April 30, 2008

H Is for Ham

I work with some fun and interesting people. John Chrastka is one of them, and not just because he’s willing to ham it up in service of ALA. John stars in the latest AL Focus video, a guide to Annual Conference for new attendees. Be sure to watch until the very end.

Your ALA Annual Conference & You


6:16 am Comments (1)

April 27, 2008

Agreeing with Vint Cerf

What I’ve Learned: Vint Cerf

It may seem like sort of a waste of time to play World of Warcraft with your son. But you’re actually interacting with each other. You’re solving problems. They may seem like simple problems, but you’re solving them. You’re posed with challenges that you have to overcome. You’re on a quest to gain certain capabilities. I haven’t spent a lot of time playing World of Warcraft, because my impression is that it takes a serious amount of time to play it well.

Humor is the only thing that allows you to survive every pressure and crisis.

I find classical music a very beautiful way to focus my thoughts….

People are inventing
not only virtual places but new economic principles. We have economists in the Second Life environment studying what people are doing, because these are real people making decisions. Maybe you want to have a different hairdo or different clothing or a boob job — whatever it is. People will pay to enhance their avatar.

Reproducing isn’t nearly as much fun in Second Life.

At the roots, people are still people. That’s why Shakespeare is so popular no matter what the language.

The closer you look
at something, the more complex it seems to be.

Over a period of a hundred or a thousand years, the probability of maintaining continuity of the software to interpret the old stuff is probably close to zero. Where would you find a projector for an 8mm film these days? If the new software can’t understand, we’ve lost the information. I call this bit rot. It’s a serious problem.

I’d like to know what the Internet is going to look like in 2050. Thinking about it makes me wish I were eight years old.” [Esquire, via the Interesting People mailing list]


10:09 pm Comments (3)

April 25, 2008

Talk about Going Where Your Users Are

The Ask Cart with the Library Dude

“The ASK cart (actual hotdog cart) is a mobile library service offered by the Thun Library to provide reference assistance. Designed as a simple, effective and fun approach to faculty and student outreach, the Library Dude aka Billie Walker and other librarians offer on-the-spot information and/or reference assistance outdoors.

Equipped with wireless laptop and various goodies (highlighters, candy, etc.) the librarians at Berks are increasing visibility and awareness of reference service (one-on-one consultations, specialized databases, etc.) and library resources (podcast, bestsellers, etc). So when you see the ASK cart please give a shout-out to the Library Dude!” [via Sarah Miller on Facebook]

Penn State's "Ask Cart with the Library Dude"


6:28 am Comments (9)

April 22, 2008

How School Libraries Can Use Board Games

Back in February, I was excited that Brian Mayer had tied the New York state curriculum standards to board games and that the School Library System of Genesee Valley BOCES had invested in a board game collection for use by its member libraries. Since then, however, Brian, Chris Harris, and their colleagues have stepped it up a notch and made the link between gaming and education more applicable beyond New York by aligning the use of these games with the American Association of School Librarians’ Standards for the 21st-Century Learner.

AASL Standards for the 21st-Century Learner

“The new AASL standards are very supportive of the ideas and skills that make up gaming as can be seen in the gaming alignment below. This, document, created by the member libraries of the School Library System of Genesee Valley BOCES provides support for the use of games as a learning resource in school libraries.”

The 3MB PDF is available here.

If you’re interested in this subject, you’ll definitely want to follow their new Gaming blog, which includes a separate post explaining that gaming also strongly corresponds to many of the Common Beliefs laid out by the AASL. Major thanks to the BOCES crew for doing this work and leading the way in this area.


6:24 am Comments (7)

April 21, 2008

More on How Gaming Promotes Reading and Library Usage

Libraries Lure with Video Games

“‘Bellevue’s library, near Bellevue East High School, hosts a game night twice a month. About two dozen teens take turns thwacking virtual tennis balls or throwing super punches on Nintendo games. Some do their homework as they wait. Others browse the library for comic books and novels.

A.J. Score, a shy 15-year-old, aspired to join the high school’s football or golf teams. But he was afraid he wouldn’t fit in. Gaming was his thing.

At the library’s game nights, he immediately became a star. And gaming gave him something to talk about. He talks smack and teases gamers about their weapon selection. It’s all harmless fun, he said.

‘I’m not so much quiet anymore,’ A.J. said.

Any parent who has struggled to tear a child away from a video game may cringe at the notion that libraries, of all places, are promoting them.

But the games are age-appropriate and can help to interest kids in books, Wyant said. Library game nights typically are open only to those ages 10 to 18 and require a parental permission slip.

Some nights, A.J. does homework or checks out murder mystery books until his mom picks him up.

‘Every week he has a new book. It’s great to see a teenager reading at the library and not in trouble,’ said his mom, Tam Score.

Circulation of young adult literature has increased at some libraries with game nights.

Last year, teens borrowed 20 to 30 books a month at the Chadron Public Library. Now it’s well over 300 each month. The reason: video games….

The Loren Corey Eiseley Branch, which sits a block from a middle school, gets 50 to 80 kid gamers each day. The Arnold Heights Branch held a game day that attracted more than 80 kids during spring break.

Since Lincoln libraries have added game nights, teens don’t cause as many disruptions. They used to run up and down book aisles and talk loudly.

‘They were just being teens,’ said Greg Mickells, Lincoln’s library director. ‘They’re probably still a lot louder than our regular patrons, but they know if they’re misbehaving they’ll be asked to leave.’

The Council Bluffs Public Library hopes to offer game nights or tournaments this summer.

