International Games Day @ your library Game on November 18, 2017!

Book folks on games: Hail to the Chiefs! It’s the ALA and ALIA Presidents!

Posted on October 30, 2014

After finishing the "Game folks on libraries" series with the extraordinary Brenda Romero, I didn't want to drop the bar - so we're winding up this year's "Book folks on games" with a bang too! It's a double-header with the Presidents of both the American Library Association (ALA) and its new partner in IGD this year, the Australian Library & Information Association (ALIA). We're very honoured (and also honored) to have them both contributing their thoughts!

Courtney Young (ALA)

Normally I let people's bios provide most of the introductions, but in this case I feel it's a little understated. As the website she set up for her election campaign makes clear, Courtney is a woman of many accomplishments - indeed, it's remarkable to scroll down her list of "Selected Professional Activities" and realise that all this has been compressed into a mere decade-and-a-bit. (At the risk of making her blush - though there's no reason she should - the Endorsements page also makes for some impressive reading.)

Courtney L. Young is the 2014-2015 American Library Association (ALA) President. She is currently the Head Librarian and Professor of Women’s Studies at Pennsylvania State Greater Allegheny, and previously held positions at Penn State Beaver and Penn State University Park, Ohio State University, and Michigan State University. Within ALA, she has served on the Executive Board and the Council, and as President of the New Members Round Table. In 2011, Courtney was named a Library Journal "Mover & Shaker". Courtney graduated from the College of Wooster in Ohio with a B.A. in English and minors in Black Studies and Women's Studies. She received her M.S. in Library Science from Simmons College. Courtney frequently presents and publishes on issues related to academic librarianship, diversity, virtual reference, leadership, and professional development.

Courtney, welcome and thank you! We know you're busy, so we are both honoured and appreciative. Let's kick off with our first question: what is your past experience of play and games?

I have an extensive history with games and play. My older brothers played all types of electronic games, including handheld sports games and early console games.

We also play board games in my house. For example, I loved playing Monopoly... but the rest of the family was not as much of a fan because the game play took so long. Card games featured too. I used to watch my mother play solitaire, and Go Fish was one of my early favorites.

I also had a love for tabletop electronic games. One year for Christmas I received a Pac-Man system (see I spent a lot of time working on my high score and getting an extra life!

My first foray into computer gaming was Math Blaster!, designed to help me improve my math skills. My first gaming at the public library was as a pre-teen where I played Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? When my older brother went to graduate school he gave me his Nintendo. I owned some games, but would rent others from video stores as this was before libraries started lending games. I've owned a variety of gaming consoles (Sega Genesis, SNES, PS1, PS2, PS3, Game Boy, Nintendo GameCube, Wii). I still do a lot of gaming.

Thank you for sharing that! What do you see as the current state of games in libraries?

Games are being recognized more widely as important in our society. As a reference librarian I've noticed over the past ten years an increased interdisciplinary interest in game theory and gaming for course-related assignments. It is common on campus to see students gaming together between campuses, be it X-Box or Magic: the Gathering. Libraries hosting open houses increasingly include a gaming component for attendees. My public library colleagues host Wii for Seniors events. More academic libraries are developing game collections. As a natural gathering place in the community, the library is a great place for legal gaming to take place, such as chess tournaments.

And of course, the 2014 ALA Annual Conference's Opening General Session featured Jane McGonigal, author of Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World. She designs alternative reality games "that are designed to improve real lives and solve real problems."

I still wish I could have been there... where do you see this going, and where could it go?

I believe gaming will continue to be important and a part of everyday life. We know it can play an important role in learning - from my early experience with math skills software, to flight simulators for pilots. Games allow us to be creative and learn new things. They are also fun!

Gaming is a great way to come together as a family, friends, or a community. Libraries of all types play an integral role in fostering opportunities to come together, so through gaming programming (tournaments or even festivals) and collections that is possible. Games have the potential to bridge generations, cultures, and make the world a better place.


