Sunday, October 24, 2010

Games or No Games?

After attending the CSLA Conference in my first year as a librarian, where I attended a session about gaming in the library, I started offering educational and strategy games at lunch in our library.  This was a great way to get kids to come into the library who maybe wouldn't otherwise, and a way to keep them out of trouble in the quad.  Who knows, perhaps they will even check out a book, or at least associate positive thoughts with the library.  I liked the busy lunches with big crowds, and everyone seemed to be having fun. 

The second year we were open, we went from having 2 grades at lunch to three.  Now the volume had potential to get a little too loud.  I could see that some of the kids who were actually there to study or read were losing the quiet place they expected a library to be.  I spent a lot of my time telling groups to quiet down or get out.

This is our third year as a school, with finally all 4 grades.  It is our first year with two lunches.  So now I am back to only two grades per lunch, but I now have to go through this twice a day with only 20 minutes reprieve in between.  It has really been wearing on me.  So it didn't take long for me to make a goal this year to get the environment back to what people expect a library to be.  I put the games in a cabinet instead of out on the circulation desk counter, so that only those in the know about the games would ask to play with one.  I would remind students when they asked to borrow a game that they needed to whisper and maintain the quiet library environment since students were studying or reading.  I would continue to go around to the groups and ask them to be quiet, and those who were too disruptive were asked to leave.  I would explain to all the students what my goal was, and that this volume would not be acceptable at a public library or a college library.

Last week, I decided that I shouldn't have to tell the same kids every day to be quiet.  Obviously, they just weren't learning or getting it.  Had they been able to whisper while playing, I wouldn't have a problem.  But that was not the case.  They seem to think that a regular voice was whispering, and that outbursts were ok. So, I decided that I would no longer offer games.  It was amazing how after 2 days, the environment was already much better.  I also had a poster project for my Library Science students, for which they made a sign that would hang from the ceiling, with "Shh...Entering the Quiet Zone" on the front side, and then "Whisper" on the back to remind those already in the library.

I am happy that the library is now a better place to go for those who need to study and read, and that the students are being properly trained in library etiquette.  But, I am a little sad that there are less students coming through those doors than before, and that maybe some of those kids feel rejected now. 

So this begs the question:  Should a high school library be a place of fun and games, literally, or a place with no games and a studying environment?

Please comment.  I did have one friend suggest that I make one day a week, perhaps Friday, an official gaming day to get those kids in at least once a week.  What do you think?

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