Gaming at Your LibraryLibraries were once thought of as staid, scholarly places where solitary individuals stopped to silently leaf through dusty tomes, select a mystery from the shelf, or peruse The Wall Street Journal.
By: Mark King, Pine Journal
Libraries were once thought of as staid, scholarly places where solitary individuals stopped to silently leaf through dusty tomes, select a mystery from the shelf, or peruse The Wall Street Journal. Today, by contrast, library patrons are inclusive of a larger spectrum of society, and reading is only one the library’s offerings. Libraries have always offered summer programs for children, but now people of all ages are as likely to come to the library for a yoga class, musical performance, author appearance, or a movie (either showing on HD-widescreen, or to check out on DVD). From Australia, to Italy, to the U.K., to America, libraries are embracing gaming as the latest addition to activities. Games are drawing people of all ages: digital technology games especially draw an after-school crowd, and board and card games are available for adults of any age.
The Cloquet Public Library is dipping its toe to test these waters. An Xbox Kinect was available for teen use once a week after school during the winter, and we will host the activity again in the fall. In July, we held a successful game day for all ages. Eighteen participants attended, coming and going over the three-and-a-half hours. XBox Kinect was the centerpiece in our large meeting room, with everyone from a young child to a grandmother trying out this physically interactive media. At tables nearby, young mothers played card games with children, while chess and checkers, Monopoly Night Sky, and Scrabble were set up in the adjacent conference room. Games included Apples to Apples, Bananagrams, Uno, Scrabble, Pictureka and Cribbage. Popcorn (provided by Premier Theaters in Cloquet) and punch were a welcome attraction on a hot day. If you missed out, you’ll have another chance to take part on Monday, Aug. 20, from 4-7:30 p.m. Check the library’s website and events blog, or watch for flyers posted in the library, for additional game days in the future.
In Cloquet as elsewhere, teens are looking for something to do, and games help to engage their free time. Girls are playing video games on a par with boys. Any teens with an interest in gaming are welcome to share their ideas and help monitor game times at the library.
Surprisingly, gaming is not entirely a new phenomenon in libraries. Chess tournaments were held at the San Francisco Public Library more than 100 years ago. What’s new today is the expansion of traditional games to include video and digital technology ¬– the preferred form of entertainment for most teens. Those growing up today process information differently from their predecessors, and libraries must meet the changing needs. Libraries can be gathering places that “encourage play, socialization and cultural enrichment,” according to The Librarian’s Guide to Gaming. Gaming is bringing new users to libraries, “proving that the library is not only a place for learning, but a place to relax and have fun too,” explains an article in The Spring 2012 Check It Out Magazine.
The library is anticipating a new game addition this fall that will be located in our Teen Scene area (a new space reserved for teen use after school on weekdays, and open to all at other times). Thanks to a generous donation by VFW Post 3979 and donated time by woodworking craftsman Andrew Genereau, we will have a handcrafted, solid wood game table with a chess/checkerboard top.
Mark King is the adult services librarian at Cloquet Public Library.