Damian Lodge (ALIA)

ALIA’s President, Damian Lodge, is similarly a man of many talents – including, I’ve just discovered, being both a rock musician and a guitar-maker! I had the pleasure of meeting Damian at the recent ALIA National Conference and discovered that on top of that and the professional achievements below, he is also a very affable chap.

Damian Lodge, is a Lecturer in Information Studies teaching in the areas of technology and management at the Wagga Campus of Charles Sturt University, an Australian university with a strong focus on rural and regional Australia with campuses around the country and over 2000 students studying Library and Information Management courses via distance education. Damian has been teaching in the School of Information Studies since 2003 and came to teaching from working in University Libraries for ten years and public libraries before that. He has a Masters in Library and Info Management and a Masters in Business Administration. He has served on the ALIA Board for a two year period (2006-2008) and is currently the President of ALIA. Damian's research interests are in library management and technology and he co-ordinates the Leadership specialisation in the School. He has written articles on staff development, organisational culture, teamwork and technology in libraries.

Thanks for your time Damian! We know it’s scarce, and we’re privileged to have you joining us too. So: what is your past experience of play and games?

I remember growing up as a kid and loading games onto my family’s Commodore 64 with the tape drive. The tape drive was a little faulty, and would chew up the tapes so the games wouldn’t play properly; even when they did work, the graphics were square blocks and the music that played was monophonic… but it was an experience! I was a fan of Space Invaders at the local sports club but I was a very ordinary gamer. Most of my friends in high school played computer games and played Dungeons & Dragons, a game my school tried to ban in the early days (which I think only made it more appealing). I didn’t play computer games in high school but did play with a few music software packages to write music, which in retrospect was still a form of electronic play. My family played board games regularly with Monopoly, Scrabble and Trivial Pursuit the favourites. My parents banned me from playing Monopoly against my sister due to my 'buy everything I land on and become the evil landlord' policy. My sister still won’t play Monopoly with me.

I have spent the last 25 years working in universities and the student spaces have always been full of games, with my favourite being Daytona USA. Why this game I have never understood, as I own two pushbikes and do not own a car – but the game just appealed to me! These days it’s apps, so Words with Friends is very popular and I did get caught up in Flappy Birds.

What do you see as the current state of games in libraries?

Gaming in libraries started slowly, but has really come in to its own with some great new purpose-built spaces in libraries for gaming and play. A brand new library in Melbourne – The Library at the Dock – has some brilliant spaces designed for gaming and play. It has a makerspace, gameplay zone, recording studio and a host of other spaces that really show what you can do with play and gaming in a library environment. As a musician and a guitar builder these spaces in libraries are just fantastic as I can go into the library and lay down some tracks in the recording studio using quality microphones and the latest music creation software then head to the next space and print off some guitar parts with the 3D printer. I may have to try and get a job at this library…

I also recently visited the chess collection and play space at the State Library of Victoria. Every table was in use with a great mix of people playing against each other.

Where do you see this going, and where could it go?

Gaming and play brings people together. My teenage children play games with people halfway across the world. We are all connected and gaming and play allows us to become increasingly connected with people we know – and interestingly, people we don’t. I get Candy Crush invites on a weekly basis and my family can easily spend hours in the evening together playing games on the 4 laptops, 2 iPads, 3 iPhones and an android device which are all loaded to the hilt with games.

In the future we are going to see further development of these devices that enhance the user experience, with far better graphics and sound and an amazing level of interaction and immersion. I am fascinated with smart glasses and how this and other wearable technology will be developed over the coming years. Libraries and the spaces we build are adapting well and are really quite innovative. Librarians understand change and the management of change well, as this is part of our everyday work life due to the nature of our business! We are building great spaces and partnerships, and utilising new technologies to provide services that are bring new people into our libraries every day.


Thanks again to both Courtney and Damian for taking time out of their busy schedules to answer our questions!

A GameRT view on ALA Annual

Posted on July 3, 2014

The past weekend saw the American Library Association's Annual conference (ALA Annual) in Las Vegas. As an Australian on a budget, sadly your humble editor was unable to attend - but the IGD team, and the Games and Gaming Round Table (GameRT) more generally, were well represented. GameRT President and IGD Chair Diane Robson has prepared the following report (which includes material from other reportage by Member-At-Large Brian Mayer, excerpted with permission and linked below).

