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.
Here's the report from the University of Kentucky's IGD event - ironically, despite happening after everyone else's IGD, it's coming out before the official report on the day! We're still busily collating the information that's coming in via the survey - which you should fill in at http://bit.ly/igd14survey if you haven't already - and as usual will have a final report for you in the next week or two. But meanwhile, here's part 2 of UK's coverage of their entirely apropos use of IGD as a way to welcome international travellers to their community.
Approximately 60 students from different countries participated in International Games Day at the University of Kentucky. The day had a different twist as it was designed to bring students from different parts of the world together to play games. The goal was to provide a place where students from different countries could interact in a social environment and have fun.
The event was held in the Hub of the William T. Young Library in the multipurpose room. The room was set up into 5 areas: food (popcorn and soft drinks); video games; card and board games; bean bag toss; Mexican Bingo and Jeopardy. A quartet playing music from different parts of the world on traditional instruments provided live music (all from the Center for English as a Second Language).
The music and the smell of the fresh-popped popcorn drew the students in and several of them texted their friends to join them. There was a nice mix of students playing in all areas. The finale of the event was “International Jeopardy” where the participants divided up into two teams and tried to supply the answers to the questions. All seemed to have a good time trying to provide the questions to answers supplied by other students.
All in all, the day was a success, as we had students from a number of countries interacting with one another. The event generated interest on campus and the student newspaper wrote two articles on the event. The cost to put on the event was minimal (less than $200) and all the units involved agreed that it was something to consider building on for next year.
Hi everyone! While the official date has been and gone, one of the core tenets of IGD is that any library that wants to host it should be able to make it work for their particular interests and needs - and that extends to the date of your local event. To highlight this, and to give us a little additional content for our week after, we'll be posting a couple of guest posts from the University of Kentucky, also known as UK, who are running an IGD event this coming week: one introducing their plans for the event and the second reporting on how it all went.
International Games Day at UK
The University of Kentucky (UK) will be hosting an international games day as part of its International Education Week activities. UK Libraries is partnering with the Media Depot (Analytics and Technology) and the Robert E. Hemenway Writing Center (College of Arts and Sciences) to host the event on Wednesday, November 19th. This date was chosen because it was in the middle of International Education Week and a peak day for students to be in the library, so there would be more of an opportunity to foster interaction among students from different countries. A number of ideas were explored, including hooking up with a group in another part of the world, but the date and time did not provide the opportunity to make that connection.
The event is still evolving but current plans are to have four gaming areas. There will be card games, board games, and video games available. In order to promote global awareness, a “Jeopardy” game has been developed and incorporates questions solicited from the international student population. To create a festive atmosphere there will be fresh popped popcorn and soft drinks available.
Students have been involved in a large part of planning. Undergraduate student interns developed and executed the public relations plan, students from the International Conversation Hour provided “Jeopardy” questions about their countries, and an undergraduate student intern designed the Jeopardy Powerpoint. The event will be held in “the Hub @ W.T.’s.” (also known as Willie T’s by the student population) in the William T. Young Library from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. The goal of the event is to promote cultural awareness among our students by providing a venue for our foreign and domestic students to come together in an unstructured social atmosphere. This is the first time such an event has been hosted, but if successful, it could be an annual event as part of International Education Week.
Thanks to the good folks from UK for sharing this! It's a great use of games as a way to build community in a low-pressure, friendly context. I look forward to hearing - and sharing - how it all went!
Hi everyone! We just realised that we haven't done our annual blog post swap with Nordic Game Day - so we're going to sneak it in before the big day. Here's NGD co-ordinator Lone Hejlskov Munkeberg with a bit of information about this partner event!
Hi from Nordic Game Day!
Phil from International Games Day has invited me to tell you a bit about how we work.
As we are closing in on the date November 15th, the Nordic libraries are doing the final preparations for the Nordic Game Day and International Games Day.
This year we have representatives from all the Nordic countries, since for the very first time we can welcome four Icelandic libraries to the community. All in all there will be 115 attending libraries in Denmark (30) - including the first attending library from Greenland! - Finland (34), Iceland (4), Norway (35) and Sweden (12). In Finland they just can’t get enough - since they are having a game WEEK. Way to go!
The Nordic event is supported by the Nordic Game Institute and the Nordic Council of Ministers. Even though it is supported by them, it is very much a community-driven event. The attending libraries all set up local initiatives and events. More about that later on.
As a coordinator I have different tasks. I make sure that the event has a new poster every year, created by a local graphic Artist (Pernille Sihm). I ensure there is established contact between the developers, publishers, game critics and the libraries. I post news on the blog, Twitter and Facebook etc. This year we have been able to send out free merchandise and boardgames for the libraries. This underlines that both the videogames industry and the boardgame publishers also support the event - they too want games to be as visible and accessible as possible in libraries!
Another coordinating task is the annual browser game tournament. And this year we have chosen a semi bald naked guy on a mini bike to run the competition, since we will be competing in the very cool browser game Icycle, by the British indie developer Damp Gnat! At stake are cool prizes like Samsung Galaxy TAB 4 10.1” WIFI and gift certificates to the online service OnePlay - who has a digital library lending service.
Locally all kinds of stuff is going on. There are talks from game critics, workshops, cosplay, manga, retrogames, FIFA tournaments, Minecraft LAN, ping pong, chess, card games and much more.
Some of the Nordic libraries are also participating in IGD initiatives, so we are exited that you once again will host great stuff like the Global Gossip Game and the International Minecraft Hunger Games tournament.
We wish you all a very cool Game Day!
Thanks Lone! And I'd just like to point out a mildly awesome fact: that Nordic Game Day is using a British game for their tournament, while IGD is using a Nordic (Swedish, to be precise) game for ours! We're international without even trying 🙂