What I'm Reading...

I'm nearly done with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and as such I'm still in the No Spoilers Camp. I'm impressed with it so far. The action is keeping me on the edge of my seat and I wonder how J.K. Rowling could have gotten any sleep at all while writing this book.

Besides this tome and the other 4 books I'm concurrently reading, I read many library blogs (28 of them at last count) via my feed reader of choice, Bloglines. By subscribing to all of these blogs through Bloglines, I save myself the hassle of going to 28 different websites every day. Instead, I make one stop at Bloglines and I can scan all of the new stuff and decide whether it's worth reading. Some of the blogs that I find perpetually worthwhile are:

  • Library Revolution: Emily posts about library technology, Library 2.0, and primarily, customer service in libraries. She has an eye for all of those hilariously awful things we do in libraries to make things easier for ourselves and inconvenience our users. Sometimes I read Library Revolution and have to hit my head against the nearest solid object. Why do we have to make things so difficult? For an idea of what I'm talking about, check this out.
  • DavidLeeKing: David was one of my favorite presenters at the Computers in Libraries conference Ruth and I attended in April 2007. He blogs about library websites, emerging technology, and change. And even though I primarily read his blog through an RSS reader, I sometimes like to drop by his site to see new photos and videos that he's added to his widgets. The dude can rock a dulcimer.
  • LibrarianInBlack: Sarah's blog has the honor of being one of the first librarian blogs that I started reading way back in 2004. LiB has survived many, many feed reader weedings. (That's hard to say...feed reader weedings...read weeder feedings...weed feader reedings!). A "tech librarian by default", Sarah's always got something good to say about useful web apps and tech training. In fact, she recently wrote an issue of ALA TechSource Reports on Technology Competencies for Library Staff.
So let's just pretend I don't have enough to read already. Recommend me more useful librarian blogs, please!


Gaming Symposium Wrap Up

Finishing up my conference blogging with some final thoughts. Liz Lawley's closing keynote, "Games without Borders: Gaming Beyond Consoles and Screens," though threatened to be overtaken by Vista and the projector not playing nicely, was a fitting end to an exciting event. What stuck with me most was her appeal to all of us to use our librarian evaluation skills to create selection tools to be used to recommend the best games. When we think about our own collection development standards in the library, those are the same issues faced by parents as they ask "What games are best for the child/teen/adult in my life?" Any libraries out there building selection tools for videogames yet?

As we are build up our gaming groups, we need to document all of the successes--pictures, anecdotes, and stories--so that the adult community can better understand what the tangible benefits of gaming are, and to make sense of their childrens' lives, and to gain support for this type of programming in the library. It would be really fun to have a non-librariany Gaming & Learning workshop for our own community. Having expert speakers present on the positives of gaming AND offering a non-threatening environment in which we're encouraging adults to play--this could go far in getting buy-in from those folks who keep our doors open.


Gaming for Adults @ PLCMC

Martin House and Mark Engelbrecht from the Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County shared information about their awesome undertaking to provide gaming programs for adults at PLCMC and its branches.

The Library applied for, and received, an LSTA grant to buy equipment and do a research study to answer the question "Does gaming bring adults into the library?"

With the grant money, PLCMC purchased:

  • 12 Alienware laptops for LAN play
    • Call of Duty 2
    • Need for Speed
    • Age of Empires
    • Madden 07
  • $2000 worth of board games
How are they doing it?
  • Events at 3 different locations
  • 2 in urban low-income neighborhoods, 1 in urban affluent neighborhood
  • events held once a month and rotated around branches
Promotion: do not rely on web as sole method of advertising, use sandwich board, flyers at local businesses, partner with local businesses such as comic book stores or game stores. They also recommend having a small printing budget for printing color flyers

Resistance: They did get some resistance from staff who thought the money would be better spent on books and other materials. Those who were already sold on gaming had to tout the educational, social learning & interaction, the promotion of the library, and reaching new non-traditional library patrons.
Some staff slowly saw value after success, some will never see it.

