Gaming in Libraries

Gaming in Libraries?? Does that mean gambling? Or is it playing video games? When I saw the title of Mark Puterbaugh’s talk (he’s Information Services Librarian at Eastern University, St. Davids, PA), I got really curious. Does Eastern University have a casino in its library? No, it doesn’t, but it’s using some really cool video game technology from ActiveWorlds, a virtual reality platform provider, to develop library services. Eastern has used the ActiveWorlds service to build not only a virtual library tour, but also a Virtual Bibliographic Instruction (VBI) module in its “VBI World”. For example, you can click on a virtual bookcase and get a link to online resources. VBI World is still in active development; future features will incorporate “bots” to give directions, links to subject guides, and perhaps even virtual reference. Multimedia will be used to provide real-time virtual reference and chat services.

Developing a virtual world takes a significant amount of time; although you can build a building in an hour, you must then decide what content to place in it and how you want users to navigate through your world.

Students love VBI World. They see it as a game and a place where they can come and socialize, and it creates a sense of community. They can also remain anonymous, so they are freer to ask “dumb” questions or those on sensitive subjects.

The use of game technology is definitely something to watch because it has significant implications for libraries. I was extremely fascinated and impressed with the implementation that Eastern University has created. (Click here for further information.)

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today

3 Responses to “Gaming in Libraries”

  1. MarkofEU March 26, 2006 at 3:43 pm #

    One great thing about my boss, Jim Sauer, he’s understood how important games are to the students. Our CD-ROM collection has always included video games.

    He’s always been aware that the patrons are the important thing, thus a pretty complete video tape, CD and DVD collection, with things beyond the standard academic collection.

    When I approached Jim with the idea of VBI World, he thought it was great. He’s always encouraging me to add ray guns.

    We are trying to incorporate gaming, not only into the collection, but into the way we do business with our customers, the students.

    Hopefully in the near future we will be able to share this on a larger scale beyond just the Eastern community.

  2. Beth Gallaway March 24, 2006 at 3:40 pm #

    Games are just another format – another way to tell stories, and libraries are all about stories, in books, on audio, in fims. The difference is that games are interactive digital storytelling that the end user (the player) gets to help create through their gameplay.

    Libraries are also about customer service. How long can we continue to ignore something that 80% of the population under age 34 is doing? The average age of the gamer is 29 and rising, indicating that gaming is widespread.

    For more information about Gaming in Libraries check out the following resources:
    LibGaming Listerv

    Game On! Games in Libraries Blog

    YALSA’s Gaming Discussion Group, accessible through ALA’s new online communities

    Library Success: A Best Practices Wiki -> Programming -> Gaming

  3. Jami March 24, 2006 at 5:36 am #

    Gaming in Libraries means incorporating Games (video, board, card, and social) into collections, programing, and acceptance at the library.

    It could be as simple as allowing patrons to play board games or CCGs in the library, or purchasing video games for circulation.