Video Games and Your Local Library: Why Not?

Your local library is a wonderful tool. If you haven't been there lately, maybe you should make the trip sometime this week. While you're there, take a copy of this editorial and ask the librarian "Why are there no video games here?" I'm not talking about just the educational software either. Sure, it sounds a little odd at first, but lets go through the reasons.

I know some have carried games in the past (and small number may still do so). I ran across a few NES games at a garage sale once with library stickers on them. So, we know that it can/has happened, but now that they've become big business, why doesn't every library do so? Video games outrank movies in sheer dollar amounts and that gap widens every year. There are nearly 74 million Playstation 2's in homes across the world and the PS One has hit numbers over a 100 million. With each new day, someone else becomes hooked on this new entertainment medium and buys a console.

Now, the Playstation 2 has the capability to play DVD movies. Having been there numerous times, my library has a vast selection of movies for rent, both on VHS and on DVD. It can be argued that those movies are there for educational purposes. I can see how that would work for something like "Citizen Kane," but I highly doubt a teacher will ask a student to go out and rent "White Chicks" for a school project anytime soon. In fact, I'm sure the same thing could be said for a video game. At least not yet, no educator will ask a student to rent a video game.

"But libraries are for educational purposes only!" Ok, ignoring the above point for a second, let's see just how much of the standard library really does serve its intended purpose. We've got a large section of encyclopedias, non-fiction, and biographies, but that's really about it. I've seen people using the Internet connections to play "Slingo." Rule those out. Oh, and just because a book is a book, doesn't make it educational. I recently read a book called "Vespers." It's about mutated bats that come out of the sky and eat people. If you think you can find some value in that, go right ahead and try.

"But movies are an art form!" Ok, we'll ignore that first argument again for this one. When movies first started making an appearance, you could talk to a hundred people and not a single one would consider them an art form. Video games have been around for about 30 years now, still in their infancy comparatively. This is just another way the games are not being acknowledged as a viable form. I dare you to look at a game like "Jak 3" and tell me that's not art. Not only does it create and entire world, but also it's gorgeous at the same time.

"But we don't have the funding!" Now, why would that be? Hmm, let's think about it. Kids! So few kids are making an effort (or ask) to visit the library these days, it's not wonder why money isn't being pumped in. You toss a few video games into the equation and they'll show up in droves. More people visit, more voters on your side, and the bigger the levy on the next ballot. Simple as that.

"But kids still won't check out books." Fine, we'll institute a number of programs to maker sure that doesn't happen. You want to rent "Halo 2?" You sit down right there and read about the American Revolution in Britannica, in front of the librarian. You want to rent the new James Bond game? You have to check out two books. If the kid has a parent at home who cares enough, they won't let him get another game until those books are finished.

"But video games are so violent!" Well, considering that I just checked out the brutal "City of God" on DVD last week, that's kind of a mute point. If you feel that strongly about it, games are now rated. Use that system and don't buy anything you feel is inappropriate.

"But what of the adults?" Hopefully by the time their 18, the average person would know enough that books are not boring and may find something they like when they come in. If not, a limit of one game per person would be fine. That keeps the majority of the inventory there for the target audience and makes sure that the adult will keep coming back to get something else. Something else has to catch their eye eventually.

In the end, it becomes beneficial not only to the library who would draw a record number of children (outside of school field trips), but to the kids themselves as well. I don't believe games should just be tossed out there for the public to consume just yet, but with the proper, well thought out program, it would be a huge success. That goes for both the younger and older crowds. Just the vision of having a library packed with people should be enough to get a small inventory started.

Comments (1)

Jami:

Thank you!

I am a library science student working on incorporating video games into the library.

If you really want to get video game in your library you should look at the mission statement. It will most likely say that they meet the recreational needs of the patrons. That is your foot in the door.

Pew American Life and Internet project reported that the average age of the gamer is 30. In a 2003 survey, 100% of college student interviewed had played a game at least once.

I am serving on a discussion group for Young Adult librarians about incorporating games. We hosted a tournament in January, and many librarians have responded.

The more library users that come in and ask for this service the more it will happen.

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