The Games and Gaming Round Table (GameRT) had a banner year at the American Libraries Association Conference in Las Vegas. The round table’s first event was a preconference session on Meaningful Gamification presented by Dr. Scott Nicholson, director of the Because Play Matters Game Lab. About fifty attendees learned about gamification, motivation and goals, as well as ways to effectively reward participants. Participants spent the 3 hours immersed in material that Nicholson has been known to spend an entire term at Syracuse University teaching, through an mixture of listening to him speak and then working through sections of a binder. At the conclusion of the session, participants left equipped to take an initial concept and to turn it into meaningful play.

The conference was of course opened with a keynote by world-renowned game designer Jane McGonigal - we'll post a link to video of her presentation if and when we get one, but meanwhile here are a couple of short interviews with Dr McGonigal on The Impact of Video Games and The Impact of Libraries.

Friday at 5pm, the Exhibit Hall opened to a mad rush of librarians, and this year GameRT had an exhibit booth. For this one year we were able to showcase our Round Table and allow a couple of game publishers see the benefit of connecting with librarians at the Annual convention. GameRT handed out information about our convention programs and the Round Table, International Games Day brochures, and branded key chains. Hundreds of librarians stopped by to talk to the two publishers, Eagle/Gryphon Games and Mayfair, as well as to learn about what GameRT has to offer librarians interested in games and gaming in libraries.

On Friday night, GameRT and the ALA Comic Book and Graphic Novel Member Initiative Group hosted annual celebration ALAplay - which saw a space twice the size of last year's event filled to the brim, despite ALAplay being held in Caesar's Palace rather than in the main convention center! More detail below.

On Saturday, GameRT's featured program was Come Make a Game, another fascinating presentation by Dr Scott Nicholson that had people playing and creating all at once. More information is included below!

Relatedly, the Game Making Interest Group of the ALA's Library and Information Technology Association (LITA) division also held a meeting on Sunday morning that sounds fascinating. [Editor's note: We will have to talk to them about collaboration for IGD...]

And lastly, Sunday afternoon saw a gathering of the handful of the IGD volunteers who made it to Annual (plus one who Skyped in from the following morning in Australia) - in the end it was not a huge number of us, as only half the US team made it to Annual and not all of those could make it to our meeting, but nonetheless it was great to have a chance to meet face-to-face and celebrate all we've achieved thus far - and the year we look like having. We were joined by Pierce Watters of Paizo Publishing, who was extremely enthusiastic about the future of games in libraries and volunteered to try and bring more publisher participants to ALAplay and other ALA activities next year.

Thanks to Brian Mayer for being a reporter for the ALA Annual GameRT programs. Another thank you goes to Jenny Levine who helps us make it all happen!

[Ed.: I second those motions but add a minor point of order - thanks to Diane as well for keeping all the GameRT's balls in the air!]


ALA Play

(Contains excerpted material from

ALAplay 2014, hosted by GameRT and the ALA Comic Book and Graphic Novel Member Initiative Group, attracted about 300 people with an evening full of fun and learning.

ALAplay is a space where the graphic novel, cosplay and gaming communities collide. This year the following publishers were able to join us to showcase their games.

HL Games, the publishers of Word Winder, a word-search game designed by David L. Hoyt of Jumble fame, had a giant version of its game for attendees, who got to kick off their shoes and get spelling.

Eagle and Gryphon Games brought out several tables full of their games and had on hand one of their main designers, Alf Seegert, who walked people through many of his designs, both current and upcoming.

Mayfair Games had a number of titles for demonstration, including its wildly popular Star Trek Catan, a sci-fi re-theming of the award-winning Settlers of Catan board game.

