Lori Latimer is the Assistant Genealogist at the Pope County Library in Russellville, Arkansas
2015 will be our 3rd year participating on International Games Day. This event is for all ages, and all types of games and gamers. Monopoly, Steve Jackson, and other game makers have donated games to our library in the past. This has given our library outreach resources that we could not have gotten under our current budget constraints. Also, we have adults and teens who can use the games in-house during regular business hours. This is passive programming and patrons love it.
In 2014, our second year to participate, many of our patrons begged for more than once per year game days/nights. This evolved into a once per month game night, and we put board game money into our programming budget to buy a new game or add-ons once per month.
2013 was our first year to participate, and it opened up our programming to include all ages. In the past children’s, teen's and adult programming were all separated. International Games Day changed the way we looked at programming.
This has spread throughout our community, and we never have less than 10 participants show up. We moved away from video, to board games, and it is a lot of fun. We get good feedback. Thank you IGD!
IGD: How One Public Library and Local Board Game Group Joined Forces to Bring Games to the community
Our guest post this week comes from April Shroeder and Eric Groo.
April Shroeder is the Youth Programming Coordinator for Loudoun County (VA) Public Library. Formerly a Teen Services Librarian, April has extensive experience serving teens and finding community partners who wish to do the same. You can contact April at april.shroeder [at] Loudoun dot gov
Eric Groo is an aspiring maestro of play, father of two, Cub-Scout leader, and Rotary member. He founded the Loudoun County Game Masters because he believes ‘games are good for people.’ During the day he works as blue-collar statistician. You can contact Eric at eric.groo [at] gmail dot com
2014 was not the first year Loudoun County Public Library (LCPL) participated in International Games Day, but it was the first year that all branches partook in the celebration. The unified support of IGD commenced in Minecraft community builds, family board game programs, a strategy game competition, and a Lego and Duplo family build extravaganza. The programs brought in dozens of children, teens, and families who learned new games, and played old favorites. The biggest change to LCPL’s IGD celebration was in the enthusiastic staff, and a friend-of-a-friend who was looking for just the right time and place to kick-off a gaming club.
Eric, a local board game enthusiast, approached LCPL with the concept of a community-supported partnership that would introduce games to general public as a cultural activity. Games in libraries are hardly a new thing, but it appeared to him that many of these items intimidated patrons and they weren’t being fully utilized. So, on a beautiful fall morning in 2014 we met to brainstorm how local gamers could help LCPL with the upcoming IGD events planned at some of the branches. Eric had long wanted to start a club to introduce modern board games to a wider audience, but had no location to host programs and no captive audience – both of which LCPL had plenty of. We considered this a wonderful opportunity for a trial run.
Volunteers were happy to attend the pre-planned events as gaming specialists and helpers, and some even hosted programs at the branches that did not already have anything planned. Within a week all of the branches had something on the calendar for IGD. One week later, successful IGD programs were hosted, and game programs began to fill up the library’s calendar – some run by staff, others by volunteers. We declared success, and found we had enough support to schedule regular events at local branches. Loudoun Tabletop Game Masters (LTGM) was born.
As partners in gaming in libraries, LTGM focuses on collapsing the barriers to play. It’s not far from the act of introducing a challenging book, except that other people are an essential element. In practical terms, this means gathering a group (2-6 people); matching patrons with an appropriate title; and, a ‘soft’ play-session that bypasses the need to study a rulebook. LTGM also gives advice to library staff on which games to buy or replace; which most appeal to particular age groups; and which are suited to the timeframe of a library program. Most importantly, though, LTGM help staff understand the “why” behind gaming. Their knowledge and interest in games make them the perfect hosts and partners. Here are some of the things library staff have learned since partnering with LTGM:
1) Forget everything you remember (or, remember hating) about Chess and Monopoly. In 2014, the Guardian declared a ‘golden age of gaming.’ Modern board games are artfully balanced affairs that proudly bear their designers names on the box. High interactivity, beautiful art, streamlined rules, reasonable playtimes, integrated narratives (that also facilitate the learning of rules), and limited downtime are the norm. Stodgy train and economic games are still available, and worth investigating for those interested in the hobby, but you can now have your Zombie clichés and play them (see Dead of Winter).
