December 18, 2007

Road Band

Filed under: precat — jenny @ 9:24 pm

The Joy of Tech covers Guitar Hero. [Thanks, James!]

December 17, 2007

Play a Game to Feed Some People

Filed under: precat — jenny @ 6:47 am

Please go play FreeRice right now. It’s a great example of using gaming for some serious good.

  • Click on the answer that best defines the word.
  • If you get it right, you get a harder word. If wrong, you get an easier word.
  • For each word you get right, we donate 20 grains of rice to the United Nations World Food Program.

“FreeRice has a custom database containing thousands of words at varying degrees of difficulty. There are words appropriate for people just learning English and words that will challenge the most scholarly professors. In between are thousands of words for students, business people, homemakers, doctors, truck drivers, retired people… everyone!
FreeRice automatically adjusts to your level of vocabulary. It starts by giving you words at different levels of difficulty and then, based on how you do, assigns you an approximate starting level. You then determine a more exact level for yourself as you play. When you get a word wrong, you go to an easier level. When you get three words in a row right, you go to a harder level. This one-to-three ratio is best for keeping you at the ‘outer fringe’ of your vocabulary, where learning can take place.
There are 50 levels in all, but it is rare for people to get above level 48.”

December 12, 2007

Help Form an ALA Games and Gaming Member Interest Group

Filed under: precat — jenny @ 10:14 pm

From Scott Nicholson, comes the call:

“Attention ALA Members!
We are hoping to go to ALA Midwinter with 100 signatures of ALA members to start a Member Interest Group on Games and Gaming. There are several initiatives across the ALA organization to look at gaming and our hope is to create a group to provide a place to talk about gaming across demographics and library types.
The charge of the interest group is:
To engage those interested in games and gaming activities in libraries and to collaborate with ALA units to support gaming initiatives and programs across the Association. Games, as defined in their broadest sense to include traditional and modern board, card, video, mobile, computer, live-action, roleplaying and miniature games, and gaming activities, including planning and running gaming programs, providing games for informal play, developing a game collection, creating games, development of information and other literacies through games and partnering with other community organizations to support gaming, will be topics for professional exploration. This group is open to all members.
If you are willing to help start this group, print out the petition below and collect signatures and member numbers of ALA members in your organization, and send it to the address on the form in the next few weeks.
The form is at”

December 7, 2007

Fill Out LIS Student's Gaming Survey

Filed under: precat — jenny @ 6:59 am

Judi is a student in Dominican University’s GSLIS program who is graduating in January (yay, Judi!). She’s writing her final research paper on gaming in public libraries, and she’s asking library staff offering said programs to fill out a brief survey. If you can help her, please do.

December 6, 2007

Power to the People

Filed under: precat — jenny @ 8:26 am

Dear O’Hare Airport,
One of the nicest and most useful things you could do for those of us who pass through your airport (especially regularly) is add more power outlets. Everywhere. Blanket the gates in outlets, and make sure they’re working. Please. Even your own security guards could use them.
Thanks so much,
cc: all airports, all libraries

segways need power, too

December 5, 2007

Looking for Partners for IMLS Grant for Information Literacy Game

Filed under: precat — jenny @ 6:10 pm

Karen Markey is a faculty member in the School of Information at the University of Michigan. Earlier this year, she received a small grant from the Delmas Foundation to build a prototype online board game that teaches students information-literacy skills. Her game prototype is now fully operational and is being tested and evaluated by a class of 75 undergraduates at the University of Michigan.
They’ve just finished conducting interviews with student game players, but they haven’t had sufficient time to mull over interview data and analyze game play logs. They already recognize that the incentive for playing the game is a critical issue and future games must be intimately connected to a class assignment or project.
Because Karen wants to do something that would scale beyond Michigan, she is looking for research partners at public or academic libraries who are interested in building on her foundation, expanding what they have already done, and testing her approach with their library patrons. Her intent is to find libraries who want to collaborate on an IMLS National Leadership grant to host a unique instance of the game that is customized to achieving their information literacy objectives.
The game is based on the “search strategy” model that Tom Kirk and his Earlham College colleagues devised to teach undergraduates how to do library research. Karen chose the “Black Death” for the prototype game’s topic, and they are learning from their evaluation other topics that college-age students prefer.
Here are some links to learn more about their approach:

  1. Information on their Storygame Project generally:
  2. Playing-the-game video at YouTube:
  3. Manual for playing the game:

If you’re interested in partnering with Karen, you can contact her at ylime [ at ] I can’t wait to hear more about this project and watch it develop.

December 4, 2007

Mashing on the Library, Part I

Filed under: precat — jenny @ 5:16 pm

“Copy and paste” is becoming a more frequently used tool to build websites as online services continue to offer their services and content for use anywhere, not just on their own pages. As I show in presentations, these days you can build a very decent community site using either RSS or “copy and paste” (see a proof of concept I built around the La Grange Park Public Library almost two years ago).
It’s a different way of thinking for libraries, that we can actually integrate external content and services into our sites, not just link to them, but the world around us is changing and everyone else is mashing up. It’s not just the growing unstickiness and promiscuity of bits and bytes but also the disintermediation of content and the fact that people want to – and now can – get a particular piece of something, not just the whole. Again, a different concept for online library services.
So, in this type of environment, what services make good mash partners for libraries? Who do we want to play spin the bottle with?
The first time I saw MeeboMe, it seemed like an obvious candidate. Integration in library websites as a cheap (read: free), lightweight reference chat client was a no-brainer. I’ve highlighted libraries that provide links to live help in their catalogs, especially ones that are based on what our patrons use, instant messaging. Using MeeboMe for this type of services offers two advantages:

  1. The user doesn’t need to have IM software installed.
  2. MeeboMe offers the equivalent of web voicemail, allowing the patron to “leave a message” if the library is closed.

