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Grand Theft Library? Overcoming Resistance to Video Games in the Library Anthony Petryk - Carleton University Library Laura (Pallister) Carter - Kingston Frontenac Public Library Ontario Library Association Super Conference 2009 Agenda  1. Introduction to gaming

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grand theft library

Grand Theft Library?

Overcoming Resistance to Video Games in the Library

Anthony Petryk - Carleton University Library

Laura (Pallister) Carter - Kingston Frontenac Public Library

Ontario Library Association Super Conference




1. Introduction to gaming

2. Motivation for games in the library

3. Case Studies: Kingston Frontenac Public Library

                             Carleton University Library

4. Dealing with resistance to gaming initiatives

5. Common objections - and how to respond to them

6. Closing thoughts and discussion 

introduction to gaming

Introduction to gaming

Gaming can be card games, board games, console video games (Wii, XBOX, Playstation) or computer video games.

Wide variety of video games on the market:

First Person Shooter: Call of Duty

Racing Games: Mario Kart Wii

Role Playing Games: Mass Effect

Rhythm Games: Dance Dance Revolution

Sports Games: Madden NFL 09

Simulation: Sims, Nintendogs

This presentation will focus on video games.

introduction to gaming continued

Introduction to gaming (continued)

Pew Internet and American Life Project study from September 2008 indicates basically all American teens play some sort of game regularly, and half of them play everyday.

Pew study from December 2008 indicates that 53% of American adults play some sort of video game, handheld electronic game or computer game.  A third of players 65 and over play every day, and 20% of younger adults playing daily.



Introduction to gaming

Motivation for games in the library

Case Studies: KFPL and CUL

Dealing with resistance to gaming initiatives

Common objections - and how to respond to them

Closing thoughts and discussion 

motivation for gaming in libraries

Motivation for gaming in libraries

Playing games helps develop and maintain cognitive ability:

Decision making - Spore

Logical thinking - Puzzle Quest

Problem solving - Legend of Zelda

Some newer games also help improve physical ability:

Fitness - Wii Fit

Hand-Eye coordination - Wii Sports

Manual dexterity - Guitar Hero

motivation for gaming in libraries continued

Motivation for gaming in libraries (continued)

Games can also help teach basic life skills:

Information retrieval - World of Warcraft

Money management - Animal Crossing

Reading - Elder Scrolls: Oblivion

Gaming is frequently not a solo activity - it typically makes children/teens more social, not less.

Gaming teaches children and teens that it is okay to fail - you can modify your strategy and try again.

motivation for gaming in libraries continued8

Motivation for gaming in libraries (continued)

Games and gaming is now a research area in its own right:

Computer Game Development

Game Developer Research (CMP Media)

Interactive Multimedia Design

Simulation and Gaming (Sage Publications)

Social and Cultural Studies

Games and Culture (Sage Publications)

Also a growing body of game-related literature in education, psychology, etc.

motivation for gaming in libraries continued9

Motivation for gaming in libraries (continued)

Libraries can benefit from gaming initiatives in measurable ways:

Increased circulation statistics

New membership from under-served populations:



Financially disadvantaged

Increased program attendance

Library should be an enjoyable destination that is responsive to user needs and requests - give them what they want!



Introduction to gaming

Motivation for games in the library

Case Studies: KFPL and CUL

Dealing with resistance to gaming initiatives

Common objections - and how to respond to them

Closing thoughts and discussion 

case study kfpl

Case Study: KFPL 

Decision to pursue Gaming at KFPL came out of:

Staff interest

Perceived teen interest

An awareness that gaming programs were extremely successful at other libraries

Sent proposal to management, tied gaming initiative to the  KFPL Mission Statement “[The library is] a major source of leisure activity”.

Cross-functional Gaming Committee formed in October 2007, asking two main questions:

"Where can we go?"

"Do we want to go there?"

case study kfpl continued

Case Study: KFPL (continued)

Decided to go with console gaming:

Build a collection for lending

Buy hardware and games for programming

No new money in library budget, so explored alternate sources of funding.  Received a grant from the Library Strategic Development Fund:

"The support of the Government of Ontario, through the Ministry of Culture, is gratefully acknowledged!"