2) Staff involvement is key. LGTM focuses on finding and organizing people who want to teach games, and communicates primarily via a meetup group. This is by design, because it’s difficult to find sociable people who are able and willing to share the hobby with the general public. Therefore, additional communication channels are needed to attract patrons to events (see the following point for some helpful tips on promotion.) In our experience, when this works it really works – board gaming events that are promoted and supported by library staff attract around 3x times the patrons, meaning 30-40 people for larger events.
3) Marketing and promoting your game programs requires thoughtful planning. Make posters featuring a picture of a representative game, and the program name and schedule. If you call your program Settlers of Catan or Survive!, you will lose potential participants who doesn’t know that particular game. If instead you name the program Introduction to Modern Board Games or Board Gaming for Teens, you will attract all levels of players and library patrons. Relegate the names of specific games to the schedule of events on the poster. Don’t let your desire to have a catchy name keep you from reaching your full potential with a gaming program. At best, you will attract the ‘hardcore’ enthusiasts who already know the games. At worst, no one will show up because they cannot tell what kind of program you’re hosting.
4) Games market themselves, if properly displayed. The art and illustrations are eye-catching and bold, so don’t relegate them to the back of a closet only accessible by staff (if they even remember that the library owns games). Put a barcode or spine label on the game boxes and put them somewhere visible! Are you uncomfortable leaving them out in the open where a child might find the small pieces appetizing? Display the games on a high shelf on book easels. Or put them on a cart you can roll after other age-appropriate programs as your way of saying, “Hey, don’t rush away. Stick around for a while and play a game.” With few exceptions, games do not require staff supervision, so give them space to play and mosey on over once in a while to check on them.
5) Proper storage is important. Don’t stack games horizontally, on top of one another, unless you like tipsy towers, broken boxes, and scattered components. Game boxes are designed to store vertically, like books. The current standard, ‘medium’ box is 11.7 x 11.7 x 2.8 inches (there are lots of exceptions, also akin to books), so find a shelf that is about a foot deep, if possible. Additionally, for games with lots of pieces, cheap, plastic organizers, that fit inside the box, makes games faster to set-up, clean-up, and inventory. For card-games, or just games with cards, card sleeves are another recommended housekeeping supply that can extend the life of components 10-fold. If this seems like a lot of work, many patrons are happy to help with these tasks if given the necessary supplies.
6) Games are inexpensive on a per-use basis, and relatively durable. One modern game will cost anywhere between $20-$80, but if four people play it twice a week for a year, the cost-per-use is pennies. You may be concerned about all of the pieces. What happens when you lose a die? (Go buy more, or keep extras on hand.) What if a card rips? (Tape it back together, or scan and copy it onto heavy paper – remember, sleeves fix this problem.) What if a necessary piece goes missing? (The world might end.) Worst-case: you bought a game and it was a dud or essential pieces went missing quickly. How is that different from a brand new book?
Remember: Library materials are routinely injured and defaced, but you would never consider not buying new books for the shelves, right? Think of games as a necessary library material and you will soon get over your fears.
7) Patrons love to play. Psychology Today recently profiled A Playful Path, a new book by Bernard DeKoven that examines playfulness as an essential, yet oft-neglected human trait. The belief is that game is just a pretense – most readers can remember joy of discovering and ‘figuring-out’ tic-tac-toe. In fact, competition isn’t even necessary – many modern games are fully cooperative. Most adults can remember learning that ‘winning’ is often less important than being, and experiencing, a good opponent. The point is that playing is an end in itself, but this is a hallmark of cultural and artistic experience. When the vision of a library expands beyond literacy and information access, cultural experiences move naturally to the forefront.
So, games are art. We hope this conclusion came as a surprise. Aside from the vivid and fun illustrations, the modern game designer creates experiences that the most (or least) discerning of library patrons can understand and appreciate. We hope that it motivates you to organize a group, sit down, and play more games!