How to deal?
>encourage staff to attend the events
>point out that an unserved audience is being served

Some results:
  • majority of users from low-income areas
  • attendees range at 26+ but there's been good representation from 19-25 age group
  • younger adults drawn to these events
  • did not say that children are not welcome, though publicity says 18+
  • increase in approachability
  • in person marketing most effective
  • social interaction among very different segments of community
  • funding (though their LSTA grant covered it for this specific program)
  • staffing -- who is going to do setup, who is going to be present at event?
  • after hours events
  • coordinating equipment between branches
  • equipment damage and loss (putting it into annual budget)
  • getting staff buy-in
Other Considerations:
  • securing and transporting laptops
  • how long will it take to set everything up?
  • for PC gaming > much higher commitment from staff, esp. LAN; updates, machine setup w/ logins, comfort with troubleshooting PCs
  • staff have to know how to play the games
  • extension cords, powerstrips, optical mice (no wireless), steering wheels for driving games, no headphones [Interestingly, it was said that the headphones inhibited interaction; once they were taken away, the gamers were communicating, trash talking, having more fun!]
  • Hardware recommendations: 1G RAM (Vista - 2G +RAM), 60-100G HD
  • events should be 3-4 hours; otherwise it's not worth the time spent on setup
The guys ran out of time at the end, but Martin was nice enough to put his presentation materials on his website. Thanks! I got a lot out of this presentation, especially as I struggle to come up with appropriate ideas for future grant proposals. My brain is full!

Digital Downloads for Gamers

Superinformative Beth Gallaway (or shall I say, Information Goddess?) presented her top choices for downloadable and subscription-based games that can be used in the library. Her slideshow is here for the viewing, making my task of blogging this session so much easier! Additional comments and links follow:


  • Prima Strategy Guides > print on demand service, eGuides in PDF $12.99, full color
  • GameTap > subscription service; online arcade of 900+ video games, 8 logins per location, $6.95-9.95 month, Windows only, discounted if you sign up for an entire year at a time
  • Comcast Games on Demand > $14.95/month, includes Kids Play version all rated EC (early childhood) or E (everyone)
  • PlayFirst > Viacom service for $19.95, download a demo for free (one time fee per game)
  • Direct2Drive > game downloads from IGN, titles aimed at traditional gamer audience, ratings E-M ($20-49.99 full price for full version of a game, also offers bargains)
  • Shockwave Unlimited > ad-free access to downloadable games from Atom Entertainment ($4.95-9.95/month)
  • Overdrive > Beth's not holding her breath, but they say they will be offering arcade games, productivity (like Mavis Beacon Typing), family tree geneology maker and educational type games
  • StepMania > DDR for your fingers unless you have a USB pad (opensource, users are creating the dances, adding the songs, PC/Mac versions)
  • Snood > puzzle game, shooter game--highly addictive!
Games to Bookmark for Children:
  • Apple Corps > Mr. Potato Head online, but with different fruit and veg
  • Fun Brain > educational site in support of math, science and reading curriculum
  • Girls Go Tech > brought to you by the Girl Scouts
  • Neopets > highly commercial, raise a virtual pet
  • WebKinz > surpassing Neopets in popularity
Games to Bookmark for Teens/Adults:
  • Darfur is Dying > simulation game about genocide and the purpose of the game keep everyone in your refugee camp alive. This is an example of "games for change", games that have a serious instructional purpose. Note: this is part of mtvU.
  • Runescape > medieval MMORPG (tie it into learning about medieval period?)
  • Kingdom of Loathing > funny, illustrated w/ stick figure characters
  • iFiction > 250+ text games, interactive fiction (kind of like a choose your own adventure), tons of reading involved
  • Set Game > pattern recognition that enhances math literacy skills
  • Education Arcade
  • Games for change > Serious Games Initiative, games in education, training, health, politics, government, public policy

Day 3: Big Fun, Big Learning, Big Keynote

The keynote speaker for the last day of the Symposium was Greg Trefry, game designer for Gamelab and organizer of the Come Out and Play festival. [And I thought I had a cool job!]

Greg talked about Big Games, games that take place in the real world, engage the public (sometimes innocent bystanders), and involve the players in a real life environment -- a street, a neighborhood, an entire city. [By the way, I really like this guy's slides...photos with bold words (is that Impact?), not a bullet point in sight! I'm hoping he links to the presentation soon from his website.]