Initially a pilot project only: see what could be accomplished with the grant money

case study kfpl continued13

Case Study: KFPL (continued)


Selecting (staff, patron involvement, TAG)

Purchasing – LSC? Retail?




With partners






case study kfpl continued14

Case Study: KFPL (continued)


General awareness of gaming initiative and goals

Equipment and game training



Statistics (June 2008-January 2009)

Currently 129 games in system

930 circs

2087 reservations ever

Ongoing Funding

case study cul

Case Study: CUL

"Games in the Library" started as a request from the faculty to support teaching/research programs in two areas: Computer Science and Industrial Design.

Well-received by senior management due to the library's and university's most recent strategic directions:

Carleton Library 2008-2010 Strategic Plan: Sets a goal to "develop specialized library [...] collections."

Carleton University 2008 Strategic Plan: Supports a new area of endeavour for the university - "new digital media [...] such as digital game studies and cybercultural studies".

case study cul continued

Case Study: CUL (continued)

Formed a "Games and Immersive Media" working group:

Project scope:

Contemporary collection

Gaming lab

Archive collection

Membership from across campus: 


Computer and Communications Services

Student Academic Success Center

Library (Archives, Reference, and Systems)

Formal project proposal due by Spring

case study cul continued17

Case Study: CUL (continued)

Initial reactions to the Games in the Library:

Collections Department: uncertainty about acceptance parameters, dealing with a new media type.

Technical Services: questions about testing, creating backups, details in item records, etc.

Reference: unease about budget reallocation, offensive content.

In general, a feeling that the project is moving ahead without sufficient consultation; lack of communication that we're still at the project proposal stage.



Introduction to gaming

Motivation for games in the library

Case Studies: KFPL and CUL

Dealing with resistance to gaming initiatives

Common objections - and how to respond to them

Closing thoughts and discussionscussion

dealing with resistance to gaming initiatives

Dealing with resistance to gaming initiatives

So you have a mandate to move forward with a gaming initiative.  How do you get everyone on board?

Successful buy-in from both staff and users requires: 




- Crit Stuart (Georgia Tech), Scholars Portal Day 2009

communicating with staff

Communicating with staff

Demonstrate the demand from users (patrons or faculty)

May be difficult to find hard data at first

Talk about success stories at similar libraries

From the library literature

From conferences such as GLLS

Create an internal FAQ

Take an active role in debunking rumours

Make sure front-line staff know enough about the project to answer questions from the public

communicating with users

Communicating with users

Create polls and blog entries on public website

Be ready to respond to negative comments

Post a public version of the internal FAQ

Create book displays about gaming

Include fiction, nonfiction, and magazines

Tailor some displays to gamers, some to general public

Offer "Gaming for Beginners" workshops

Use staff's personal equipment, if necessary

communicating with users continued

Communicating with users (continued)

Dedicate a highly visible space to the new collection

Put up a "coming soon" sign well before the launch

Attract external publicity (free publicity)

Still a "story" for most journalists

Invite politicians - great exposure for them too

Stage the official launch in a high traffic area

Be ready to do some damage control

involving staff

Involving staff

Form workgroups with diverse membership:

Gamers and non-gamers

Representatives from all departments

Ask subject specialists to find related materials in the collection for course/subject guides and displays

Wii with the staff in the lounge, or at a staff party

Newbies prefer to watch then try it on their own in private

involving users

Involving users

Consult with special interest groups:

Teen Advisory Group

Friends of the Library

Student Gamer's Association

Faculty with a teaching interest in gaming

Ask users what titles should be in the collection

Informally - at the circulation desk, etc.

Formally - on request for purchase forms

Send out a call for donations, or host a game exchange

Ask users to help design new gaming programs and spaces



Conduct a series of polls or surveys that build on each other.

Do you play video games?

Do you think the library should collect video games

Which console(s) should the library support?

Post progress reports and/or meeting minutes to your library blog and intranet

Chat about the project informally.

