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Should Libraries Host Special Video Game Days?

The LA Times recently did an interesting feature story on the San Fernando Library, which has special video game days where they invite local children to get their game on. Apparently the events have been such a success that the American Library Association designated last Friday the first "National Gaming @ Your Library Day." Here's more:

Libraries are turning to video games to connect with teenagers who have outgrown story time. Almost a quarter of libraries surveyed last year by Syracuse University's School of Information Studies had put on video game events.

About half of Los Angeles County's 88 public libraries hold gaming events at least once a month. Administrators credit the practice with helping boost teenage attendance by about 50% since the county started a pilot program two years ago.

While some people think the idea is ridiculous and contrary to what a library should be (you know, a place for those things called books), a 2007 survey of 400 US libraries found that three-quarters of those who took part in game events came back for the library's "other services."

Join The Conversation
Xandara Xandara 9 years
I work in a library and every time I read about video games in libraries I want to squeal with excitement! We already have quite a few CD-ROMs in the kids and teen's sections to check out, and we hosted a Rock Band event for kids... small steps, but I like it.
smart-blonde smart-blonde 9 years
jendudley, THANK YOU! I'm a teen librarian with 7 years experience and I have to laugh at those who say that libraries are just for reading. If that's the case, then we should stop carrying movies and music and not offer any programming that's not a book club. Ridiculous. Here's the thing: It's not easy to get kids into the library who aren't already avid readers. Games are an easy way to get them in and once they're in, we can offer them books, manga, magazines, and anything else that appeals to them outside of classroom reading. I've lost count of the number of teens I've met who were surprised that their library carried anything other than boring homework books. Libraries cannot be all things to all people, but through gaming and the offering of nontraditional programs and materials, they can encourage many different types of literacy (and yes, using your brain to game is a type of literacy).
jendudley jendudley 9 years
I am not done: New library gaming format attracts diverse users Libraries host gaming program and events on April 18 for gaming @ your library CHICAGO - Libraries are bridging generations by offering a new educational and recreational format - gaming. Hundreds of libraries throughout the country will attract new users by hosting gaming programs and events on April 18, 2008, in celebration of gaming @your library, taking place during National Library Week that celebrates the popularity and educational value of games. "Libraries are changing and dynamic places, and are continuously offering new formats and innovative programs and services that educate, entertain and expand interaction with their patrons," said ALA President Loriene Roy. "Expanding a format such as gaming is yet another example of how libraries are reaching diverse users." Historically, libraries are well known as key providers of print resources, but as libraries continue to change to meet the needs of their communities and users, so do the formats they offer. Libraries still provide traditional services, but continue to enhance services by offering CDs, DVDs, e-books, videogames and programs like family gaming nights. Public libraries are holding video tournaments and creating Gaming Clubs, bringing in gaming equipment, video screens and providing a social experience not found elsewhere in the community. A sample of the types of games offered are "Dance, Dance Revolution," "Super Smash Brothers Brawl," "Guitar Hero," and "Rock Band." As a result, library attendance among some of the hardest to reach demographics - kids, teenagers and college students - is growing exponentially. In addition to being a big draw to younger library users, many games appeal to entire families. With new systems like the Nintendo Wii and a mix of traditional and modern tabletop games available, all members of the family can play - from kids to grandparents. Three generations have grown up with videogames (Generation X, Generation Y, and Millennials), and Baby Boomers and members of Greatest Generation are now playing games more than ever before. For example, the Old Bridge Public Library (N.J.) is using videogames as an introduction to technology for seniors. Not only are these users gaining experience and confidence with these new systems before moving up to computer classes, but they also are being taught how to use the equipment by local teens in a reverse mentoring program. Not all games are right for every library user. Just as with television shows, movies and books, parents need to take an active role in observing the gaming activities their teen/child participates in at the library. While there are some games making headlines for their violent content, the truth is that 85% of the video games sold in 2007 were aimed at kids 16 and younger and considered 'family friendly.' Only 15% of the games sold in 2007 were intended exclusively for adults. Gaming is like any other extracurricular activity and it should be practiced in moderation in the same way as television, movies, and Internet usage. Kids often play video games at home, but playing them at the library makes it a more social experience they can share with their family and friends. A study of adult gaming at the Public Library of Charlotte Mecklenburg County (N.C.) found that patrons who attended gaming events at the Library were more open to reaching out to librarians when they needed answers to questions. Myths about gaming: * Gaming offers no educational value - In fact it’s nearly impossible to succeed at most board and video games without a broad array of literacy skills. * Videogames create a noisy environment - It’s true that kids, adults, and seniors playing videogames can produce more noise than other library activities, but libraries often have special areas for gaming far from those who need/want a quiet space to enjoy other library services or they hold gaming events after the library closes. * Games are for kids - Gaming isn’t just for children and young adults anymore. Recent statistics show that the largest group of online gamers is middle-aged women who play games such as Bejeweled and Bookworm between the hours of midnight and 5 a.m. For more information on gaming @your library, please visit
jendudley jendudley 9 years
Those in the school of thought that libraries are for reading need to be brought into this century. Have you been to the library lately? It is all we can do to get kids in here. And, how many of us play video games that involve no reading??? I know that all the games I play involve some level of reading. And video games don't rot your brain, they are actually very great with cognitive development, enhancing the development of learning and literacy skills. It gets kids involved, off the streets, and into the library. Guess what, once they are there, some of them actually check out books, too!!! Don't get me started, I can defend this till I turn blue. I have had 2 video game programs and they were both very successful. I gave away a Wii at a DDR contest and we had a fantastic Guitar Hero contest a while back. The kids love it and i enjoy hosting them. Libraries + Video games = AWESOME for everyone involved. I am planning an event next week, I will blog and post pictures here in case anyone is interested.
okmaebe okmaebe 9 years
ALSW is right. It's a community building activity. And if you bring kids to books, they'll probably take some home. But they should make sure it's in a sectioned off area due to sound.
beingtazim beingtazim 9 years
i think this is great - the young kids can have books read to them and their older siblings can go down to the library (a fun. safe environment) as well for these gaming events. i'd much rather they be there than at a friend's house gaming. I also think this is a great community event, like ALSW said!
natali3nguyen natali3nguyen 9 years
i agree with millarci. i think kids have enough time to play games, and they don't need a library to get them to do it. the libraries should be encouraging kids to do some reading.
millarci millarci 9 years
The whole point of a library is to READ (not to play video games)!
ehadams ehadams 9 years
Anything that gets kids into the libraries is a good thing!
faerywings faerywings 9 years
The libraries around here already do stuff like that, although it's mostly for older kids and teens. Guitar Hero nights, DDR in the teen room, PS2/Wii/XBox games....
wickedcupofjoe wickedcupofjoe 9 years
I think that as long as it's contained and at a time where it wouldn't affect others who are there to read/research, then it's a great idea and great for the community.
ALSW ALSW 9 years
Libraries are also, to me, about fostering community. My library has a lot of events and while I don't believe they have done one of these types as of yet, I know that they sponsor ghost walks, craft times, and lots of other things. My library has a huge community room, perfect for something like this - great idea!
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