So I’ve been wondering if a library would add this service to its catalog, but because there is sometimes a lag in either page loading or chat window loading with the Meebo widgets, I wasn’t sure how feasible this is. Plus, I still have some privacy concerns because the chat goes through Meebo’s servers, a company that may or may not protect privacy to the level libraries do. Still, I found the idea intriguing, as apparently did others, since at least four libraries have started doing this recently.
Technically, I think the University of Calgary was the first to do this, probably because Paul Pival works there. And they didn’t integrate MeeboMe halfway or on a test page. No, they integrated it everywhere – on search results, item records, and my favorite, the “no results found” page. That last one is particularly brilliant, as it provides a lifeline at the point of need at a dead end for patrons. So I immediately added this mashup to my core set of slides.


Around the same time, McMaster University did the same thing, proving that great minds do indeed think alike. Then a month later, David King announced that the Topeka Shawnee County Public Library had also integrated a MeeboMe widget into its catalog on the “no results found” page. Thanks, David – I love that I now have a public library example to show. How is a small city library matching services with a big university one? Simply by using copy & paste.

meebo in the catalog

Since pretty much anyone can copy and paste, now Baylor is doing it, too. Can you do it, as well? You bet. Just go to MeeboMe, create a widget, copy the code they give you, and paste it where you want the chat box to appear on the page. So far the results seem to be positive, but I’m hoping these folks will gossip about their mashing in a few months to let us know how it’s going.
In the meantime, I’m waiting for a library to be the first to implement Twitter for catalog or website status updates, to display the latest articles from a database (such as EBSCOHost) on their website using RSS, or to do a Google Maps mashup of local history sites that is displayed on the library’s site. Please let me know if you’ve spotted any of these in the wild.

November 30, 2007

The Three Wii R's

Filed under: precat — jenny @ 7:02 am

I haven’t had a chance to try this yet, but my new gaming friend in Hawaii Amy sent me a link to Arcademic Skill Builders, a site full of free educational games for younger kids. They’re done in Flash so that you can play them with your mouse or keyboard, but some of them a’re also designed to be played on the Wii in its web browser, which is just too cool. Literally get kids involved in the game – wonderful.
About Arcademic Skill Builders

“Arcademic Skill Builders are online educational games that offer a powerful approach to learning basic math, language arts, vocabulary, and thinking skills. This program stems from experience, systematic observations, and research in attempting to understand student learning in school and social situations.
The software was inspired by arcade games and the intense engagement they fostered between the game and player. We reasoned if this kind of engagement could be focused on educational content, it would be truly a magical approach to certain kinds of learning.
Philosophically, the games embrace research on learning dealing with ‘automaticity’ and ‘fluency.’ Automaticity is fast and accurate object identification at the single object level. Fluency involves a deeper understanding, and anticipation of what will come next.
Fluency impacts three types of critical learning outcomes:

  • Retention: the ability to perform a skill or recall knowledge long after formal learning programs have ended
  • Endurance: the ability to maintain performance levels
  • Application: the ability to apply what is learned to perform more complex skills in new situations.

These engaging educational games provide focused repetition practice that enables fluency to be achieved more quickly. With what we now know about automaticity and fluency in academic performance, we can help students achieve masterful levels performance faster than ever before! View our manual for more on our philosophy.
Our educational video games offer an innovative approach to teaching basic academic skills by incorporating features of arcade games and educational practices into fun online games that will motivate, intrigue, and teach your students.”

In the future, they’ll be adding “features that will enable you to save records, tailor content, track scores, pinpoint student problem areas, and much more!”

November 28, 2007

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

Filed under: precat — jenny @ 6:41 am

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.

November 27, 2007

Gaming in Libraries LTR Update

Filed under: precat — jenny @ 4:58 pm

my LTR cover Last year I wrote the September/October issue of Library Technology Reports on Gaming in Libraries: Intersection of Services as a general overview that could help jumpstart a discussion in a library (especially with a department head or administrator). During the next few weeks, I’ll be writing an update to that issue, so I’m curious what you’d like to see in this new edition.
My intent is to broaden the discussion about gaming to include a more holistic view of the topic, beyond just video games, as well as diversifying the audience for gaming in libraries beyond just teens. So I have a pretty good idea of what I want to write about, and although I’ll have a shorter length to work with (half as long as the first one because TechSource is trying to reduce the cover price of LTR), I’d still like some input. What questions do you need answered? What do you need help explaining to others in your institution? Which areas need some further exploration?
I’m also hoping to highlight a few more case studies if there’s room. I’m particularly interested in showcasing unique gaming services offered by school and rural public libraries or services to nontraditional patrons, so please let me know if you think you’re doing something good.
Please leave a comment and share your thoughts. Thanks!

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