Commentary: Gaming at the public library

Kristi Sadowski, Southington Public Library director
sadowskik@southington.org

During the 2017-18 fiscal year, 732 board and video games were borrowed from the Southington Public Library’s Teen Zone. Over the first five months of this fiscal year, that number is at 568. That’s an increase of 188 percent over this same period last year. Part of this growth can be attributed to the addition of a PlayStation 4 within the Teen Zone, and the rest is from the growing board game collection.

Some may wonder why gaming in libraries is important, but 21st century literacy isn’t the same as traditional notions. Technical, interpersonal and communication skills are still vital for success, and digital, media, visual, logic, and programming are all recognized literacy types which can be learned through gaming. All forms of literacy require the abilities to draw conclusions and make informed decisions.

Games can help to enrich vocabulary and improve collaboration. Particularly for teens, gaming encourages social interaction, enforces rules and boundaries, encourages creativity and rewards achievement—all of which are identified as developmental needs for teens by the National Middle School Association.

In recent years, the importance of play in early childhood development has been widely discussed. Southington’s Kid’s Place has ample opportunities for children to play with age and developmentally appropriate offerings. But, according to an article in Time magazine by Hilary G. Conklin dated March 3, 2015, play in adolescents also addresses developmental needs for teens such as greater independence, creative expression and problem solving.

The PlayStation 4 set up in the Teen Zone is always available to teens with a valid library card. An example of an at-will library gaming program, this encourages community and cooperation. It helps make the Teen Zone an enticing and safe place to gather outside of school hours.

In November, the American Library Association supports international games week, a time when libraries are encouraged to bring their communities together to read, learn, and play. At the Southington Public Library, it marked the inaugural meeting of the table top games group, offering an evening of play for those 18 and older who want to try out new games or find new people to play older favorites.

This will become a monthly group meeting starting in January.

Over the last month, the library has purchased 30 new games, which can be borrowed played at home or in the library. The collection ranges from quick party games, such as What Do You Meme, The Game of Things, and Wits and Wagers, to games for the intense gamer, such as Dominion, Betrayal at House on Haunted Hill, and Catan, along with a variety in the middle. The library also offers a game accessibility guide which rates many of the games on several categories such as visual, physical, emotional, cognitive, and communication abilities.

Board game loans are for three weeks and video games can be borrowed for one week. Community members are encouraged to use this collection to bring their families and friends together. It is a great way to try out games before adding them to a personal collection.

Kristi Sadowski is the director of the Southington Public Library. To learn more, visit them at www.SouthingtonLibrary.com.

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