Principles and Practice

September 21, 2006 erinstine

I find myself lately adjusting some views I brought with me from school to the library.  From the theory to the practice.  From the idealized world where everything is equal to the one in which I happen to live and work.

The one I’m knocking around in my head at the moment relates to gaming.  In May I was completely for it, and I currently have a draft of an email in which I pitch the acquisition of DDR and all its accoutrements (written in June) to the head of YS.  Give the people what they want!  Gaming gets people in the library!  You can make connections with the games and your reading materials!  Gamers learn social skills!  Problem-solving skills! 

And this is certainly all true (well, most of it is).

But here’s the thing, and I will try to be as eloquent as possible.  There is not a problem getting teens into my library.  They are there every single day, hassling each other and often printing out scores of celebrity photos.  And because of the sad sad state of the public schools in my area, many are seriously behind in fundamental skills.  So what does gaming in the library do for a group like this?  Does it actually address the basics that these kids need, or does it take them further in a different direction?  Has anybody done this research?  And if we are anywhere on the list of influential places for kids, and I don’t presume that we are for all kids, don’t we have responsibilities that come before games?

And I know I’m going to start sounding like an ol lady (I’m sure I have already, actually), but what’s so wrong with letting a library be a library?  Why is there this trend to make libraries cool and ‘with it’?  I think it’s kind of embarassing that the undergrad has a facebook page, and allowing kids to bring drink cups anywhere near the computers that populate my library seems pretty insane.  I am all for making the library an inviting place for people who wouldn’t necessarily think the library is for them, but I feel like there are more pressing issues that have to be addressed before I can worry about the gamers. 

I don’t want to fall behind the times.  And I don’t want to be a “format snob.”  I love video games (Guitar Hero comes to mind).  However focusing much attention on this theoretical group of gamers that’s in my neighborhood just waiting to be invited into the library seems like I would be, in action if not in words, giving up on these kids that I actually have in there and really NEED stuff.  No matter how resistant they are to us trying to help (read: bugging them).

Entry Filed under: People in the Neighborhood,work

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Sonya  |  September 21, 2006 at 1:29 pm

    What a thinky post! So I just mailed of an application where one of the questions was “What are three popular trends in YS and why do you think they’re important?”

    I espoused my point of view (that I hadn’t really thought about wholly) about the video game thing. So now I ponder your point – it really isn’t literacy-based at all. If the kids are already in the library, then what is the point.

    The only thing I can think of is that it’s an egagement with others in a social setting – the social intricacies of playing MarioKart and being a good loser (or winner) – that has social value. And it’s engaged, it’s participating in something.

    But that’s really all I got. Unless you give away books as prizes, and then duct tape them to the winners …

    (I want to think about this more. This is fun.)

  • 2. Ryan  |  September 26, 2006 at 1:44 pm

    Oye, super post.

    I think, and have always thought, that there must be a balance of sorts. Sure you want to draw as many people in as possible with “fun” things. Games, cafe’s, reading clubs, etc. But you also have an obligation to be another big peice in the literacy and education puzzle.

    I think having the gaming stuff is perfectly fine, as long as you also have some sort of reading tuturing, perhaps a night that talks about how to create a resume and how to job interview, a night that educates people on how to use a computer for things other than looking up porn, celebrities, and for email and IM.

    I think there has to be as much, probably more, instruction than funzy stuff. Course I’m coming from teacher-stock and that was my view there as well. Kids need a break from time to time for a little fun, but teaching them comes first.

    And that’s my 2 and half cents.

  • 3. Elizabeth  |  October 5, 2006 at 7:35 pm

    I have a lot of thoughts on this, which is why it’s taken me a few days to respond.

    One of the things I’ve carried forward from my undergrad liberal arts education was an idea (I can’t call it a quote because my brain can’t remember the details) from Alexander Pope about poetry – that it should educate by delighting the reader (or something like that). Basically, the idea was that poetry was a good and worthwhile endeavor because it made literature (and literacy) accessible. Pope wouldn’t have used those works, but whatevs. The extension to games is that we advocate their use in libraries (or the classroom) for the purpose of educating through entertainment.

    Is this realistic? I don’t know. I think games in libraries (or wherevs) work for the purposes intended IF they are situated in the sort of programmatic settings that encourage the educational part. I really don’t think that having video games available for checkout in the library is going to encourage people to check out books, especially not when they’re in a flashy display right inside the front door. I mean, having video games available for checkout at Blockbuster doesn’t mean that those renters are also going to check out educational videos.


    One of the hard things about having a real job that is also associated with your interests is that the real world never holds up to your research ideal. Believe me, I understand.

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