At Plattsmouth’s library, teens have formed a gaming council. The council plans tournaments and develops rules (such as no cussing).

The library has restricted gaming hours to between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. because parents complained that their children were spending too much time at the library and not focusing on their studies.

Library director Hunt said video games bring back a sense of community in libraries.

‘We have kids who come in that have never been to the library before,’ Hunt said. ‘We’re getting a section of readers we don’t normally have because of gaming.’ ” [Omaha World-Herald]


April 17, 2008

Gaming Presentation in Second Life

Just a quick note that I’ll be giving a presentation in Second Life tomorrow (Friday, April 18) at 11:00 a.m. CDT on ALA Island to celebrate gaming @ your library day. It’s free, it’s in-world, it’ll be a fun time. Then afterwards, I get to play games at work, as ALA staff celebrate gaming by taking a break to play board, video, and social games.

To celebrate gaming in libraries, you can also listen to the first episode of the new Games in Libraries Podcast. It’s a monthly podcast where experts in different aspects of gaming and libraries present segments about different programs, gaming products, and other news from the gaming industry relevant to libraries. I hope to contribute to future episodes, but Scott Nicholson is the driving force behind it, and with names like Eli Neiburger, Beth Gallaway, Chris Harris, and Kelly Czarnecki involved, you know it’s going to be good.

Addendum: The slides from my talk are now available on my presentations wiki. This was fun – thank you to everyone that came!


9:29 pm Comments (4)

April 15, 2008

Does Gaming Promote Reading?

The State of Libraries: ‘Funding Down, but Gaming Up”

“Are we really doing anything to tie video gaming and literacy together? I haven’t seen it; I’ve simply seen us holding gaming sessions because that’s what gets teens – boys in particular – excited enough to come in and participate in a library-sponsored activity, thus racking up the numbers we need for our monthly stats.

Librarians who are fans of gaming programs keep saying that teens are lured in by gaming, and once they’re through the door, those teens use the library in more traditional ways. But is there any documentation for this claim? All I keep seeing are anecdotes. Are teens who come in for games actually checking things out? I’ve rarely seen it myself. I hope someone will do a study one day soon of how well gaming works as a draw to get teens to check things out – especially things with pages and print.” [The Monkey Speaks]

Walter’s concerns are understandable, but there is indeed evidence that kids who come to the library for gaming also use the book collection more.

And yes, there is also a lot of anecdotal evidence from leaders such as Eli Neiburger, Aaron Schmidt, Kelly Czarnecki, and others. Eli in particular has a great video he showed at the TechSouce Gaming, Learning, and Libraries Symposium last year in which kids talked about how they never knew the library had so much for them until they started coming in for the gaming. There are more and more reports about this in the press every day.

Gamers Can Play It By the Books

“At the Stillwater Free Library, director Sara Kipp brings in her own PlayStation for middle school and high school students to use on a game night. In Stillwater, game night is combined with a book club.

‘We already offered a book club, which was lukewarm at best,’ Kipp said in an e-mail explaining the program.

‘So we decided to introduce gaming in the library in conjunction with the book club. Some libraries separate the two, but we created a program to meld them in an attempt to give the teens what they are looking for all in one shot,’ Kipp continued.

The town of Ballston Public Library will connect video gaming to the Olympics this summer by holding a Wii Olympics using a package tied to the games. Rebecca Vanderhayden, the youth services librarian, said a participant gets a turn playing a game for every 50 pages they read.” [Times Union]

In addition, most librarians I’ve talked to who have offered gaming note that it enhances their connection with the kids, which makes it easier for these patrons to ask for help when they need it. Early research from the Public Library of Charlotte Mecklenburg County in North Carolina indicates this holds true for adults, too.

At ALA, we’re hoping to measure these kinds of outcomes that surround gaming in libraries. We’ve received a big grant from the Verizon Foundation to educate librarians about gaming, provide best practices, offer a toolkit to help get started, and track the results nationally. It’s a two-year grant, so it will be a while before we have numbers, but there’s a blog about Gaming News for the project, as well as an early start on a wiki for Gaming Resources.

I’m lucky enough to be working with Dale Lipschultz, ALA’s Literacy Officer, on this project. Dale is a well-known and respected expert in the literacy community, and I’ve learned a lot from her on this subject already. She made the following points about gaming and literacy in a recent email exchange.

  1. Literacy is more than reading and writing — that is it’s more than the acquistion of basic skills. Literacy requires problem solving skills, the ability to formulate and apply hypotheses, strategy development, etc.
  2. Gaming — board, social, and video — is a meaningful literacy activity. Kids (and adults) are invested in gaming. It’s fun, it’s what they do with their peers, and they like it. Therefore it has meaning in their lives. Gaming usually requires some reading and writing skills. It always involves problem solving and strategy skills. Even reluctant readers will read and problem solve in order to ‘level up’ and master the game and stay competitive with their peers. That said, along with mastering the game, they are improving their basic skills.
  3. Learning to read and write is a profoundly social process, and literacy development doesn’t happen in isolation. Learning is most effective when the novice is supported by an expert (an adult or peer) who scaffolds the activity and provides mediation or instruction as needed. The novice is encouraged to engage in an activity slightly beyond his/her level of mastery and comfort.

As Dale told me last year, Tarzan never would have learned to read without Jane. Librarians are well-positioned to provide the environment, expertise, and scaffolding necessary for literacy, and gaming enhances that environment. It also adds that social piece that makes the expertise more approachable. As Eli is careful to note in his book, you can’t just hand kids a bibliography when they’re engaged in gaming, but it does provide opportunities to offer books, graphic novels, and magazines in the type of environment Dale describes.


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