by Paul Earp
Computer gaming in Libraries is a logical next step in outreach to patrons. In moving forward with technology and libraries, how does a public library decide what technologies to offer? At what point does cost prohibit patron needs?
Books, journals, and magazines have long been the almost exclusive reason for a community or public library, to share knowledge and understanding to those that may not have financial resources to obtain. But with the advent of computers and their inclusion into all areas of society, if a library were to ignore their uses, that library would quickly relegate itself to property for sell.
Even so, libraries do appear to embrace computers, offering access through web sites to their collections, computers with internet access for patrons to use for research and personal productivity. A natural extension of the days of offering typewriters and copiers for a price.
Where does computer gaming come in? Public libraries attempt to have community outreaches, offering story time for children, book clubs, book reading contests for summer, and other activities to bring in community members to benefit from the free access of the public library.
Gaming has become a very big industry, with X-box, Nintendo, Wii, and other home entertainment systems for both young and old. These systems are not cheap, nor are they intended to be quiet. Using existing resources is the only cost effective way to offer gaming events. Gaming can, within reason, be made available on the existing personal computers, in a ‘share the resource‘ context.
Having successfully coordinated a gaming event, I can attest to the enjoyment of those participating in the online game. It was a huge success, and helped create in-roads tremendously to a segment of the population that previously didn’t know libraries existed.
When the library I worked at decided to do a gaming event, there weren’t many examples to follow, and we had to tackle all the issues in an original and unique way to accommodate our specific situation. To my knowledge, we were the first academic library in the Texas A&M System that had a successful gaming event.
Here are some of the things we discovered needed to be taken into consideration when setting up a gaming event in a library.
Game length. Determine how long any one game will last, will it be time specific or stop at a set score. Also decide whether there will be series of games, taking into account the time it can be expected to take.
Game type. Role playing games take forever, and if desired can be extended over a period of time, such as a summer. 1st person games are typically shorter, and easier to set time limits on.
Computer Location. If there is a computer lab for training available, that is the best selection so that non-participating patrons are not impacted by revelry and inaccessibility to public stations.
Game rating. All games have ratings for age appropriateness. Be sure that the game selected will not offend parents or cause liability to the library.
Refreshments. Consider whether refreshments will be allowed in the gaming area. Some games can be very intense and time will slip by, having refreshments readily available will make the gaming experience more enjoyable.
Overall, gaming in Libraries can be very beneficial to the library’s outreach to the community. It can reach a segment of the community that is of recent days been very difficult to reach because of the common availability of internet in homes and school.