Friday, April 8, 2011

G is for games in libraries

I used to spend hours at my public library playing board games as a kid. These were always popular so sometimes I had to wait for the good games, but in the meantime play that game you didn't want to play like boggle or some other horrible word game until mousetrap, guess who or connect four was available.

I also remember some awful games of monopoly at home, where if my younger brother found he was losing, or even worse, did lose, there would be hell to pay. This only lasted a few years, when he was in single figures. Once in his teens and we could play video games together, he was actually a much better sport. Probably helped by the fact he could kick my ass.

Are games appropriate for playing in the library? I think most people would agree that even a rousing game of scrabble isn't doing anyone else harm in the library and a game like scrabble is educational.
Library Club Game Day - "Boggle" game
Photo by Enokson via Flickr.

However what about computer or video console games? More libraries seem to be holding video game events inside the library, sometimes out of hours or late at night, to attract more people into the library, particularly teens:

There's a librarian in the above video who says "teens love this and when they associate the library with something they love they have positive thoughts about us,(laugh)... so that's what we're hoping for"

A shelver says "(the game night) is to show there's more exciting things going on in the library then just what a typical high school student thinks"

Is there a hint of desperation in the librarian's laugh?  Are public libraries using games to lure teens into the library and once they have captured them they can then promote the other (more boring) resources the library has. Or are games as valid a resource as anything else the library collects, and a teen only using the game collection is as valid as a romance reader. And librarians in turn should be satisfied that a teen may only want to use the library for their video game collection. Are video games being just another electronic expression of the human condition?

Here is a wigged librarian's opinion:

Games, be they video or board, can be educational, they can promote sharing and teach the need to take turns, they can teach people how to take losses with dignity, and wins without being a gloat.

And of course they entertain.

I do think libraries should hold video games in their collections, it's just another form of media that entertains people, no worse or better then a book. But should games be played inside the library? I think at the appropriate time and in the right space they are probably just as valid as a choir recital, or a book club meeting. What do you think?

There's heaps of resources out there for librarians using, or wanting to better use, games in their libraries. Here's just a selection:

Library gaming google group

Games in libraries

A Knol called Getting serious about games in libraries


  1. I think games have a place in libraries. Games are part of the way people learn and make sense of the world.

  2. Hi!
    That's a tricky question for sure. But I'm sure games could be played somewhere in a library. Have a great day!

    Just Books

  3. I never thought about it, if there are games, either board games or video games, I think there should be a separate location so other patrons are not disturbed. You can't expect someone to be quite while playing a fun and exciting game.

  4. I love Boggle!!!! My childhood library had a playground out the back so it usually took a while for us to settle down and actually look at the books!