November 22, 2017

The Advocate's Toolbox

Game on! Gaming at the Library | SummerTeen 2015

Looking to incorporate games in your library’s programming and collections? A panel of librarians shared ideas and best practices on the topic during the first-ever teen services track of SLJ’s SummerTeen all-day virtual event on August 13.

gaming and learning

A slide from Amanda Schiavulli’s presentation on “Making the Case for Gaming,” which compares the learning benefits of video games and books.

Heather Booth, “Teen Librarian Toolbox” blogger and teen and tween services coordinator at the Thomas Ford Memorial Library in Western Springs, IL, moderated the hour-long session. Served in bite-sized, 15-minute intervals, the lightning fast presentations began with Amanda Schiavulli’s talk on how libraries can make a case for gaming at their institutions. The education and outreach librarian at the Finger Lakes Library System in New York State discussed how interested librarians can address concerns from administrators, patrons, and staff head-on by tweaking collection development policies, applying for grants to fund expensive gaming systems, and educating naysayers about the how gaming achieves many of the 40 development assets for adolescents. Schiavulli busted many myths, as well: “Girls [play] just as much as boys” and “Books and games go hand in hand,” she shared.

life size 2

A teen participating in the Life-Size Arkham Horror game at La Vista (NE) Public Library.

Library Journal Mover & Shaker Lindsey Tomsu, youth services librarian at La Vista (NE) Public Library (LVPL), along with teen Keyahna Wood, LVPL teen advisory board (TAB) secretary, presented on life-sized or role-play gaming. Tomsu, who has raised more than $10,000 in grant funds to create teen-led life-size versions of favorite board games, including Candy Land, Arkham Horror, and LIFE. With donations from a local comic shop and the creators of the complex, cooperative Arkham Horror board game, based on the Cthulhu Mythos of H. P. Lovecraft’s short stories, the group was able to convert the library’s program room into a gory and eerie landscape for their role-playing adventures.

Tomsu encouraged librarians try complex board games and cosplay (costume play) because it “involves teamwork (since it is players versus the board), lots of reading, mathematical skills, and critical thinking.” She added that though the initial investment may be costly, many of the props and sets can be put away and reused again and again. Wood added, “It took us 350 hours to make this program happen at library. While playing the game was fun, the actual making of the sets and game pieces for program was even more memorable.”

“Humans are the only creatures on earth who make a difference between play and learning,” said Eli Neiburger as he opened talk on video games at the library. The deputy director of the Ann Arbor (MI) District Library and author of Gamers… in the LIBRARY?! (ALA Editions, 2007) and a 2011 Library Journal Mover & Shaker explained that games have long been considered scholarly pursuits (chess) and that learning and playing shouldn’t be enemies. Neiburger discussed how games have always been ways for humans to explore ideas and simulate things. He encouraged attendees to consider how a library can add value to the video game experience when planning video game programming.

Neiburger’s library staff has been hosting live video game events for 11 years and continues to plan monthly tournaments. These programs entice non-library users to enter the library. From Dance Dance Revolution, in which participants can engage in a unique opportunity that they can’t get any other way, to Mario Kart, which can be played by all ages and across different generations, Neiburger shared several recommendations of video games that libraries can include in programs. He also suggested International Games Day on November 21 as a wonderful opportunity for libraries trying to start up video game programming.

munchkin board games

A few of the board games played at Tulare County Library in California, where presenter 2015 SummerTeen Faythe Arredondo is a teen librarian.

Rounding out the gaming session, “Teen Services Underground” blogger Faythe Arredondo presented on tabletop/board games. The teen services librarian at Tulare County Library in the middle of agricultural California started her branch’s teen advisory group from the ground up, facilitating ice breakers, such as Six Word Memoirs, to get the young adults engaged. This activity led to many more word games, which then inspired the teens to request board games as part of the library’s teen programming. Arredondo explained that in this migrant community, many families don’t have access to the Internet or more expensive video game consoles. The games played evolved from the simple Apples to Apples and Logo to the more complex Munchkin board games. Each of the activities encouraged team play, negotiation, and communication.

If you missed the live presentation, the Gaming session slides and resources are available for download and on-demand viewing on the SLJ SummerTeen archive.

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Shelley Diaz About Shelley Diaz

Shelley M. Diaz (sdiaz@mediasourceinc.com) is School Library Journal's Reviews Team Manager and SLJTeen newsletter editor. She has her MLIS in Public Librarianship with a Certificate in Children’s & YA Services from Queens College, and can be found on Twitter @sdiaz101.

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