gaming in libraries 2005

Everyone else did a fab job taking copious transcripts of the Gaming in Libraries 2005 Symposium . I didn’t have all that typing in my fingers, so I sat back, listened, and jotted down some thoughts when the spirit moved me.

There were many great things about the conference, but there was one thing I liked in particular. And no, it wasn’t the fact that I got to play Mario Kart during the breaks. I was really pleased to hear that the same language I’ve (used and) seen being used to motivate people to get libraries involved with weblogs, RSS, and other social software was the same language being used at the symposium. Both the act of blogging and playing certain games can be seen as learning through gaining membership in a community of practice. Participation is the key. Constance Steinkuehler told the crowd just how much effort is spent by participating in a MMOG (Massively Multiplayer Online Game) community. Weeks, months even, are spent in meetings, collecting data, analyzing data and determining a plan of action. To me, this really sounds like writing a research paper. Players are learning how to learn even if they aren’t aware.

And if libraries participate in the social networks of their users, “going to the library” will be less like it has been (often times a last resort), and more like consulting a friend. This similarity was encouraging because it indicates that Libraries are working on the same issues, for similar reasons, though different tactics. When we’re all getting our heads in the same place, joining together to accomplish similar goals…well folks, I dare say we’re part of a movement.

One idea that will likely come through in everyone’s reports is the notion of video games in libraries for their own sake, not as a loss leader for books. In our gaming grant, we stressed that for many people, getting involved with a game is like other people getting involved with a book. Les Gasser went so far as to say that games are now part of kids’ cultural mythology. The idea that games’ storylines have such an impact resonated with me. Just the other day I was talking with a colleague’s daughter and she told me the cut scenes (elaborate animated portions used to forward a game’s plot) in her favorite game are so moving that they made her cry. Games really are a form of storytelling. Try out some games if you need proof.

Another thing I hope everyone took away from the Symposium is a historical perspective on new media in libraries. Many of the speakers stressed that resistance to video games as part of library service is the same force that resisted DVDs, VHS tapes, Magazines, and even Fiction in libraries. The high/low culture debate in libraries is bound to continue.

The Symposium ended with some really great and super practical tips for librarians’ interactions with young people. Beth Galway did a great job illustrating how librarians can take prompts from games to pitch and tailor their services. Her points included:

  • Be a strategy guide don’t be a level boss. In other words, don’t mimic the powerful and intimidating creatures that players defeat at the end of a level. Instead, be a collaborator in their journey.
  • Show, don’t tell. Many kids like learning experientially.
  • Get them started. Let them do. Then see if they need some guidance after a bit.
  • Ask for a demo of expertise. Not only do thing kids like “doing,” they love to shine when they do well.
  • Change the space often. Even if it is simple rearrangement, alter the space that teenagers use every week. This will keep their interest.

Here are the rest of the posts tagged gaminginlibraries2005 on technorati, and here are 154 pictures tagged gaminginlibraries2005 from flickr.

2 thoughts on “gaming in libraries 2005”

  1. Hi Aaron,

    Your latest postings all rock en get me very inspired. Gaming in the library is very high on the agenda for 2006. My best friend works at the biggest games magazine in the netherlands so i hope we can take some advantage from that..first projects will be surrounding the XBox 360.(I played King Kong on my friend’s new setup

    The last few months we have been very busy with our Library Podcast (three episodes so far, included in the RSS-feed two sounded like crap, but we are getting better at it. Buying new mics this month.

    The new Thomas Ford site looks great. I love the top right banner.

    Keep those postings coming. Hope to see you next year in London over at the

    Jaap van de Geer
    Public Library Delft

  2. A couple things I’d like to see gaming evangelists address (I didn’t see any mention in Jenny’s notes on the symposium, but I might’ve missed something):

    1. The real difference between commercially-available video games and the books, DVDs, CDs, etc. we buy and circulate is that there seem to be more than a half dozen proprietary hardware platforms for games. This isn’t an issue of high/low culture, but of standards and universal access. (Yeah, I’m not entirely comfortable with the proprietary platforms we’re stuck with for ebooks, either, but at least Adobe Reader is a bit less hardware-dependent.)

    2. The types of games which get talked up as providing that stealth learning experience seem to be those which are least suited to gaming events, or even 3-week circ periods, since they involve long-term participation and narrative development.

    Now, libraries having an “official” presence in MMOGs, *that* has potential. But it would be pretty labor-costly, I suspect.

    BTW, Steven Johnson’s _Everything Bad Is Good For You_ is a must-read for librarians.

    Now, gotta get back to 3D Pinball on the laptop …

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