Pop Goes the Library

Using Pop Culture to Make Libraries Better.

by Sophie Brookover, Liz Burns, Melissa Rabey, Susan Quinn, John Klima, Carlie Webber, Karen Corday, and Eli Neiburger. We're librarians. We're pop culture mavens. We're Pop Culture Librarians.


Games @ Your Library

[Thus far, all attempts to blog directly from the sessions as I attend them have failed. Although there is lovely, free wifi access here, it's vexingly unavailable in the program rooms, and even more vexingly unreliable anywhere other than my room (so far). ]

This morning's Games @ Your Library program provided views from a school library which hosts quarterly computer game nights in the cafeteria, and a public library that's been collecting electronic games for 16 years.

Ginny Konefal, school librarian at North Hunterdon Regional High School (see link for presentation slides), has been holding game nights at her school for two years. Through trial & error, and with lots of input and organizational help from students in the school's Technology Service Club, these game nights have become extremely popular & smoothly run diverse social events. Some standout points:

  • The entire program (with the exception of the LCD projectors, owned by the school, which project the games onto cafeteria walls) is BYO: students bring their own computers, game consoles, and games with them.
  • The entire program is teen-run -- teens are in charge of mapping out appropriate use of electricity & plugs (thereby eliminating the possibility of blowing fuses), setting up all video, sound, and controller connections, soliciting discounted food from local delivery services, preparing sign-up sheets for tournament play, and clean up afterwards.
  • Both team & individual play is encouraged.
  • Contrary to popular misconception about games -- that they appeal only to loner antisocial guys, that they are dangerous -- Game Night at this high school attracts over 100 students from diverse social groups (we're talking all races, both genders, sports aficionados, computer whizzes, quiet kids, loud kids -- you name it) all of whom play nicely with others. Kids who felt like loners find a crowd they never knew existed, and teens who are quieter take leadership roles.

Moderator Cathy Delneo (soon to be contributing to this very blog) made the point that even without LCD projectors, public libraries can hold similar programs -- invite teens to bring their own monitors & consoles & games, and away you go.
The second presenter, Susan Sclar, is the Media Services Department Manager of the East Brunswick Public Library. Susan spoke about her 16 year-old electronic games collection, which comprises the following formats:

  • Gameboy Advance
  • Sony PlayStation
  • Sony PS2
  • XBOX
  • GameCube
  • Computer software for IBM/MAC-compatible computers
  • PSP (yay!)

Major points of Susan's talk:

  • EBPL's collection (annual budget for games: $30K) circulated 13,800 times!
  • EBPL uses a locking disc for security -- it locks onto the disc in its case; if a patron tries to remove the disc, it will break.
  • EBPL uses a variety of security formats to keep smaller, non-CD based games from walking, and to keep the collection browsable.
  • The Entertainment Software Rating Board, which rates electronic games the way the MPAA rates films, provides an informative, free flyer that libraries can distribute with the games to inform parents & other caregivers about the appropriateness of games for their families.
  • EBPL loans games for 2 weeks at $2/game -- the small charge contributes to keeping the collection funds. Games are renewable three times.
  • There's a great crossover to the music collection -- musical artists (often without contracts to record labels) license their songs to certain games. If the games become popular, suddenly the artist is popular, too, and there are CDs available of game artists.

Advantages of a gaming collection, as laid out by Ginny, Susan, and Cathy:

  • In a public library, you draw a whole new clientele who wouldn't ordinarily come to the library.
  • The cool factor -- people who use games and see the library as engaged in & responsive to their interests will be more inclined to come to librarians at that library with other, non-game questions.
  • The good service factor -- libraries that provide collections their users want are by definition good libraries in the eyes of those users.
  • The only real danger of games is ignoring them and not getting involved with them -- don't get left in the dust.


  • At 2:57 PM, Blogger cathy d. said…

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  • At 2:57 PM, Blogger cathy d. said…

    I presented the following nformation in the intro:
    The gaming industry is really growing – in 2004 the gaming ndustry outpaced the film industry. The demographics of gamers are changing – more women and more older gamers. Many of the concerns around gaming involve the aspect of violence. While many games do include violent aspects, the focus of all games is strategy. Gaming’s focus of logic and problem solving is changing how people think. It is also changing their expectations – they expect collaboration and thoughtful problem solving. Libraries need to embrace gaming and some of the ideas inherent in gaming culture if we want to move forward and continue to serve the public. Games are more popular than movies - so let's give them to the public. We need to meet the needs our users have or we'll be rendered obsolete. And another thing: why are books (and even movies) okay to waste money but games are somehow less valid? We've got to stop judging the tastes of the public and start providing them with the materials they are looking for.

  • At 7:48 AM, Blogger diane mc said…

    We've been having patron complaints about the noise the youth patrons make while playing computer games in the library branches. One patron wanted us to ban all computer games because they were "frivolous." At the moment all of the PC's are together; adult and youth. We're working on plans to separate them. Do you have any suggestions on handling these situations?

  • At 11:45 AM, Blogger Sophie Brookover said…

    Diane, with your permission, I'd like to post your comment to the blog as a new post. I think it will generate considerable & worthwhile discussion. What say you?


Post a Comment

<< Home