Big games are a mix of:

  • Folk Games
  • Alternative Reality Games > mostly played on Internet; internet based scavenger hunt like I Love Bees
  • Social experiment > mass pillow fight in Toronto
The Big Game Canon (as of 3 years ago):
  • PacManhattan
  • Mogi-Mogi > cellphone game to collect different stuff
  • Big Urban Game (BUG) > involve entire city of Minneapolis. spectacle! introduced idea of big inflatable pieces
Other games from last year's Come Out festival:
Library content > think of locations, collections, spaces (specific depts, rooms), unique identifiers, tools (copiers, wifi, computers)

5 ideas for libraries: (sketched out)
  • Secret Agent scavenger hunt > secret meeting spots, avoiding detection, collecting codes, level up
  • Then/Now > citywide photo game using historical or digital collections, go collect a photo of how something looks now
  • Rent Control > real real estate game using fire maps or something, take rules from Monopoly
  • Babel > a code breaking game using library's foreign language collection (whoever deciphers the most in a certain amount of time wins)
  • Dewey's Demons > collect creatures, could be a web based game
Make activities out of everyday things. Look around you, give goals to normal activities, and playtest it because games never work the first time around.


Tournament Games for Any Occasion (In 1000 WPM)

Presented by Eli Neiburger from Ann Arbor District Library. Admits that the presentation leans toward console games because that's what he likes best.

[whoa hey slow down there Eli...]

  • Audience
  • Appeal - like Supersmash
  • Name recognition / is there buzz? Katamari Damacy is awesome, but is it going to draw a crowd? Not likely.
  • Logistics - want to be able to run multiple matches at the same time
  • Victory conditions - how do you determine who won?
  • Appropriateness for the audience - video games are a controversial issue in politics
  • Accessibility - how easy is it to learn if you've never played before? ("Creating an atmosphere where people are comfortable sucking.")
  • Hipness - esp. important for teen crowd ("the goths with their big pants") ("simply too tough to be the pretty pink princess") ("i am too tortured to play Mario Kart")
  • Rabidity of the fanbase - how passionate are they about it? will they fuss if you don't adhere strictly to regulations? how do you balance the hardcore players with creating a positive environment for all levels?
  • Depth - How long does it take to gain mastery?
  • Repeatability - can you do it over and over again and have people show up?
Ratings > ESRB started in late 90s
- Referring to a game featuring Dana Plato and scantily clad co-eds in the 90s - "looks more like an Ed Wood film than Grand Theft Auto"
- In 2005, E (rated for Everyone) represents 49% of video game sales, while only 15% have a M rating (Mature)
- In addition to ESRB, check out gamerdad.com and theesa.com

Eli talked about the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of a variety of genres (Action/Adventure, RPGs, First-Person Shooter, Racing, Fighting, etc.). Check out his book to get the full low-down. And here are his slides! Hooray!

And the day is over. Phew. It was a long one.

Library as Laboratory

Subtitled: Supporting Culture with Creative and Participative Digital Learning

Matt Gullett and Kelly Czarnecki from the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County/ImaginOn

PLCMC started out by creating the Computer Club with the idea of kids being able to use the library for creation, not just consumption.

The Game Lab was developed to:

  • collaborate with customers, community, schools, organizations, corporations - partners currently include UNC Charlotte, Capcom, Wizards of the Coast, Youth Digital Arts Cyberschool, Library Game Lab @ Syracuse, AADL
  • create access to games and interactive media creation, recreation & learning
  • educate about "public good" benefits of gaming
How? Not sure yet! It's a work in progress.

Craig Davis from the Youth Digital Arts CyberSchool
1. If kids could create their own videogames, what would they be?
2. If libraries could offer videogame creation easily, would they?
3. What if a technophobic librarian could facilitate it? [This is exactly the thing that gives me a case of the heaving fantods when it's brought up in library meetings. Who's going to facilitate this program? How can anyone be trained to do this? Oh no, it's going to have to be me!! And I'm hardly a technophobe].

Some themes that are revealed:
  • Participatory culture does away with age hierarchies
  • Provoked to self-learning
  • Collaborative Intelligence

Building a Game Community and a Game-Friendly Environment

Donald Dennis - Syracuse Game Lab

Creating the right environment for gaming - considerations and
best practices

Game space: lighting, power, internet access, ambient sound, sound isolation, food & drink
Furniture: mobile, versatile furniture is the best. Need to be able to put tables together, reach across one table
Game storage: Has to be visible! There's no point in hiding your circulating collection away from the people who you want to get to it. People know the Library has books; how do they know you have games? [how powerful is your PR machine?]
Decor: Game companies have all sort of propaganda (i.e. posters and displays) that they can provide. Why not frame an old Monopoly board? [I am feeling particularly Martha. I just might!]
Web Community: Extends the physical community through calendars, RSS, forums, wikis, personal pages
Age/Social Group Focus: Cross generational will work, but it's not going to be a solid, consistent group. Think niche (teens, seniors, etc.)
Build around a Game Focus, but don't rule out other games: Traditional card/board/dice/war games, RPGs, Electronic (arcade, handheld, console, computer games including stand alone, networked, and MMORPGs)
Game book collection development: Choose Your Own Adventures, Lost World battle books, RPGs, Humor/Comics/Graphic Novels (esp. PVP, Dork Tower, Knights of the Dinner Table)

Activities [the good stuff]

  • recurring game nights
  • tournaments
  • spotlight on traditional games
[Oh dang! He's run out of time. Says that his PowerPoint will be posted on the web later on. Also in progress is the Library Game Lab Nexus, where people will be able to get together and talk about games and libraries.]

