America's libraries are well-positioned to play a large role in helping communities adapt to a changing world. They continue to transform themselves, keeping pace with the changing economic, social, and technological aspects of American society. Libraries’ deepening engagement with their communities takes many forms, from technology to education to social services, and serves many segments of the population.
In recent years, libraries of all types have begun to create space and activities that center around creativity. From rewiring a lamp, to 3D printers, to sewing circles, libraries are capitalizing on a priceless commodity: the sharing of personal knowledge, or learning by doing.
"Makerspaces are a reflection of the times. Here we have people coming together as a community to fix things, creatively and cheaply, and to continue to maintain and create, including those who lack individual purchasing power. This is true library form: accepting and helping everyone, together, as a community."
-Caitlin A. Bagley, What is a Makerspace? Creativity in the Library, ALA Techsource, December 20, 2012
Games are drawing attention in libraries as successful outreach tools for tweens, teens and seniors. They are also gaining ground in schools as valuable resources that introduce and reinforce a variety of curricular, social and life skills.
The inclusion of gaming in a library collection is not unexpected if you take some perspective. Libraries hit a turning point when they made the decision to start including popular media in their collections. By doing so, they shifted their collection development practices to be more inclusive of what their patrons want, embracing the desires of the community. They also opened the door to more non-traditional resources. And by continuing to develop a more inclusionary collection development policy, libraries are laying the foundation for building a collection of ideas.
— Brian Mayer, Library Gamer
Frequently Asked Questions About Gaming in Libraries
Aren’t libraries about books and reading?
In the 21st century, libraries are about much more than books! In fact, libraries work very hard to provide patrons of all ages with a rich and current menu of CDs and DVDs, as well as electronic and online resources. Video game resources and programs at the library actually complement these existing services. Featuring this new gaming media helps the library expand its reach while meeting community expectations.
Aren’t video games just a passing fad?
Actually, video games have been popular for more than 30 years. In fact, three generations have grown up with video games - Generation Xers, Generation Y, and Millennials. It’s not only the digital natives who are playing video games. The average age of today’s gamer is 35-years old, and Baby Boomers and Seniors are playing them more than ever before! Libraries across the country are offering family gaming nights that bring the generations together for a gaming experience they can’t share anywhere else.
Why should kids play video games at the library?
Lots of kids play video games at home – alone, with siblings, or with friends. The library is a safe and non-commercialized space. At the library, kids socialize with their friends and play video games while surrounded by books, librarians, and knowledge. Video gaming at the library encourages young patrons to interact with diverse peers, share their expertise with others (including adults), and develop new strategies for gaming and learning.
How do librarians choose video games that are appropriate for our kids?
The Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) has established criteria for rating video games. In 207, 85% of the video games sold were rated “EC” (Early Childhood), “E” (Everyone), “E10+” (Everyone 10 and older), or “T” (Teens ages 13 and older).
These games are available to libraries and are considered “family friendly.” In addition to using the ESRB to guide game selection, librarians do extensive research about the recommended games and play them before they are introduced to kids. Games recommended for use in libraries often have a more social component that brings people together around the content, making the whole experience more fun when played with others.
What do kids learn when they play games at the library?
Video games give kids a chance to practice reading, writing, and computing in the library’s safe environment. Popular video games, the ones that kids really like to play, are immediately engaging and make them work hard to succeed and "level up." While playing these games, kids are constantly developing new strategies, predicting possible outcomes, managing multiple resources, reading and deciphering maps, tracking complex statistics, and adapting to increasingly difficult levels within the game. They learn a range of media literacies beyond basic reading that give them models for navigating our information-rich world.