Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Gaming In Libraries

I ran across lately a series of web pages talking about gaming in libraries.

Apparently the national library organization released some goals for libraries, in terms of how they help children develop. A big part of those goals involved improving their critical thinking skills, and gaming advocates jumped on that to support libraries offering board games and role playing games (both being activities that improve critical thinking through imaginative play).

I'm a big fan of gaming, so I'm happy to see this trend. My daughter is three and a half years old, and is already heavy into gaming. She may not understand the rules to my board games, but she loves to get them out and play with them, and her attempts to understand them is building her critical thinking skills.

iLibrarian has a nice page with links about gaming in libraries. The Escapist, a gaming advocacy site, also has a great page with resources for gaming in libraries.

So the next time you want to play a game, think about your local library!


Anonymous said...

I was thinking that your support of gaming in libraries would make more sense if the average American kid read more. Kids don't read as much as they used to, and every day there are more and more multimedia entertainment options that distract from books. Several college students in my classes have been essentially unable to read aloud in class due to poor reading skills. One way to make this situation worse would be to make libraries -the last bastion of reading - not about books anymore, but about games, and other things. Sure, they are valuable for building other important skills. But isn't there some other forum where those games could be played, rather than in the last institution we have that still tries to get kids to read? Once the library becomes an arcade, college students not knowing how to read might become more and more common.

Jay said...

Gaming is one of those things that's the hook, but look at what's involved in playing a typical board game. The board itself has text on it, the game might include cards with special effects that must be read to be understood, etc.

I don't see gaming as taking kids who enjoy reading away from reading, but more about getting kids who aren't interested in reading to the library and giving them a motivation to read more.

Who knows, though, it might turn out the other way.

Nick said...

I too feel that critical thinking skills are essential in life, whether you're doing homework or working, you need such skills to succeed. By utilizing other techniques of learning skills such as reading, speaking and problem solving, instead of just reading a book, which might be boring to some, if not most, the youth of our population will quickly learn critical thinking skills and do so with more effort and want because it's fun for them.

Beth Gallaway said...

Jay, don't forget about as a resource for librarians about gaming! More content is coming VERY soon ;)

Thomas, kids today do read - they just don't read traditional print, in the form of novels, poetry, and newspapers. Teens say, in national polls conducted by Smart Girl during Teen Read Week, that they would read more, if they had more free time. In the meantime, they read what they can digest in short chunks. They read online. They read magazines and graphic novels. They read videogame strategy guides. And while they are reading those non-traditional materials, they pick up vocabulary and think about what they are reading.

According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project Report on Teen Content Creators and Consumers (, 57% of teens have done content creation. The content creation process involves reading, writing and other skills, and proficiency in 21st literacies.

Constance Steinkuehler's research, particularly her 2007 dissertation, "Massively multiplayer online gaming as a constellation of literacy practices ( that youth involved in complex massively multiplayer online games like World of Warcraft spend more time doing research and creating content around the game than they do actually playing.

Libraries are about literacy, but there are many forms of literacy in addition to traditional print literacies: visual, media, technology, multimodal, ICT.

Even academic libraries, like University of Syracuse ( University of Michigan (, and the University of IL at Urbana-Champaign (, just to name a few, are recognizing that gaming at the library can market the library to non-users, develop information literacy skills, help build relationships with students to better provide their reference needs, and even tie into curriculum from history to music to science to game design. Check out Gaming in Academic Libraries: Collections, Marketing, and Information Literacy (ACRL, 2008), edited by Amy Harris, for more examples.

In short, libraries have always been about stories, and information. Format is irrelevant, and lots of reading takes place in and around all types of gaming.

Anonymous said...

As an avid gamer and philosophy major, which emphasizes critical thinking skills, I'm extremely glad to see this news of which I previously wasn't aware. While various philosophy courses have deeply helped improve my critical thinking skills, I feel that the foundation for those skills developed directly out of the role-playing games and other gaming media that I take advantage of. I am very excited to see that libraries and other institutions are attempting to further critical thinking, which philosophy has taught me is a a fundamental life skill and not just a specialized trade skill. Even moreover, I'm excited that gaming industries have taken initiative to endorse critical thinking in a medium that I feel is not only fun, but unsurpassed in its ability to educate.

Also, with regard to the discussion about kids' reading skills, I would take the time to point out that in addition to board-game reading, role-playing games are almost always entirely "paper-based." Games like Dungeons and Dragons is based entirely on text rulebooks and sourcebooks. The amount of reading involved in playing D&D is phenomenally large, but never seems like it because of the entertainment value. While there might be other entertaining sources, such as fine literature and even nonfiction in an area of particular interest, adding reading to a game to the level that role-playing games do is laudable. All this is on top of other skills that role-playing games engender, such as basic math fundamentals from the dice-based nature of the rules of the game; social skills learned from the group-necessity; and the critical thinking already addressed; to name but a few.

Jay said...

For anyone following this topic, here's a great link from the American Library Association on gaming in libraries. They cover literacy and tons of other related topics:

Slamablog said...

Having board games in libraries is such a great way of improving critical thinking skills. For example, if the student is playing someone in checkers, the student has to be in the mindset of making sure the opponent doesn't jump one of his or her chips. If this happens, the opponent will score.

Having board games in libraries gives students a break from studying and reading. I have studied in the library for hours before and I always wanted to do something else that could be fun and relaxing. Without board games, I would just end up going on the computer. But, having those games will make students want to stay in the library longer.