Teen Librarian Toolbox
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Game On @ Your Library

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November 12th is National Gaming Day @ Your Library.  For several years now there has been a huge increase in libraries that offer gaming programs as a way to get teens into the library.  Many libraries are building teen areas with an emphasis on technology and gaming in hopes that teens will come to play but leave with a book.

Like many librarians, I have used gaming as a way to get teens into the library and overall have found it to be quite successful.  In fact, of all the programming I have engaged in, video games have in fact had the largest draw with high attendance numbers and repeat participants.  And yes, they often do eventually end up checking out books.  In comparison, craft programs, which often have a large cost associated with them, have lower turn out as do a lot of speakers.  The only programming I have had with larger turn out has been large, one time events such as a Harry Potter program or Meet the Team night.  In comparison, gaming has a large start up cost (you have to purchase a system and games) but over time it pays itself off in spades.

In the last few years there has also been some acknowledgement that gaming programs don’t always have to be technology based.  You can invite teens in to play board games, card games, and life size games.  Card games can include trading card based games like Magic and Yu-Gi-Oh tournaments, or whatever is popular at the moment.

There is a lot of research based evidence to support the idea of gaming in the library.  In fact, there is a library gaming lab that runs out of Syracuse.  Scott Nicholson began the Library Game Lab in Syracuse as a way to explore games in libraries.  At the lab’s website he offers an introductory video.

ALA also has a lot of offerings regarding support materials and research on gaming in libraries.  Here you can find access to research based evidence in support of gaming in libraries as well as some good how to information.

You’ll also want to visit the http://ngd.ala.org/ website for information, posters and a press kit.

Not all gaming need be technology based.  I believe it is important occasionally to unplug our teens and get them gathered around a table to relate to each other on a more personal level.  So spend some money buying a collection of popular board games and get teens playing.  Some favorites include Apples to Apples, Risk, Balderdash, Scattegories, Chess and Battleship.  Some libraries work with their local schools to have a chess club.

Board games don’t have to be played around a table with little pawns, you can bring the board games to life and make it a large, interactive program.  The October 2011 edition of VOYA has a discussion of playing life size CandyLand.  Here are some more resources for putting together a life size version of various games:
Recreation Guy: How to Put Together a Life Size Candyland
Live Clue by RoseMary Honnold
Human Battleship (there are various resources for this)
How to Make a Big as Life Board Game blog post
ALSC: Life Size Candyland

I would love for you to share if you have information about other life size games and how to put them together.  Also, what are your teens favorite video and board games to play?  I find it is always helpful to know what others are having success with.

Whatever you decide to do with gaming at your library, don’t make it a one time event.  It really can be a great tool to get new audiences (and guys!) into your library and create repeat business so that you can build relationships with your teens can get them reading as well as playing.

SLJ: Meet the New Board, Board Games in the Library
The Role of Gaming in the Library: Taking the Pulse
Games @ the GT Library
The Librarian’s Guide to Gaming
Youth Services Corner: Five Boardgames for Teen Library Programs
Bringing Games (and Gamers) into Your Library: 100 Tips
Gaming Success: A Library Best Practices Wiki


  1. […] on Pinterest and was especially inspired by the Villa Park Library, the Wayne County Library, and Teen Librarian Toolbox’s roundup of live action games for this event. Thanks all for your great ideas! So we’ve been […]

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