Need to build in connections to other library programming to get the buy-in from the community!

[All the talk about board games has me itching to play Scrabble.]

Getting Gaming on the Table

With all of the great presentations I've seen on offering specific gaming programs in public libraries, I was excited to attend a session all about the first steps necessary to get it going. Namely, the moolah and organizational support. Julie Scordato of Columbus Metropolitan Library wants to show us how!

She spoke of the need to have 2 ongoing conversations: one with staff and one with administration. Talking (and lots of it!) is what is required to sell people on the idea. What was so helpful about her comments that follow is that these methods are applicable to ANY new idea in the library, especially anything buzzwordy. Julie started by writing a 30 page (!!) proposal for gaming, requesting $15K to start the program. Her administration awarded her much more. Awesome!

* How do you sell people on gaming? Determine what's important to you: bringing in more teens? engaging teens? encouraging repeat visits? meeting teens where they are?

* Look at what is already in organization. Tie gaming into the library's mission/strategic plan and organizational culture. How can gaming support what your library is doing and meet the challenges facing it? Look at marketing studies, too. Are teens in our focus?

* Find allies in the Library. Don't just fall back on "admin is saying we have to do this." Quote: "It's a disadvantage if administration mandates gaming without previous staff buy-in."

* Avoid "positive negatives" as a reason for doing it. For example, "we gotta give the teens something to do because they're driving me crazy! " is not the best outcome!

* Find Your Gamers. They educate, reassure, informally answer questions. Find interested staff outside the department involved (Circ clerks, adult reference librarians, maintenance)

* Find Your Converts > staff who resisted, had no opinion, were on the fence

* Deal with the Naysayer. Encourage them to attend pilot programs, hook them up with their fellow converts and believers who they have cred with, and if that doesn't work, then agree to disagree as long as the administration is on board.

* Develop a proposal important to gain support and establish credibility. Tie into the educational value and tie to literacy. "Gaming is cool" is not enough. Show how it ties specifically into Library's mission and values, and have the cultural and statistical data to refute claims about its faddishness.

* Ask Admin: What extent do they envision their commitment? What is realistic timeline for implementation? What are expectations for staff involvement and follow-through?

* Get testimonials!

Growing a Gaming Program + How To Do It

Lots of good how-to information in this presentation, and it helps that all of the presenters are from suburban Chicago libraries. Maybe we'd see the same results and have the same challenges?

First up is Alex Tyle, Adult Services Director at Homer Township Public Library:

Gaming @ Homer Township PL

  • Library-wide focus on programming for teens: young adults club, book discussion, teen techies, teen interns, gaming events, teen leadership academy
  • Hit as many teen interests as possible
  • Positive comments from community as a whole; building good relationships with high schools
Considerations: (Note: open sessions get noncompetitive players while tourneys attract competition)
- schedule as an open session and tournaments with 3 rounds
- use 3 staff members to handle the crowd
- pair everyone off with someone from same level, do all 3 songs paired up together: 1st round is the library song choice, 2nd round song selected by one person in pair, then 3rd round chosen by other person in pair
Wii Sports:
- get extra batteries for remotes
- provide enough room for movement
Additional Activities: make sure there is other stuff to do while waiting their turn - board games, leftover crafts
Cost outlays:
- PS2 $130
- Dance pads & game $200 (redoctane.com)
- GH2 and guitars $139-180
- Wii $250
- Extra Wii remotes $40
- additional games often come with Wii remotes $50-$60
Ways around the initial cost include: borrow, wishlist, share with other libraries
Publicity: young adult club, teen techies, schools, posters, press releases, blog

Gaming @ Orland Park Public Library, Kelly Laszczak (Asst Head of YS at Orland Park PL)

- run over 3 months (saturdays once a month from 1-4)
- 2 qualifying rounds where they keep track of participant's scores
- participants with highest 36 scores from the first two rounds invited back for the finals in the 3rd month
- brackets created in publisher, printed poster size

DDR Tournament
- grades 6-12 regardless of skill level
- must be present at finals to win
- most kids used to playing 'heavy' load; usually play on lite or standard, then move up difficulty levels as things move on
- 22-32 kids in the finals; generally have 70 people in the room because friends and family come in final rounds
- make sure there are other things to do, like board games, snacks (a must!)
- prizes very important = Best Busy gift cards, coupons for local vendors
- parting gift something small (like ring pops!)

