Gamers take over U.S. libraries

November 18, 2009

Children, teens, and adults showed up in droves to play board games and video games at the biggest National Gaming Day yet November 14, with 1,365 registered libraries participating, easily doubling the number of participants from last year, NGD mastermind Jenny Levine told American Libraries.

Libraries who participated in the massive, nationwide, ALA-sponsored event received board games donated by Hasbro, and also provided their own. Eli Neiburger, author of Gamers… at the Library?! and director of IT and production at Ann Arbor (Mich.) Library District Director who headed up his library’s efforts at interlibrary, simultaneous gaming, called the concept “a complex beast.” He told AL that “when the library becomes a place where patrons can be a part of something big, that’s happening all over the country, that they can’t get anywhere else, and that gives them a chance to represent their library and their hometown on a larger stage, that’s a transformative moment!”

As gaming in the library continues to evolve and mature, Levine argues, it can further engage the library and its patrons with their community. Echoing that sentiment, Neiburger maintains that gaming “gives kids who already carry an access point to the world of information around in their pocket a chance to feel that they’ve taken their first steps into a larger world–at the library.” He adds that “National Gaming Day is a powerful way for potential patrons to discover the joy and the appeal of socially consuming beloved content.”

The Skokie (Ill.) Public Library attracted more than 300 people to its Gaming Day events, of which about 35 participated in the library’s Beatles Rock Band Tournament (right). According to the November 18 NGD blog post, “the Rock Band High Score contest included 14 events on or around National Gaming Day and 70 performances were scored.” Nintendo Wii games were also popular among participants. The Super Smash Brothers Brawl Tournament included 42 libraries across the country connecting up to play.

But not all the gaming was high-tech. The Mammoth (Ariz.) Public Library’s treasure hunt was a big hit among patrons. The hunt, which served as entertainment and also as a way of giving patrons an in-depth look at how the library works, took no more resources than just some staff time and scraps of paper, according to Library Director Diana Stirling. “Entire families did the treasure hunt together, and invariably the people who had already finished helped others,” she said.


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