Yesterday I came across this article about Hamilton Public Library, which is currently about to review their policy on video game lending. A board member brought up the question- should the library be in the business of lending video games?
Every library is different, as a library should support the community it serves, and every community has its own needs and wants. As such, asking whether a library should be lending video games is a valid question, and comes down to does the community want video games?
I am not familiar with the specific demographics of Hamilton, but video games have become a huge part of mainstream culture, and I imagine that HPL’s patron base would reflect that. A quick look at the public library’s mission statement and values shows that video games could indeed fit well with HPL’s mandate:
Freedom to discover (would your patrons enjoy discovering video games? Remember, video games can potentially be enjoyed by all ages)
Providing access to all expressions of knowledge and creativity (video games are definitely an expressive and creative format for immersive storytelling, and many games provide creative modes for designing and sharing)
Connecting with diverse communities (this includes patrons who are interested in video games- at my public library the video games attract patrons to the library who otherwise may not frequent our doors)
Anticipating and responding to changing needs. (Are video games in demand/ high circ at Hamilton PL? What societal trends might show an increase in interest for video games in your community?)
Embracing a diversity of opinions and protecting the dignity of individuals. (Are video games important to some of your patron base? In questioning the importance/validity of video games as a format, are you acting on a biased or preconceived notion of what video games are and can be?)
Ensuring that library services are vital and relevant. (Video games may not be relevant to all of your patrons, but certainly could be very important and valued resources for some of them)
My public library began lending video games a few years ago, and they have become one of our most circulated collections, with lots of checkouts and holds on new titles as soon as they become available.
I’m a library worker of nearly 8 years, current MLIS student, and geek who enjoys video games. I have a few more thoughts on video games and why they could definitely be an excellent part of a library’s collection:
- Many libraries, especially public libraries, have a mission of providing entertainment as well as information. Video games are a format, not a genre, and they can provide entertainment, interaction, creativity (and yes, even information and education) to users.
- Video games are misunderstood by many people. Some see video games as either mindless fluff or bloody violence and nothing in between. However, video games are a format for expression just as books and movies are.
- Teens love video games- teens are often a difficult demographic to attract to the library. Including video games in your collection, as well as gaming related programs and services, is a great way to ensure your library is relevant to this demographic.
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