IGD@yl donor Paizo Publishing was there, running demos of its Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Beginner Box and showcasing a preview of the upcoming Skull & Shackles expansion for its Pathfinder Adventure Card Game series. The demoing of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game was particularly notable as it was conducted for Paizo by Garrett Gottschalk, a librarian in the Chicago area who is also a volunteer GM for Pathfinder (for those in the Pathfinder Society, Garrett has the title of Venture-Lieutenant). Several observers commented on Garrett's appealing style, as in: “Wow, he does so many voices. This is great!”

(Above-mentioned Paizo staffer Pierce Watters added his praises of Garrett, saying afterward that "He understood the needs and functions of libraries and also how Pathfinder could fit into a program. If I may be allowed a little purple prose, it was as if we had a booth at a law enforcement convention and Batman was at our booth." Nice work, Garrett!)

Lastly, Set Enterprises was busy showing off a wide selection of games, including the SET board game, Quiddler, and its newest game, Karma.

The presence of game publishers is a strong move forward for the event, exposing librarians to the wide range of games and play resources available for using their programs but also showing to publishers the interest and enthusiasm the library community has for gaming.

Peppered among the gaming raucous were other islands of interest. Scott Nicholson had his face-painting stand open for business, adorning the faces of attendees with third eyes and butterflies. Matthew Murray had a graphic novel Readers’ Advisory Device (RAD) that he built using a Raspberry Pi machine that dispenses printed recommendations.

There was also a Comic Jam collaborative comic going where attendees could add to crowdsourced strips, many of which were initiated by illustrators from Artist Alley on the exhibit floor. Librarian P. J. Bentley shared information about a gamers’ advisory program at his library in Portland, Oregon.

And photographer Kyle Cassidy snapped photos of librarians to extend his project that was featured on Slate in February. Cassidy ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to attend Annual to take more photographs and turn the event into a documentary, narrated by author Neil Gaiman.

The evening was a huge success thanks in large part to the hard work of those involved in planning and promoting, along with the ever-growing support and interest of the library community in all things gaming.


Come Make a Game: Library Game Jams

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The GameRT program, again presented by Dr. Scott Nicholson, was Come Make a Game: Library Game Jams. The session was filled with more than 100 people and hummed with enthusiasm rarely seen at programs.

“This is the most energy I have seen in one of my sessions,” said Scott Nicholson, associate professor at the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University and director of the Because Play Matters game lab.

Nicholson led attendees through the process of running a “game jam,” giving them the tools and confidence to run one back at their own libraries. Game jams are design activities, either analog or digital, in which groups of people work together to make a game within some constraints, such as time, materials, and/or theme.

Attendees began by playing Awesome Time, a game with almost no rules other than to take turns rolling the dice; the first person to the end of the path wins. While amusing within the context of the group, the game is intentionally broken with lots of uncertainty in the rules. (What happens if you land on another player? Do you need exact count to get to the end?) It also lacks any real mechanisms or a theme, features that often make games engaging and enjoyable for players. That is where the “jam” comes in.

Next the groups were told go back and fix the game, trying to make it better by adding such elements as:

  • Interesting decisions
  • Conflict
  • Risk
  • Resource management
  • Dexterity
  • Speed
  • Storytelling

To help with the task, each table was loaded with game bits from Eagle and Gryphon Games's game designer toolkit, which was a product of a successful Kickstarter campaign (the company plans to release more toolkits soon).

The rest of the session was a frenzy of creativity and laughter as librarians worked together “fixing” Nicholson’s broken game and slowly designing their own. While time did not permit sharing, in application patrons and student could then share their game designs with one another or introduce them to the community in an open house or game fair where they can talk and discuss their designs.

All the fun and excitement aside, the program was important as it helped showcase how gaming programs in libraries are moving forward, beyond recreational and outreach services, and that gaming can support instructional support and tie in with maker and community programs.

Thanks Diane! All in all, an amazing weekend for games in libraries! And just quietly, next year sounds even more amazing, with the momentum among both libraries and publishers growing steadily. Plus it's in San Francisco... time to start saving so we can all meet in The City in 2015! And for my fellow Antipodeans, if you're coming to ALIA's 2014 conference, keep an eye out for me and we'll scheme about how we can catch up and maybe even go one better...

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