Dario Toribio graduated from Emporia State in December of 2012 and started working at Denver Public Library in March 2013. He is a father of four, originally from Uruguay but moved to the States in the year 2000. He is a musician, a chess player, he make websites for fun, he loves astronomy, his hero is Carl Sagan! Oh, and he has way too many hobbies!
We've all heard the phrase that goes something like; “If I could get just one person to—insert accomplishment— my work is done here!” This is exactly what International Games Day (IGD) did for us. Our thought was: if IGD could help us promote the library by informing just one person we are here, helping one person see what the library has to offer, or if we could gain just one library patron as a result of IGD; our job would be done. Amazingly this is exactly what happened.
At the end of IGD, thanks in great part to IGD’s sponsors who kindly donated game prizes, a child who came to the library for the first time with his grandmother not only had a great time but he also won one of the prizes. The program and the prize proved such a wonderful experience for this young patron that he has become an all-time regular. Not a week or two goes by without us spotting this young boy. His grandmother has told us that he loves the library, asks to go to the library, and (most importantly) asks when we will have another IGD program.
The fond memories this young boy is forming about the library today will ensure he keeps coming for years to come; maybe even his entire life. One day he may even share his love for the library with his own kids, who in turn might share their love for the library with their kids. Imagine how great it would be if one day we could trace two or perhaps even more generations of regular library goers to an International Games Day event?
The small things we do today can have very long ramifications and it’s precisely because of this that what we do matters. Librarianship is a humble yet rewarding profession. Sure enthusiasm is contagious, and if we love and are passionate about what we do people feel it and will want to come back, but enthusiasm and passion alone are not enough. We need good, fun, and memorable programs to keep people excited about the library and International Games Day is exactly that. Without IGD, who knows if this child would have ever developed the love for the library he now feels.
Our guest post this week comes from Michelle Gohr.
Michelle Gohr is a Library Assistant at Arizona State Universities Fletcher Library. She will be earning her Masters of Library Science in June and is looking forward to her future career in librarianship, wherever it may lead. As an avid gamer and also academic, Michelle is incredibly passionate about raising awareness for the importance of games in learning and literacy and hopes to work towards her goals of building, maintaining, and promoting both tabletop and video game collections as she makes her debut into librarianship.
2014 was the first of many years to come that Arizona State University Fletcher Library was able to participate in International Game Day. Although it was a big success, there were many lessons learned and we hope that the event will only get better over the years. Unfortunately, on the Friday before the event a water pipe burst in the libraries basement, causing widespread flooding, but since so much planning had already gone into the event, we decided that the show must go on. To make matters worse, an automated message was erroneously sent to all ASU students and staff that the library would be closed on Saturday due to the burst pipe, which caused a great deal of confusion among registered attendees and significantly impacted the expected turnout. But the local gaming community came together at the last minute to spread the word about the event and help us attract 425 visitors throughout the day! We couldn’t have done it without them, and from our experience we highly recommend partnering with local community groups to help make your next IGD @ your library spectacular.
One of our most popular activities of the day was the Minecraft Photobooth. Months prior to the event the library partnered with a campus costuming club to create life size Minecraft animals, blocks for building, a full size Ender Dragon and her egg complete with glowing eyes, and even wearable props for visitors to build their own worlds and take pictures with. It’s a very fun activity that all ages can enjoy. Partnering with local groups made a huge difference, and the community felt that the event was a joint effort, and were happy to support it! The Minecraft props were fun to make together as a group, and were super cheap too, which is perfect for any library on a budget.
Unfortunately, because of funding issues, but also because we’re an academic institution, and there is still apprehension in regards to purchasing a video game collection, so we were really worried that we would not be able to provide gaming for visitors. Fortunately, we contacted a local gaming café, and they volunteered their time and staff to bring over consoles and games, and even run some tournaments for Halo and Mario Kart Wii U! We also partnered with a local tabletop and card shop that sent volunteers to teach visitors how to play some of the many demo games they donated, and handed out prizes and coupons to attendees!
