November 28, 2007

Still More Reasons to Offer Gaming in Libraries (and the Value of Play)

At last month’s Inter­net Librar­ian con­fer­ence, we learned that among other ser­vices for seniors, the Old Bridge Pub­lic Library in New Jer­sey was plan­ning to hold a Wii tour­na­ment for older adults. Why on earth would a library do this?

Old Bridge Library Unites Generations

You’re never too old to rock out.

Just ask the 10 Old Bridge seniors who took up Gui­tar Hero III as part of the Old Bridge Library’s ‘Senior Spaces’ pro­gram on Nov. 8.

Seniors, along­side teenage vol­un­teers, tested their met­tle in the ubiq­ui­tous air-guitar video game and var­i­ous other games avail­able for the Nin­tendo Wii gam­ing sys­tem as the first step in the library’s plan to make seniors more tech­no­log­i­cally pro­fi­cient and to include them in what Allan Kleiman, assis­tant direc­tor of the Old Bridge Pub­lic Library, called the inevitable redesign of libraries.

We want to get them to feel they are part of the 21st cen­tury library and not left out,’ Kleiman said.…

Kleiman said gam­ing in libraries is becom­ing more and more com­mon but using the video game to slowly intro­duce mod­ern tech­nol­ogy to seniors is a rel­a­tively new idea.

This is a lot less fright­en­ing to play with than learn­ing to use a com­puter,’ he said.

Kleiman said seniors should be able to snap a photo with a dig­i­tal cam­era or surf the Inter­net or use the var­i­ous other tech­nolo­gies sur­round­ing them. The pro­gram, he hopes, will pro­vide the cat­a­lyst for fur­ther learn­ing and inclu­sion among that community.”…

The pro­gram bridges gaps between the ages as well, Kleiman said, allow­ing teenagers well versed in the ways of the Wii to teach the seniors. The two groups will find a com­mon denom­i­na­tor in com­pe­ti­tion over the video games. Kleiman said the age seg­re­ga­tion that is often found in libraries breaks down when young and old are united by the desire to win.

Kleiman said, though the seniors are undoubt­edly learn­ing from the pro­gram, they are not the only stu­dents in the room. The teenagers learn a bit about life from the seniors.

It gives them a whole sense of what grow­ing older can mean,’ Kleiman said, chal­leng­ing the stereo­type of the elderly in nurs­ing homes.…

That does not mean the library is going the way of the video arcade. Kleiman said the foun­da­tion of the tra­di­tional library is still intact but the video games for seniors help “make them feel rel­e­vant to what peo­ple are doing.“[Home News Tri­bune]

I really like how the staff at OBPL are approach­ing this, plac­ing it in a broader con­text, using video games as teach­ing moments and touch­points for social inter­ac­tions between groups that oth­er­wise don’t social­ize together in the library. There are so many video games now that are social activ­i­ties, not just some­one star­ing at a screen alone (not there’s some­thing wrong with that), and as Eli Neiburger notes, libraries can make games social and add value in the same ways we do for storytime.

I think the social inter­ac­tions and social­iza­tion that takes place around gam­ing are often over­looked as being some­thing less valu­able than when it hap­pens around books. This is one of the rea­sons that (as with any­thing) you can’t truly under­stand the ben­e­fits of video games in libraries if you’ve never played them. It’s why I encour­age regional orga­ni­za­tions (like state libraries and con­sor­tia) to pur­chase a con­sole in order for their mem­ber librar­i­ans to expe­ri­ence this. It’s dif­fi­cult to have an informed dis­cus­sion with­out the expe­ri­en­tial learn­ing aspect. It’s like decid­ing if a library should offer a book dis­cus­sion with­out ever hav­ing read a book. Not every­one has to do this, but the folks involved in the dis­cus­sion should be famil­iar with the sub­ject, and they can learn from play­ing the same way seniors at the Old Bridge PL will learn.

Be Socia­ble, Share!

6:41 am Comments (4)

4 Comments

  1. I think that Old Bridge Pub­lic Library’s Wii gam­ing pro­gram is a great idea. By mak­ing gam­ing easy to learn, fun, and social, you make tech­nol­ogy seem less scary to older adults. Seniors will find that they can learn new tech­nol­ogy and that the library is a good place to learn about com­put­ers. The inter­gen­er­a­tional aspect of the pro­gram is also a benefit.

    Comment by Isabelle Fetherston — November 28, 2007 @ 2:44 pm

  2. […] Jenny Levine on gam­ing in the library — for senior citizens. […]

    Pingback by Simon Chamberlain’s library weblog » Blog Archive » MeeboMe, Yahoo! Answers, and much more — December 18, 2007 @ 7:05 pm

  3. […] are often the most inter­est­ing ones. As I watched these videos, I found myself think­ing about Allan Kleiman’s work at the Old Bridge Pub­lic Library, using the Wii to intro­duce seniors to tech­nol­ogy, won­der­ing if this type of setup would work […]

    Pingback by The Shifted Librarian » The Coolest Training Lab Ever… — January 9, 2008 @ 9:14 pm

  4. […] The aver­age gamer is now 35 years old. Games have been a part of the library cul­ture since the Chicago Met­ro­pol­i­tan Library Sys­tem spon­sored the first Gam­ing, Learn­ing & Libraries Sym­po­sium, which has been rec­og­nized by indus­try pub­li­ca­tions and the media. The commission’s response referred to a blog post by Jenny Levine. Levine helped set up the first sym­po­siu­min Chicago in 2005. “I think the social inter­ac­tions and social­iza­tion that takes place around gam­ing are often over­looked as being some­thing less valu­able than when it hap­pens around books. This is one of the rea­sons that (as with any­thing) you can‟t truly under­stand the ben­e­fits of video games in libraries if you‟ve never played them. It‟s why I encour­age regional orga­ni­za­tions (like state libraries and con­sor­tia) to pur­chase a con­sole in order for their mem­ber librar­i­ans to expe­ri­ence this. It‟s dif­fi­cult to have an informed dis­cus­sion with­out the expe­ri­en­tial learn­ing aspect. It‟s like decid­ing if a library should offer a book dis­cus­sion with­out ever hav­ing read a book.” — Jenny Levine, Still More Rea­sons to Offer Gam­ing in Libraries (and the Value of Play) […]

    Pingback by Nebraska bureaucrat says games and libraries don’t mix « Cornfed Gamer — February 25, 2009 @ 1:50 am

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