Monday, October 13, 2008

Targeting Teens Only: Example Time

Let's follow up on the topic of separation of services for teens and the remaining patronage can be seen in the lively conversations the world has been having about video games in the library. Interactive video games such as Rock Band and Dance Dance Revolution have been popular additions to public libraries—but as an attraction for the teen crowd primarily.

The coverage of the new gameplay in libraries ignores all other potential audiences in favor of attracting that teen/tween demographic. What seems to be forgotten is that Grandma’s a gamer too! With the introduction of the Nintendo Wii, popular tech blogs stood up and took notice of the attention the gaming system got from the 60+ crowd as well as the youth.

With the Nintendo Wii already getting teens into the library, why aren’t these programs also being offered up to an older crowd?


Nate Palmer said...

I think libraries need to know their communities. Not all seniors enjoy gaming, although there are several out there. If a community does not have a demand for an adult gaming time, I think the budget and time could be used for other adult programs. If the teens/tweens are attending these programs, a library may want to continue to offer this activity. Libraries are a place of community. At the library I work at we have drawn several of the teens who attend the gaming time to visit other programs, like book talks, and readers’ advisory groups.

LaurieC said...

I think it is a great idea! Also, there is little cost involved in giving it a try. Especially since the libraries that do this regularly usually own the equipment, so why not offer a gaming program for adults? Change up the snacks & the display and boom! you've got a fun and low cost program....sounds like fun!

Unknown said...


I would like to make this question broader: is gaming library related? or is it just a fun thing that libraries do for teens? More specifically, I would love to hear everyone's thoughts on whether gaming is a learning experience for kids.

If you follow the original blog's link to the story on the New York Library, you will learn that the New York Public Library thinks gaming for teens is educational, promotes learning, and is therefore a library-related activity. They are "an institution that prides itself on bringing the newest, hottest, and most innovative information in any format to New York City’s communities."

So I'm thinking: ok, information. they must be thinking about informational games, like Jeopardy or whatever.

Nope: "Games will include Wii Play, Tony Hawk's Project 8, Guitar Hero 3, Dance Dance Revolution, Mario Party 8, and Brunswick Pro-Bowling."

They think "games make learning fun" and "have an infinite range of solutions" and that "Players can enroll as advanced players, and spend hundreds of hours with the game and mastering its basic rules" (is that a good thing?).

Anyway, my opinion is that games are fun, and libraries should offer them to teens because they are fun. But lets not pretend that they are learning devices, unless you stretch the meaning of "learning" as far as it can go. I like the idea of teens going to the library to have fun and perhaps eventually reading a book in the process. I agree with the Young Adult Library Services Association, which says “Come for the technology and games, stay for the books.”

Anonymous said...

I agreed with the comments in the article about teens being the next taxpayers, so we need to make sure they see libraries as valuable places. I think that anything we can do to make teens read will be beneficial, even if the teens "come in for the games and stay for the books" as the article said.
Last year, I read an article in the New York times (I don't remember the title)that talked about how reading has to be very tailored to the teen, but that the teen doesn't always need to notice someone has "tailored" the book to them. The person who wrote the article had twin sons and he talked about how he got them to read-he "dropped" books of their interest near them, or left them lying around. One twin was interested in the military, so his dad "dropped" book on Westpoint near him and waited to see if he read it. (He did) When you get teens in the library for the technology you can get them near and them...they'll probably read them! Also, this week is Teen Read week. If you know any teens check and see if they are reading.
In response the question that teens are gamers, why not adults too there are several things to consider. First, as Nate already said, not all adults are gamers. However, I think encouraging teens and adults to be gamers has some great programming possibilities. For example: A Grandparents-and their grandkids game night. You could have snacks and games both video and board games. You could also incorporate books into this by sponsoring book clubs or having a game or quiz show type program in which teens and their grandparents or parents had to compare books (or recount the ones they read over and over to their teen.
One thing I have learned in working with teens at summer camp-they love to tell each other stories and they also love to teach each other things (even if they don't notice that's what they are doing. There are good examples of this in the NYT articles where the librarians learned from the teens just by listening to them as they talked to each other or played the video games. You can also learn a lot about teens if you drive a bunch of them somewhere and listen to their conversations...they'll be involved so they won't notice anyone else listening.

Beth Williams said...

I agree with the YALSA president's quote from the New York Times: “One thing that YALSA has often said is, ‘Come for the technology and games, stay for the books.’ It’s a great way to bring young people into the library, with something they really enjoy and is really relevant to their lives, like getting younger children into the library with crafts.”

I see no problem with a well directed gaming program being used as a method of bringing young people, or more precise, people of all ages, into the library. My personal experience with my nephew has been that his interest in reading was boosted by some of the video games he has played, one in particular called Empire Earth. He wanted to learn more about some of the historical epochs presented in the game, and checked out some books on the Middle Ages, and the Renaissance.

