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Our Public Libraries Are Being Turned Into Video Game Arcades

Dave Gibson – “[I]t appears that this country’s librarians have decided to their part in the dumbing-down of America. What has happened to this country?…All of the librarians I have known were in love with the written word and truly enjoyed opening the door to their world to young people. Perhaps, today’s crop of young librarians would be better served answering their calling as arcade attendants and movie theatre managers.”

Too much of a generalization here. Not ALL librarians think video game nights in the library are a good thing (I think that they are a childish way for adults to reclaim their youth in an attempt to be a part of the cool crowd).

And that last line just hurts. Ouch!

8 Responses to “Our Public Libraries Are Being Turned Into Video Game Arcades”

  1. Dances With Books
    January 22, 2008 at 9:34 am #

    I hate to say it, but a lot of that image is self-inflicted. All you need to do is look at the blogosphere of librarians, and it seems every other librarian is pretty much turning the library into an arcade. Does the line hurt? It should. I enjoy games as much as the next guy, but it is a library. Whatever happened to the whole safeguarding of democracy idea?

    P.S. I do agree too: a lot of this is certain librarians trying to look cool and reclaim their youth.

  2. Greg
    January 22, 2008 at 12:33 pm #

    It’s always fun to see someone challenge the literacy of others, while not doing much to establish one’s own.

    You quoted my favorite gaff: “librarians have decided to their part in the dumbing-down of America”

    Looks like this shlemiel is way ahead of us.

    I do have something more substantive to say about his arguments, but that will have to wait for tomorrow’s show.

  3. Jenny Levine
    January 22, 2008 at 1:36 pm #

    Since this is a recurring theme by folks who usually don’t use the library to begin with, I’ll point to a previous response I did at .

    As with so many things in modern librarianship, it’s a question of “and,” not “or,” a distinction this person is apparently incapable of making. Had he made this statement in the 1800s, it would have been about the dumbing down of our society due to libraries introducing fiction. Later it would be music. Or movies. Or craft programs. Or take your pick. The purpose of libraries back then was to maintain the morality of adults, not to educate children to read.

    If literacy rates are down, this surely happened before videogames brainwashed our youth. Recent NEA statistics show that kids are reading at the same level they were in 1970. So by continuing faulty logic, that must mean that what libraries were offering in 1970 was bad for literacy, too. Whatever were we thinking circulating books in 1970?

    The library visits this person so fondly recalls would not have been part of past library history either, as it is a fairly recent development to even offer children’s services. He should be careful how far back he wants to restore library service, as it would not have been available to him as a child as recently as 1800. Truly, one wonders how often this person has used the library as an adult, rather than as a child 30, 40, 50 years ago, since everything he knows about us comes from an editorial he read. It’s too bad he doesn’t use some of what he learned from books to make an actual argument other than “anything except books = bad.”

    In light of the other editorial against the new Cincinnati library that you linked to, it seems that still others disagree with this guy that libraries should even exist. It’s too bad so many people are so focused on how things “ought” to be, ‘used” to be, and “I’ll tell you how they should” be, instead of realizing that the library is a community entity (true for any type of library), and that it is indeed true that any good library has something to offend everyone. I don’t like where all of my federal taxes go, but you don’t hear me saying the federal government should go back to the services it was providing in 1950 (or 1800, for that matter).

    As for librarians, not everyone likes cataloging, not everyone likes reference work, not everyone likes children’s services, not everyone likes law libraries. You don’t want to do gaming, don’t do gaming. But complaining that it’s not your mother’s librarianship ignores the fact that things have changed during the last 50 years (not directed at Steven). Your own work to educate librarians about blogs, RSS, the importance of good search techniques, and a host of other new topics proves that (directed at Steven). Lots of lines hurt about libraries, but they’re often the same ones we’ve been hearing for more than 200 years. Libraries endure for a reason, and it’s not because we’re warehouses of books.

  4. walt crawford
    January 23, 2008 at 11:26 am #

    I’m getting used to seeing Steve Lawson comment on a post before I do and saying “Well, he said it better.”

    Here, though, it’s Jenny Levine. Who says it eloquently.

    I continue to believe that “a place of books” is an excellent starting point for the public library story, but even I’m not old enough to remember when that was all public libraries are or were about–and, even though you’re not likely to see me pretending to play guitar or engaging in DDR, I’m convinced that some libraries have used videogames as effective ways to enhance their overall set of services and reach their communities.

    Right for everyone? No, no more than wikis or blogs solve problems that every library has. Right for some? Yes, I believe so. On the other hand, inclusionary thinking–“And not or,” a motto I’ve been using in person and print for >13 years now–doesn’t make for snappy editorial copy.

  5. Leah
    March 18, 2008 at 11:15 pm #

    I think there’s a difference between libraries trying to “look cool” and actually being cool. Libraries that include gaming, in some fashion, are not trying. They just are cool. Since when did the library turn into an elitist, uncool community space?


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