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More on Video Games

Library Attack (a new to me blog), deconstructs my post and Jenny Levine’s comments. I’m glad Jenny comnmented on the post instead of ignoring it. She’s right. Don’t like gaming? Don’t do gaming. I say stuff like that all of the time.

That said, that doesn’t mean I won’t post what I think about the topic. And, I love Jenny. Always have. She’s one of the smartest people I have ever met. Truly and honestly. We go way back. My being against video games is not me being against Jenny. Maybe I just don’t “get it”.

But maybe (just maybe) I’m onto something here. When will it end? When will librarians just stop trying to be the cool kids with the cool toys?

Why do we have to lure kids into the library with “candy”? Shouldn’t good literature be good enough? And, if it’s not enough, why? Maybe in some respects, I’m old school. Maybe that’s a good thing.

11 Responses to “More on Video Games”

  1. Jack Vinson
    January 22, 2008 at 10:00 pm #

    Steve, You should check out something like the Northbrook (IL) Public Library. They have ~10,000 music CD’s and a boatload of videos. They also carry video games because their patrons asked for it (as I understand it).

    Isn’t the point of the library to offer what the community wants? Collection development is geared toward offering the public the materials that make sense for the library.

    By the way, the multimedia department at NPL always has circulation numbers that blow away the “traditional” collection in the library. I think over 80% of their catalog circulates in a given year.

    The wife works there. I am sure I got some of my facts wrong, but the general trend is the same.

  2. Steven
    January 22, 2008 at 10:06 pm #

    Thanks for the comment Jack. What you said makes sense. In my community, I think books are circulated more than multimedia. Maybe that’s not the norm. I just don’t know.

    That said, luring teens into the library with video games just doesn’t sit right with me. It seems like a “can’t bet ’em, join ’em” approach, which I abhor and have never followed.

  3. GeekChic
    January 22, 2008 at 10:35 pm #

    Besides, doing “what the community wants” is too simplistic. Who is “the community”? How do you know what “they” want?

    If you just go by the loudest voices you might not stock Harry Potter or gay and lesbian literature in some places (like my previous place of work). If you just go by circulation numbers you will miss things that are seen as essential but are rarely checked out (car manuals at my current place of work).

    I understand the impetus that is driving some libraries to try gaming. However, I also get what Steven is saying about possibly over-extended ourselves in terms of collections.

  4. Jenny Levine
    January 23, 2008 at 12:02 am #

    Thanks, Steven – I wasn’t offended, just defending my position. I guess I’d like more clarification of what “old school” is since that’s a vague term. Is it just books? Is it craft programs? Eli Neiburger makes a great case for why gaming is just as valid a library service as storytime in his book “Gamers…in the Library?!”

    I’m also unclear on why this is only “cool” and why it’s candy. As I asked on “Library Attack,” is chess okay? Pokemon (which is *all* about reading? Scrabble? Is it all games or just videogames? I think we can have a friendly debate about these things, and I’d really be interested to hear your opinions on this, as you know I respect you, too. ūüôā

  5. walt crawford
    January 23, 2008 at 12:02 pm #

    Steven, Re circulation: This may be a “both and” situation–in many (most?) public libraries, books still represent the majority of circulations, but nonbook collections circulate at a higher rate.

    Say a library has 100,000 books and 20,000 CDs, DVDs, videogames, art prints. Say the library has 300,000 book circulations and 150,000 non-book circulations. In that case, books represent the dominant service (2/3 of circulation), but the “average book” circulates three times a year, while the “average nonbook” circulates 7.5 times a year.

    That’s wildly oversimplified, but the pattern’s probably right–multimedia *items* circulate more often, but the book collections are much broader and circulate more overall.

    And, as one who’s even older school than you (I think) and a non-gamer (and who, for some reason, almost never uses our library’s nonprint collections), I’m satisfied that some public libraries are using games in ways that, I believe, suit their missions and enhance their overall service portfolio.

  6. Mark K.
    January 23, 2008 at 1:30 pm #

    I think one thing that is also being missed in this discussion so far is the storyline aspect of many videogames. Personally, I think any library with a collection of Choose Your Own Adventure books has already done the collection development groundwork for a number of games.

    (As for childishness, I think the charge can cut both ways. Wannabe Hipsters and Beleaguered Defenders Of Civilization can both be acting out personal agendas that have little to do with reasoned library service…)

  7. Kendra
    January 23, 2008 at 3:11 pm #

    What’s wrong with candy in the library? It works.

    I guess I’m skeptical about video games in the library, but I also recognize that it’s a form of media that won’t go away any time soon.

    Mark, I agree with your last comment about people and their agendas. What’s a young, wannabe hipster librarian supposed to do if they want to defend the old ways of civilization? Play Civ IV at the library?

  8. Ryan Deschamps
    January 25, 2008 at 1:36 pm #

    As a public librarian, I can say that, even without gaming programs, teens are gaming in the library.

    That said, while I hear alot of skepticism where I am about Web 2.0 stuff up-to and including RSS, I hear very few complaints about the possibility of gaming programs.

    Gaming programs can be a pro-active response to the shocking (to any librarian working in the 80s or 90s) fact that libraries are popular to teens all of the sudden. In a non-gaming programming world, the teens do their social interaction and gaming in amongst the resume writers and hard-core researchers, perhaps annoying the heck out of them.

    In a gaming programming world, our front-line people can respond to alot of big concerns in the community: youth justice, displaced teens, internet safety, cyberbullying, education [yes, education], and social cohesion. Gaming programs can spark partnerships, and act as a buffer for these larger community problems.

    And, just ask the parents of teens in our programs. They are happy to see finally that there are actually services for their teens, because otherwise they’d be getting kicked out of the local Walmart.

  9. Soldatlouis
    April 17, 2008 at 8:19 am #

    Hi all !

    I wanted to inform you that GamePolitics ran a story from LA Times’ article, where this post is quoted.

    Now I’ll repeat what I’ve said on GP : though I disagree with Steven Cohen’s opinions on video games, he has the right to have such opinions, and anyway, that’s not the problem. The problem is : do we need video games to attract children in libraries and make them read books ? And on that point, I understand (if not agree with) Mr. Cohen.

    I love playing video games AND reading books (though not at the same time), among other things. But if I want to play games, I go to a games store, or a cybercaf√ɬ©. To me, libraries are essentially places where you go read a book. This being said, here in France, “biblioth√ɬ®ques” (“libraries”) were replaced by “m√ɬ©diath√ɬ®ques” (“mediaries”) long ago, with the introduction of VHS, then DVDs and CDs. I still don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing. But I don’t like when so many “real” libraries close one after another.

  10. Marc Cohen
    April 18, 2008 at 10:55 pm #

    As both a competitive gamer and book reader, I was in ultra shock about this interesting article I read today in the LA Times, because I never knew this was going on in local public libraries. I must admit, I used to be lured into libraries as a teenager for borrowing free movies, magazines and music records. Of course, I bit the bait and it worked. Next thing you know, I am reading and checking out books and novels that would of made even my strictest school teacher proud. As long as the kids are under strict adult supervision, and it is under a controlled and orderly program, I think this is all great.


  1. Simon Chamberlain’s library weblog » Blog Archive » Games in libraries - January 24, 2008

    […] Gibson. Jenny Levine makes some good points in the comments to Steven’s post. Steven posts a follow-up. (Parenthetically, it’s sad that both Steven and Jenny have to stress that their disagreement […]

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