Thursday, April 26, 2012

Game On!

Thanks to Matthew White, Children and Youth Services Librarian from Park Falls, WI for this guest post!

Teens in Park Falls enjoy a 24-hour video game event
I believe in promoting the library – especially to reluctant teens – as a place where you come to enjoy yourself.   As part of my efforts to promote fun at the library for teens, I regularly incorporate video game parties into teen programming. I have received universally positive response from teens for all of my video game events, and usually these programs are the times when I see the most teens at our library!  I wanted to take the opportunity to encourage you with a few ideas on how you can easily put a program together without a lot of effort.

<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Keep it simple. The great thing about a video game program is that you don’t have to have elaborate planned activities to “keep it interesting.” You place a group of six or eight teens in a room with video games like Rock Band and Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and I guarantee you they will make their own fun. Throw in some pizza to sweeten the deal and you’ve got a program that requires little planning – and little funding!
<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Use your resources. Not every youth librarian has the sort of personal collection of video games at their disposal that I do at mine.  First of all, check with your teen advisory board, if you have one. Most teens will be happy to bring in their own system for their friends to play on the night of a program. If you are concerned with liability issues, you can talk to your library board about how to keep teen equipment safe, but in half a dozen programs with equipment loaned from teens, I have yet to have a single problem. Second, check with your library system. They may have equipment to lend to their member libraries for programs exactly like these. Third, consider investing in a game system for in-house use at your library. A Wii or an Xbox 360 could make a great addition to your library’s programming materials, and they are coming down in price rapidly. You can even find ways to make these systems available on a regular basis for your teens.  
<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Get support from the community. Support from the community can be as simple as having parent volunteers help to oversee the event. Another way that the community can support you is by donating to causes like Extra Life (see below) when your library participates.
<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Take advantage of national and regional opportunities. Our library participates every year in the Extra Life 24-hour game marathon. This program is nationally sponsored by the Children’s Miracle Network, and helps bring in money for CMN hospitals across the US. You can connect with your local children’s hospital through the Extra Life website, create a team for your teens, and encourage community members to donate CMN on behalf of your gamers. Then, on the day of the event (this year will be October 20), you and your team play video games for 24 hours to support CMN and Extra Life. Think of it as a Relay for Life, except you play video games instead of walking. Teens in Park Falls love the opportunity to feel like they can make a difference, while still having fun with a favorite activity. If playing video games for 24 hours doesn’t sound like it’s a good program for your library, look into other opportunities for your teens to game for a good cause. The Game Politics blog has a whole series of articles devoted to popular and effective gamer charities.
<!--[if !supportLists]-->·         <!--[endif]-->Don’t forget to have fun! One of the most important things that you as a librarian can do to make your video game program successful is to have fun with the teens! Don’t be afraid to try something new – most teens will be happy to help you learn a game like Rock Band if it means that you’ll play with them. It’s also fun to challenge the teens to a game from your generation – in my case, Super Mario Bros. 3 for the Nintendo Entertainment System has proven to be a great opportunity to connect with teens at our video game events. Some of them have discovered the game for the very first time, and enjoyed it more because they were playing it with me. You can make a big connection with teens by showing an interest in the games, so be willing to step out of your comfort zone and join the party.
I hope these simple tips have started you on the path to a successful video game program at your library. Your teens will love the opportunity, and your library will benefit from their presence. Have fun, and game on!

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