I believe that gaming programs can promote learning if librarians take the initiative to cross-promote books and games effectlvely. Getting teens to connect learning to gaming is a good way to make learning fun, and it will keep them coming back to the library.

With regard to adding older people to the gaming mix, I agree with Susan that there are tremendous possibilities, such as bringing a larger cross section of the community together for a common experience. The benefits of promoting the library as a fun place to be are obvious, and it creates a fun learning experience for families. I was disgusted by many of the comments that appear after the stories about gaming seniors, as cited in the original post. They show the dehumanizing disrespect that older people face every day. I think bringing younger and older people together, around this so-called, "youthful" activity, will encourage a greater respect for each other's interests and worth as human beings.

Katherine said...

Well rounded individuals, regardless of their age, have a variety of interests and hobbies that they enjoy. The idea of coming for the games and staying for the books is wonderful. Even though the games being featured are not particularly educational, a lot of the books being read are not either (ever notice the size of the mystery collection at your typical public library?). Reading is often a recreational activity, but is also solitary. If people can use the library for that sort of recreational activity, why not use it for more social activities as well?

Additionally, many different types of media have been incorporated into libraries throughout the years, including film and music collections. There can be a big difference between "intellectual" movies and music and "recreational" movies and music, but there is also a big difference in those types of books also. Games are no different than other forms of media in their infancy. If we start incorporating the format into libraries now, we can broaden the use of gaming technology and possibly turn it into a more intellectual pursuit.

Any program that can connect teens and seniors deserves a level of support from society, and libraries are situated to do just that. Staying relevant, whether through the acquisition of fictional novels or video games, is key to libraries surviving on public funding into the future.

Jeehan said...

I would have to say if gaming is introduced in a library it should be made available to everyone but only if it fits the needs of that community and if it really does have an educational value. I personally feel that offering gaming programs which may not have any educational value should be limited....A library should be an inetresting place to visit but we don't want it turning into a CJ Barrymore's. A once in a while thing is not such a bad thing if it gets people of all ages into the library and offers some educational value.

Jeehan said...

In an online articel titled, "Not Your Parents' Library: Video Game Checkout. i found one very expected comment and one that I think kind of many libraries shy away from this idea of having gaming programs in their libraries. The comment by a teenagers in regards to what the parents would think of teens going to the library is as follows, "They'll probably like it that we're going to the library more," she joked, "tell them we're going to get books, but we're really getting video games." Many teens will probaby juts go for the video games or gaming but there will be a few or in some cases a good number whom will also check out the libraries teen collection, and of course they won't forget to also visit the library's DVD collection. :-) Whatever the case maybe it is up to each individual library to decide whether it is appropriate or not to have these programs/collections. It's not a one size fits all thing.

Jeehan said...

oops! I forgot to paste the link for the article I mentioned. Here it is:

Carin Monticello said...

My local library offers a game night the first Thursday of every month and it is geared towards teens. I think it is important to get other members of the community involved and introduce them to this type of technology. I know just from my experience with my grandmother, she tends to shy away from any new technology initially, because it is so unfamiliar to her. Once my mother and I take the time to teach her how to use it, she usually loves it. Many senior citizens do not have family that is nearby or actively involved. I think it would be great for the library to extend these game nights to senior citizens. By having younger patrons there to act as instructors, it can help bring the community closer together by helping to bridge an age gap.

Lauren said...

I think the point to having game nights at a library is to promote the spirit of community. Many kids play video games either alone or with just a few friends but if the library is opening the game nights up to the whole community, it's a great way for kids to meet new friends and get that social interaction they might be lacking. I think that nate had it right when he said that not all seniors enjoy gaming. If there were games like Wii Fit, the library might get a more diverse crowd but I think that having it geared toward mostly young kids and teens is the best way to go. If there is interest in the community for an adult game night, then it could be incorporated later.

Lauren said...

Uhh... I left the above comment but I was signed in under another name. Just so you know! Oops!

Unknown said...

Katherine makes a good point, I think. Gaming can be recreational and intellectual, but so can books, music, and movies (all of which are in the library).

So to be fair, I think, if gaming is going to be part of the library, doesn't it make sense that both the recreational and educational aspects of gaming should be represented? But yet, if I look at the list of games that New York public libraries are offering, there is no educational gaming.

Barbara Hooker said...

Like others, I have mixed feelings about gaming and its place in public libraries. On one hand, many being chosen are not educational, and it doesn't seem like an appropriate place for gaming. However, by offering games for teens and others who may not otherwise have access to these gaming systems, it can promote a sense of community and involvement with other people. I guess my feelings on the subject boil down to it needing to be a happy medium. I don't think libraries should lose their focus of education, but should also be open to limited gaming as well. Perhaps a night promoting teens teaching grandparents the games would be a good learning opportunity.