Week 12 Issue Based Reflection

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      Bronwyn Linthwaite

      <p style=”text-align: center;”> Week 12: Children and Teens Issue-based Reflection</p>
      <p style=”text-align: left;”>This week I’ve decided to reflect upon the issue of gaming in the library in relation to children and teens. There are some misconceptions in the community regarding the value of gaming and stereotypes exist regarding the kind of personality and lifestyle that gamer’s might share. There is also an unfair assumption that gaming “encourages laziness, aggression and obesity” in children and is socially isolating. In reality video-games are played by a variety of people from different demographics and communities and have many cognitive and social benefits.</p>
      The main issue when it comes to gaming and the library are people’s perceptions of it. Common objections to the relationship between gaming and the library include that libraries should be about books and reading and that libraries are not an appropriate space in which to play video-games. Despite perhaps some disbelief from members of the public, video game collections have been well established in particular libraries for some time. I myself was unaware that QUT Kelvin Grove housed such a collection along with a subject guide for gaming. According to Lefebvre at Venture Beat , this practice is enthusiastically supported by librarians and libraries more generally.

      “We need to stop the pervasive idea that gaming is a waste of time, and instead see it for its potential. Let’s be revolutionary and expand the stacks, let our patrons play and embrace the potential of videogames in our collections” Dorotea Szkolar – School of Information Studies, Syracuse University.

      Some of the objections to gaming in the library might come from the view of gaming as having only entertainment value, however books can also be valued for the same reason. What is also not new according to Scott Nicholson is the objection to the addition of popular media to the library’s collections. He states that there was a similar public reaction to gaming in the library as there was when fiction was added to library collections when libraries only collected non-fiction works.

      It has been noted that there has been over 150 years of gaming in the library. Philosophically modern day gaming in libraries is a continuation of toy libraries, which were established in the US during the Great Depression as a social justice measure for struggling families. However Scott Nicholson has traced the history of gaming in libraries back to the inception of library based chess clubs in the 1850’s. Using games to attract people to the library and the main collections in them goes back to then and is therefore not a new idea.

      Gaming events have the potential to attract teens whose library usage has dropped, which is often attributed to the vast array of entertainment options provided by modern technology.  There are also social inclusion factors considering the costs involved in other entertainment or social interaction opportunities for the average teen. Gaming spaces are essential therefore if library services are to provide services which meet the full range of user wants and needs of this group. For children and young people this may include places to seek entertainment and engage in social interaction through using technology.

      Finally, in contrast to the stereotypes about gaming mentioned above, it actually has tangible benefits for the social and emotional development of teens. Video games are perceived as being in the same class as board games by the American Library Association. Video games have the same social benefits of board games through interacting with peers and learning the rules (including social rules) of the game. Games also have cognitive benefits through the development of strategies and growing expertise within the game, no matter what form the game takes.

      For more information on the social benefits of gaming check out Forbes infographic.

      Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies has produced a one-month Gaming in Libraries course. You can watch all 30 of the videos here: http://www.gamesinlibraries.org/ .

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