For years, gaming has served as a bridge between libraries and the community, attracting underserved populations and drawing in people who might not normally frequent their local library. This summer, Twin Cities libraries have come up with some exciting and innovative gaming programming; in almost every corner of the metro there is a gaming event to attend. There are many different options—video games, board games, card games, and role-playing. Whatever your interest, there is a game for you!
The intersection between libraries and gaming has a long and storied history, dating from the 1800s, when folks played quiet games of chess and cards in the cool, dimly lit buildings. Back then, rowdiness was highly discouraged, and gentlemen would be tossed out on their ear for raucous behavior. Fast forward to 2017 and things have changed. Stef Johnson, director of the Flathead County Library in Montana, told the following story at an American Library Association conference:
Martha Fuhrman is our teen librarian, and she got us Guitar Hero II and DDR [Dance Dance Revolution] . . . she was just telling somebody today that they did a Guitar Hero event at one of our branch libraries and got just a monster turnout of boys coming into the library—so, yeah, that’s parting the Red Sea.
Happily, modern libraries recognize the value of kids and teenagers. This was not always the case; when public libraries started gaining popularity these sacred spaces were for adults only. Now libraries cultivate kids and teens, knowing full well that library exposure as a child often results in a teen that loves to read. Additionally, library gaming events are often multigenerational, giving families the opportunity to play games together. Some libraries report that children and teens attending with grandparents or extended family as well, giving them time together they may not normally have.
However, not all gaming at the library is for kids. Washington County Library in Oakdale offers a monthly game night for adults. I spoke with Natalie Eieman, a librarian at this location and the creator of the Oakdale Library Adult Game Night. The game night got started in February and has been very popular. According to Eieman, adult programing is trending upward; libraries around the country are facilitating events like game night and spelling bees at the local bar. She explained, “We wanted to create a space for adults to come together and have fun at the library . . . I belong to a group that has a game night and we really enjoy it.” Anyone 18 and over is welcome to come and play, no advance reservations necessary.
Other libraries are creating a safe space for people who want to game but might feel apprehensive about how to get started. At the St. Paul Public Library’s Createch, self-identified women ages 12 to 18 can explore technology and games in a drop-in setting. The Hennepin County Library‘s LGBTQ club provides a space and time for gaming that welcomes teens of all identities; they also host an all-ages game time that encourages everyone to come and play, from children to seniors.
What is exciting about the about library gaming events this summer is the wide variety and enthusiasm that staff have for them. At the Maplewood Library, librarians are eager to share their knowledge of Magic: The Gathering on Sunday afternoons with new players and battle it out with experienced veterans. The Uptown Chess Club at the Walker Library provides the perfect opportunity to learn how to play the game—unless you are into sports gaming, which is hosted by St. Paul Public Library. Whether you are a family looking to spend some quality time together or a solo person wanting to connect, the Twin Cities library gaming events will fit your needs. Check out your local library’s events calendar and get out there and game!