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Getting Serious About Games In Libraries

Players streaming into Astor Hall, at New York Public Library Library’s main branch, to take advantage of the gaming session
(Photo: Suzanne DeChillo/The New York Times)

Via: American Library Association (ALA) TechSource
Via: ALA’s Blog - News about Games and Gaming

According to ALA’s Blog, at least 7 out of 10 libraries support gaming: From consoles to D20, board games to CCG’s, gaming in libraries is a hot topic.

Games in Libraries was created in 2005 as a supplement to the Google
LibGaming email group, a forum for discussion of gaming in libraries.

2007 was "the year gaming caught the imagination of libraries.”

In an uncharacteristically viral and rapid way, videogame services in libraries broke through the niche, cult-like status that had relegated them to something only geeky nerds did at home in the basement,” recalls Jenny Levine in the April 2008 issue of Library Technology Reports, “
Gaming and Libraries Update: Broadening the Intersections”.

In her previous
Gaming and Libraries: Intersection of Services, Levine identified the various gaming and videogame-related activities occurring in libraries — public, school, and college — as well as explained gaming activities outside the library domain.

Jenny Levine is the Internet Development Specialist and Strategy Guide for the American Library Association's Information Technology and Publishing departments. She earned her MLIS from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1992 and has been an eminent technology training evangelist for librarians during her career.

Levine is a keen advocate for gaming services and libraries, as she is an avid and has witnessed, through personal observation and study, how gaming services can help members of several generations (particularly younger users) feel connected to the library.

“Gaming,” she concludes, “provides a wealth of service intersections for libraries today and for the libraries of the future.”

Since writing a 2006 LTR on this topic, she has organized the 2007 ALA TechSource Gaming, Learning, and Libraries Symposium, and is already working on the second annual Gaming, Learning, and Libraries Symposium (GLLS2008) to be held in the Chicago area on November 2-4, 2008.
Levine also writes about gaming and libraries on a regular basis on her popular blog, The Shifted Librarian.

Taking Play Seriously at the Public Library With Young Video Gamers

The New York Times

Many libraries have achieved great success by piloting video game programs. Offering video games attracts hard-to-reach children and teens who might not otherwise visit the library.

As an institution that prides itself on bringing the newest, hottest, and most innovative information in any format to New York City’s communities, The New York Public Library has initiated Game On @ The Library, in December 2007.

Shh! Free Video Games at the Library! Kids enjoying video games on Wii, Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 at the main branch of the New York Public Library
(Photo: Suzanne DeChillo/The New York Times)

Since then, 18 branches in the Bronx, Staten Island and Manhattan (Brooklyn and Queens operate their own separate, library systems), have offered the program, which allows patrons to check out games for the three major consoles, the Nintendo Wii, Xbox 360 and Sony PlayStation, and is expected to expand soon to include online PC games like World of Warcraft.

The library system offers both organized play sessions and about 2,500 copies of 92 different games available for circulation in one-week intervals.
 Library officials said the library system had spent about $61,000 to provide hands-on game spaces in the 18 branches. The 2,500 circulating games appear to have cost $100,000.

Despite librarians’ original concerns, the programs have not resulted in the pounding of fists and smashing of screens.

“They self regulate themselves really, really well,” said Jack Martin, the assistant coordinator of young adult services at the New York Public Library. “The kids have a lot of investment in gaming.” They monitor the equipment and make sure everyone gets a turn, he said: “The punching and slamming down of things is actually pretty minimal.” Besides, several branches have sound-proof rooms.

Getting Game @ Your Library

Numerous detailed examples of what libraries are already doing—including public, school, and academic libraries—provided Levine the springboard to illustrate how librarians can reap positive gains by proactively, creatively, and (above all) affordably integrating gaming into the services and programs already offered at your library.

The case studies reveal that gaming programs often turn out to be among the most popular a library can offer. “I have yet to hear about a library of any type offering gaming that has received negative feedback from patrons,” Jenny notes.

Friends Jose Barra and Sam Law play Wii golf at the Dover Library which has gaming sessions in the Library

Libraries are turning more than ever to video games as a way to lure teenagers back inside their doors - creating video game clubs, hosting tournaments and hoping the children will then begin to take advantage of everything else the libraries have to offer.

Librarians are seeing benefits. Libraries are safe places for children and they give kids a place to gather and talk with friends. And they say since they've started hosting gaming events, they've seen sharp increases in the number of children's books being checked out too.

In her Blog,
The Shifted Librarian , Jenny links to several studies and articles citing the benefits of this approach, including this great story from the Omaha World-Herald which says librarians in Nebraska are seeing big increases in the number of Young Adult books being checked out since their gaming program began. Teens are taking home 10 times more books from the Chadron Public Library in Nebraska than they did a year ago, the article says.

Jenny also recently gave a
presentation in Second Life as part of the celebration for National Library Week and "gaming @ your library day”, on how libraries are using games in their programming.

Jenny Levine presents "Gaming in Libraries" on the Main Stage of ALA Island during National Library Week

Libraries to Actively Join Gaming Ventures

Via: Sector 9 Gaming Group

ALA (American Library Association) used its annual conference in Anaheim early July to launch a seven-digit gaming initiative.

The Verizon Foundation, Verizon Communications’ philanthropic arm, has provided a $1 million grant to the American Library Association for a project aiming to track and measure gaming impact on problem-solving literacy skills. With its research, ALA hopes to build a model for library gaming that can be deployed nationally.

The organization will work with 12 “gaming experts” to document how gaming can be used as a literacy tool, monitoring the results of those initiatives. The ALA plans to build a comprehensive, online literacy and gaming toolbox, titled The Librarians' Guide to Gaming. The guide will then be field-tested at select libraries.

Claiming over 65,000 members, the ALA cites its mission as promoting “the highest quality library and information services and public access to information.” The Verizon Foundation supports the advancement of literacy and K-12 education through its program.

Said ALA president Loriene Roy: "Gaming is a magnet that attracts library users of all types and, beyond its entertainment value, has proven to be a powerful tool for literacy and learning. Through the Verizon Foundation's gift, ALA's gaming for learning project will provide the library community with vital information and resources that will model and help sustain effective gaming programs and services.

Verizon president Patric Gaston added: “In today's technology-driven world, where learning does not stop at the classroom, the role of libraries in supporting literacy and learning is more critical than ever before. Gaming for learning presents a tremendous opportunity for libraries to further literacy skills in children as well as adults.”