Are you a gamer? If not, then you probably know someone who is. The spouse who is addicted to SCRABBLE or Words with Friends, the friend who plays modern board games, the kids who still play your favorite childhood board games and others who play today's more social video games. Gaming is everywhere today, including at your local library.
International Games Day @ your library is an annual initiative of the American Library Association to reconnect communities through their libraries around the educational, recreational and social value of all types of games. Now in its fifth year, this community event has seen more than 100,000 people play games together over the last four years.
During International Games Day on Saturday, Nov. 3, more than 1,000 libraries will hold a variety of gaming activities that include modern board games, video games, card games and role playing games, as well as two International Video Game Tournaments in which libraries from all 50 U.S. states and countries including Australia, India, Japan, the Philippines and the United Kingdom can compete against each other.
Why do libraries offer games and gameplay? For the same reasons libraries offer books, music, craft programs and other services - to bring communities together around learning and recreation and to encourage interaction between people of all ages and cultures.
Most days you're unlikely to see a middle school student playing games with a high school student in the schoolyard, but that's exactly what happens in libraries. The best social games encourage ties that carry over into other activities and venues, and in a library setting they can break down barriers and get kids invested in their communities.
Libraries still offer storytime, a social experience around books that teaches children (and adults) the value of reading and literacy as both an individual and communal experience. The same is true with book clubs where the community comes together around the format of books to discuss the information and knowledge learned from reading them.
Libraries also offer music and movies, and not just for educational purposes. Most public libraries include supporting their community's recreational pursuits in their mission statement because it's okay to listen to music or watch a movie for fun. Some libraries also create a social experience around media by hosting bands, showing movies and even helping residents to create their own music and videos.
Most public libraries also provide programs for kids, adults, seniors, families and everyone else in the community. The range of subjects includes everything from crafting and knitting to cooking and auto repair. Libraries also fill an important role teaching users of all ages how to find information online, search for a job, fill out government forms online and even how to use a computer. These services can include books, but sometimes they don't. The services still center on knowledge, information and recreation; it's just the container that's changed.
Games in libraries are no different, and in fact they've been available in libraries for decades as chess sets, SCRABBLE boards and even summer reading programs. Games involve knowledge, information and recreation, albeit in a different container than just plain text on the printed page. Today's more social board and video games meet the goals for those libraries that want to bring diverse groups of people together to play, something we all do far too little of these days.
Gaming of all types at the library encourages young patrons to interact with a diverse group of peers, share their expertise with others (including adults), and develop new strategies for gaming and learning. Plus, it's a way for people of all ages and cultures to have fun in the library and interact with other members of the community. Games Day is a great opportunity for families to get out of the house and play together in the last safe, non-commercialized space that welcomes everyone.
Check with your local library to see if it's hosting an International Games Day event where you can take a break to join in the fun and meet new people. If your library isn't participating in this year's event, help them plan one for next year and you'll see these types of positive interactions happen in your own community. Game on!
Jenny Levine is the Strategy Guide at the American Library Association, the oldest and largest library association in the world. Its mission is to promote the highest quality library and information services and public access to information for all.