What has changed over the years are the games themselves. While board games are still in the mix, the presence of gaming consoles (Xbox, Wii) in libraries has been on the rise since 2006.

Although the popularity of video games among teens is undeniable, librarians eager to incorporate them into programming and collections must fight misconceptions that these games are brain junk food, discourage original thinking, don’t require literacy skills or promote interpersonal interaction, are addictive and violent, and keep patrons away from the books (aka the “real meat” of libraries.) Phew.

Julie Scordato, Youth Services Leader at the Columbus Metropolitan Library in Ohio, worked tirelessly to bring gaming to her library. With almost no start-up funding, she did extensive piloting and research at four branch libraries to garner support for her official proposal to fund and implement gaming programs throughout the library system. Armed with her results, she mapped costs, highlighted developmental assets, and illustrated ways in which gaming supported her library’s values. Julie’s work paid off. Gaming programs were firmly established in her library system, freeing her to advocate for other teen programs.

“Non-gamers often ask, ‘But what do gamers LEARN when they play games at the library?’” says Eli Neiburger, Associate Director for IT and Production at Ann Arbor District Library, which started gaming in 2003. “They learn that the library cares about them. That’s more important for their future, and for the library’s future, than anything you can find in a book.”

To start your own gaming initiative, check out the comprehensive Librarian’s Guide to Gaming, which covers all aspects of gaming from consoles to board games and contests to gaming for seniors.

If you advocated to bring gaming, or any YA programs or services to your library, share your story by entering YALSA’s Thinking Big About Advocacy Contest. Complete contest rules and electronic applications are available at www.ala.org/yalsa/awards&grants. Funding provided for this contest by the Friends of YALSA.

Lizz Zitron

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One Comment

  1. “They learn that the library cares about them. That’s more important for their future, and for the library’s future, than anything you can find in a book.”

    Best. Line. Ever. This warmed my heart!

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