We’re already being contacted by groups that participated last year, and they are all helping to put together even more activities for the year to come! This year we will be holding a Minecraft scavenger hunt, where participants have to find hidden treasure chests that hold various materials, then use those found materials to craft objects at crafting stations. We will also have a life size Pacman game, where participants take turns in the large maze tapped off on the floor to gather all the cherries. Other activities include holding a Pokémon League where visitors can bring their Nintendo 3DS’s and challenge each costumed gym leader to collect gym badges. We also always encourage our visitors to attend the event wearing their favorite video game costume. This year, we’ve already contacted tons of costume groups who will be attending in full costume for pictures, and teaching visitors how to make their own video game armor!
We can’t wait for this year’s event, and hopefully our experiences from last year and partnering with groups and clubs will make it even better! We at Fletcher highly recommend contacting clubs at local colleges and universities, or find Facebook pages or meetup groups to partner with for your next event. Not only will it save you and your library time and money, but it brings the community together to create something unique and special for everyone involved. Even as library workers we should all share our great ideas with one another so we, as a collection of information professionals, can be the best we can be for our patrons globally!
Everything is cool when you’re part of a team!
-Michelle Ashley Gohr -- michelle.gohr at asu.edu
Fletcher Library as Arizona State University
Feeling overwhelmed by all the exciting possibilities for IGD? Fear not! There are many supporters and gamers that are more than excited to see and help you succeed in hosting this event - or simply join in on the day. Whether it's boy or girl scout troops, teens, or other community members, there are many groups out there who may be interested in helping.
The responses on the post-IGD survey last year offer some great examples of groups both outside and inside the library helping to bring IGD together. Here are just a few of the stories of people coming together from public libraries to help make their events successful and amazing.
Stair Public Library, MI:
I did not have a clue how to play Yu-Gi-Oh! even after looking through the instructions, so I was thrilled when I asked my teen helpers from our high school Volunteer Club if any of them knew how to play. One boy, mildly autistic, did and he was wonderful at teaching kids how to play. It was a great opportunity for him to be useful and important, and for kids to learn something from a teen. He was so kind and respectful of the younger kids and began every game with a handshake... and had them do the same.
Pickaway County Public Library, OH:
I invited local Girl Scout troops to assist me with IGD activities as part of their community service commitment. This was a win-win - the girls got service hours & I got help & participants! The Girl Scouts were a great help attracting additional participants (who would want to be the only one playing a game?); they brought their own games & taught others how to play them; they were gaming buddies with younger players helping them follow the rules; they learned how to play new games and shared that info with others; they brought their parents and siblings to participate; they helped clean up; AND they had fun! One Girl Scout's family ended up getting library cards for Mom & all three children. (Dad already had a card.) This is a new community partnership for us & I hope it grows and the girls will participate next year.
Oldham County Public Library, KY:
We had a gaming group from a local university volunteer for the day as their service project. They brought games and spent the event teaching kids and adults how to play new strategy games. It was a great success, and awesome to see people of all ages learning together.
At my library, the part of IGD I am least prepared for is Minecraft. I personally cannot figure it out. I get the concept, but it does not appeal to me one bit. Fortunately, I have some great teens who love the game and who I plan to have organize the Hunger Games Minecraft in my library. I get to have someone enthusiastic about the game take over, explain the rules, take pride in sharing something they love, and acquire community service hours simultaneously. This will also let me spend my time teaching and playing games I love and want to share.
So ask around! If there are gamers in your library, see if they would like to help bring and teach games. They may even be part of a larger gaming group that would be interested in helping - or just swelling your numbers, which not only helps your attendance figures, but means more games are available to be joined in at any one time. Many groups use Facebook to keep track of gaming events in an area. Try searching for gaming groups in your town, county, or region. Meetup has a list of gaming groups, and the nearbygamers website might also be a good place to start. Gamers love what they do and usually are really happy to share their passion with others.