Start publicity well before the official launch

Leave some time for people to digest the idea



Introduction to gaming

Motivation for games in the library

Case Studies: KFPL and CUL

Dealing with resistance to gaming initiatives

Common objections - and how to respond to them

Closing thoughts and discussion

objection 1 traditional materials

Objection #1: Traditional materials

  • "Libraries are about books and information - games don't belong there."
    • The same objection was raised when libraries started collecting magazines, movies, and music.
    • This is an opportunity for libraries to take a lead role in immersive media.

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objection 2 educational value

Objection #2: Educational value

  • "The research has yet to show that so-called 'educational' games offer anything of value to teachers or students."
    • This is a still a young research area.
    • Most educational games are created as prototypes by researchers, not by the gaming industry.
    • It is our role to support research, not stifle it.

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objection 3 inappropriate content

Objection #3: Inappropriate content

  • "Games are simply too violent for my children."
    • Many popular games do not contain offensive content.
    • Each games comes with a rating from the ESRB.
    • The library can help parents/children select titles that are suitable for them.

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objection 4 theft

Objection #4: Theft

  • "Why buy games when they're just going to get stolen within the first week?"
    • All materials that circulate a lot are at a greater risk of theft.
    • Game discs can be kept behind the circulation desk, and equipped with security tags.

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objection 5 identity crisis

Objection #5: Identity crisis

  • "Librarians shouldn't jump on any new trend to try and keep their institutions relevant."
    • Perhaps libraries should become early adopters and experiment more.
    • Video games have been around for decades now.
    • Digital interactive media is likely to be ubiquitous in the future. 

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objection 6 funding

Objection #6: Funding

  • "In the current economic climate our budget is just too tight to support a new initiative."
    • In tough economic times, people are more likely to use the library - great time to launch a high profile service.
    • Could money be reallocated from other budget lines for a pilot project?
    • This initiative fits into the library's strategic plan.

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objection 7 favouritism

Objection #7: Favouritism

  • "I've been coming to the library for 47 years, and I don't want games - I want romance novels.  Teens get all the attention these days..."
    • We're not going to stop collection romance novels!
    • The public library is for everyone.
    • Many games help breach the generational gap.

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objection 8 financial need

Objection #8: Financial need

  • "People that borrow games already own a console to play them on, which means they can afford $400+ entertainment expenses.  The middle and upper classes doesn't need to borrow games - they can just buy them."
    • Libraries also need to buy gaming equipment and offer programs for people who can't afford it.

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objection 9 changing workplace

Objection #9: Changing workplace

  • "This means more work for us at the Circulation Desk and in Tech Services."
    • Documentation is available on best practices for cataloguing and processing games.
    • Working out all the details can be a fun project - if given enough time.
    • Game consoles are no more complicated to operate than DVD players (or microfilm machines!).

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objection 10 disruption

Objection #10: Disruption

  • "With people playing games in the library, I won't be able to hear myself think."
    • Today's libraries should have both quiet study/reading areas and noisier interactive spaces.
    • Gaming equipment is relatively portable - move it in and out of meeting rooms as necessary.
    • Headsets can be included in the gaming budget.


Introduction to gaming

Motivation for games in the library

Case Studies: KFPL and CUL

Dealing with resistance to gaming initiatives

Common objections - and how to respond to them

Closing thoughtsts and discussion 

closing thoughts and discussion

Closing thoughts and discussion

Try not to downplay people's concerns, especially about inappropriate content or lack of funding

Unless they're already sold on the idea, most people do not respond well to a fanboi (or a fangrl)

Many people will only get behind a new program/service once they see that it is successful

Games are fun, but they're not for everyone

bibliography and further reading

Bibliography and Further Reading

ALA TechSource Gaming, Learning, and Libraries Symposium -

Children's Technology Review, published monthly by Active Learning Associates -

Don't Bother Me Mom -- I'm Learning! How Computers and Video Games are Preparing Your Child For 21st Century Success and How You Can Help! by Marc Prensky, Paragon House, 2006.

Gamer Dad -

bibliography and further reading40

Bibliography and Further Reading

Grand Theft Childhood: The Surprising Truth about Violent Video Games and What Parents Can Do by Lawrence Kutcher and Cheryl Olson, Simon and Schuster, 2008.

Pew Internet and American Life Project -

What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy (2nd edition) by James Paul Gee, Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.