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?
“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.