Every year on the third Saturday of November, libraries around the world come together to celebrate International Games Day (IGD), an event run by volunteers from the American Library Association, the Australian Library and Information Association, and Nordic Game Day. This event, which falls on November 21st this year, gives participating libraries a chance to raise awareness about gaming in libraries, engage with their students and patrons in a different way, and bring together gamers from across their community. Started in 2007 as National Games Day, the event has grown by leaps and bounds over the last eight years, amassing some impressive statistics along the way, including having more than 1,200 registered libraries in 2014 and involving participants from every continent in 2013.
The event encompasses games of all kinds, including tabletop board games, video games, card games, and more. The first year, Lawrence Public (KS) Library hosted an IGD event and more than 100 people dropped in to play games in their auditorium over the course of the day. Karen Allen, the library’s youth services coordinator, noted that the opportunity to drop in and play a game at the library proved particularly popular with parents, who “were thrilled they had another activity to do with their kids at the library and were happy to test some games out before the holidays and get some gift ideas.”
Beyond sheer numbers, libraries have also found that IGD brings in groups of people that wouldn’t typically visit the library, a point that frequently comes up in the comments that the IGD staff collect each year. Games can be a great way to bring people together across age groups and social groups, and IGD planning can help to facilitate this if a space for fans of specific games is offered to teach newbies how to play.
Whether this translates to local chessmasters giving tutorials for kids or young video games fans teaching local seniors how to play their favorite games, these events can build connections that might not have existed and provide patrons with a chance to show off their skills. School librarians who continually hear a student gushing about a particular video game can invite her to teach others how to play during IGD. This can be a fun way to recognize expertise that might not usually be rewarded in an academic setting.
Besides being fun for patrons, the event can be a lot of fun for library staff, too. Allen even suggested havingstaff or patrons bring in their favorite (clearly labeled) games to supplement what the library has to offer. She summed up the benefits of IGD best when she said “I look forward to this program every year, as I get to play board games with patrons all day long!”
This year, IGD once again includes two international games that connect participants across libraries, a Minecraft Hunger Games Tournament, which accepts “tributes” from libraries around the world to compete on a dedicated Minecraft server, and the Global Gossip Game, which is an international variation on the game of telephone. There are plenty of opportunities to participate on a local level, without getting involved in these worldwide events. If libraries are lacking in time, money, or space, librarians can simply set up a display that pairs books and games on similar themes or carve out a small area where patrons are encouraged to bring in their own board games or even video game consoles to play on November 21, with or without participation from library staff members.
Another great way to keep costs down is to partner with local organizations. In 2014, Lawrence Public Library collaborated with local game and toy stores and even game company representatives. Building on previous years, when the library had partnered successfully with their local game store, this allowed them to expand their offerings across two different rooms and to incorporate both the Minecraft Hunger Games Tournament and the Global Gossip Game into their program.
IGD can also be a great opportunity to work with other libraries for regional or city-wide events, particularly if local libraries don’t have the necessary space. Whether partnering on outreach efforts or setting up teams that pit one library’s patrons against another’s in a gaming tournament, librarians can use this event as a way to build relationships across local communities or to encourage students from nearby schools to also get involved in activities. No matter what form they take, partnerships are a great way to increase the reach of IGD programming while also keeping the setup manageable for everyone who is involved.
Those who work at a school library and would prefer to host IGD events onsite need not be put off because the official event happens on a Saturday. Many school libraries and others that aren’t open on Saturdays run their programming on the prior Friday. When Wendy Stephens was the school librarian at Buckhorn High School in New Market, AL, she ran IGD programming on the Friday before the event for several years, offering board games for students to play in the library before and after school as well as during breaks. She also had students bring in their own consoles and set up Guitar Hero, Dance Dance Revolution, and Heavy Rain with the school’s digital projectors. Stephens found that the students particularly loved the video games, so much so that the only real issue was ensuring that no one monopolized them. She recommends featuring games of finite duration, such as Guitar Hero and Dance Dance Revolution, to make it easier to limit the amount of time each player spends on the game.
For added fun, consider encouraging patrons to come dressed as their favorite character from a game. Cosplaying is an exciting opportunity for people to show off their love of various games and can be a great way for other enthusiasts to visually identify people who share their love of one in particular. Librarians can even run a contest to crown the best dressed or offer cosplaying classes in the weeks leading up to the event to help people create their costumes. Be sure to have a photographer on hand to take pictures! These images can be a great souvenir for participants and can be used (with the permission of those depicted) for outreach before next year’s event.
Does all of this sound like a fun (yet manageable) programming opportunity for your library? If so, be sure to sign up as an official participant on the International Games Day @ Your Library website. It may be too late to receive donated games for this year, but you will still be able to add your library to the map and throw your support behind this great event. While you’re there, also be sure to check out the free outreach materials that they offer for participating libraries.
Carli Spina is an emerging technologies and research librarian at Harvard Law School Library in Cambridge, MA and serves on the Advisory Board for YALSA’s The Hub blog. She can be found on Twitter @CarliSpina.
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