Chess Tournaments
- single elimination, all ages
- 2 qualifying rounds and 1 final based on performances in 1st round
- opponents selected at random during the first round

Eric Currie from Elmwood Park Public Library added that his library does all-day tournaments (9:30-4:30) on a Saturday !

Amy Alessio & Joe Torres from Schaumburg Township District Library wrapped it up with all the awesome stuff they're doing with their Teen Advisory Board.

Note: STDL gets corporate funding with its proximity to Sears, Motorola, Woodfield Mall

Teen Advisory Board
- had 9th anniversary in February
- now has 11-14 teens on the Board, mainly high school boys (including anime group, writing club) - TAB plans programs that they want to attend themselves
- Teen materials circ increased 600% (70% each years since TAB started)
- Input matters; TAB chooses themes, programs, logos, prizes, collection elements; plans their meetings; performs community service projects; redesigned Teen Center
- TAB members choose games and systems; surveys during Teen Read Week, Teen Tech Week, National Library Week

Game equipment
- most of the stuff purchased used (GameStop) w/ extended warranty as a possibility
- Cobalt Flux dance pads reserved for special occasions because they are so heavy and difficult to move, but offers true arcade experience. Best value is the Red Octane Dance Pads
- +3 portable LCD tvs

Gamers Group
- started in November 2006 at teens' request
- monthly session during school year, around 7 kids per meeting; use the group as a way to get info from teens about their interests

Future plans
- Integrating Web 2.0 elements (MySpace, Facebook, blog for communication in between sessions)
- More structured tournaments
- podcasting/videocasting (recently bought video camera to document gaming group activities)
- Wii Love Gaming

Gaming Symposium, Day 2

Hopped up on apple danish and coffee, I'm here in the scenic Marriott O'Hare for Day Two of the ALA Techsource Gaming and Learning in Libraries Symposium. Day One I was old-school Jenn with pad of paper and pen (so retro!), but I'm prepared to take full advantage of the free wifi today.

This morning's keynote is by James Paul Gee , author of What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy.

* Our educational system is driven by gaps-- gaps in literacy, applications, knowledge, tech savvy, innovation
* Why do most kids fail in applying knowledge but some get A's while others get F's? [A students competent at print literacy and parroting back definitions]
* Tech savvy = not afraid of tech stuff, can use it productively to create, not just consume
* Curriculum kills innovation, but innovation is the only thing that will keep us on the top of the economic pile

* Re: the digital divide: Simply handing people technologies will not lessen the gaps, it will widen them; poor families not able to provide the mentoring/scaffolding that middle-class families can

* YuGiOh card game uses academic language. The wonders of capitalism! They figured out how to sell complex learning systems that kids want to buy
* "School makes things that kids are good at hard"

There are 12 learning principles that games rely upon. Think for yourself, is it a good principle? If so, should we put it into school? If we can't put it in school, should we put it in a library?

  1. lower the consequences of failure - encourages exploration and risk taking > "fail early, fail often"
  2. performance before competence
  3. players high on the agency tree
  4. problems are well ordered
  5. cycles of challenge (cycle of expertise) - give a challenging problem, let them repeat it until it can be done in sleep, consolidate mastery, practicing it to death; then, mastery is challenged by The Boss
  6. stay within, but at the outer edge, of the player's "regime of competence" > feel challenged but it is doable = "pleasantly frustrated"
  7. encourage players to think about systems, not just isolated facts > Civilization, Sim City
  8. empathy for a complex system > scientist seeing his experiment from the electron's point of view [hellooo i am an electron! doing electrony things!]
  9. give verbal information "just in time" when players need and can use it - or "on demand" when the player asks for it
  10. show the meanings of words and symbols and show how they vary, don't just offer definitions = assigning a situated meaning
  11. modding attitude = modifying > if you can do better, you make it! Tony Hawk game, you can not only play the game, you can make it over again
  12. Assessment - games give tests all the time
- "Kids at risk" just means that "they don't like school"
- "Public schools are good for producing service workers"