A different library conference

With ALA Annual about to get underway, the professional press is entirely focused on that important event, it seems, and with good reason. But not everyone can attend nor even want to. I wanted to go but this year, I won’t make it.

Instead, might I interest you in another library gathering? The focus of R U Game 2010 is all about games in libraries and your host is Ellen Forsyth for the State Library of New South Wales in Australia. A bit too far to travel, perhaps? Me too. But I’ll be one of the presenters there even so, and the cost to attend is far less than you might think. And it’s a conference with an unforgettable setting.

A little background
Two years ago, in June 2008, Science Magazine held an unusual scientific conference. William Bainbridge and John Bohannon played host for three days to speakers and presenters of formal papers on the research and science of virtual worlds. In the course of the conference, the attendees got to talk and socialize (of course), but also to travel around and do some exotic tourism, get married, explore the seamier side of a beautiful city controlled by the worst sort of despots, and in the end everyone at the conference died.

It could have taken place in Second Life; similar conferences and gatherings have taken place there before. But this was the first such conference held in Azeroth, the virtual world that is the World of Warcraft. The Science guild that formed because of the conference remains active, allowing researchers and interested parties to network and share information inside one of the most popular of virtual worlds.

Librarians who play
I’ve spoken here before of librarians who have banded together in World of Warcraft (WoW), for companionship, networking, and sharing of information. Probably the best known such group is the Libraries and Librarians guild (Alliance) that resides on the Aerie Peak server. This is the group with whom I raised money for charity last year, and I hope to do so again this fall. I’ve made new friends because of the guild, had business meetings, and enjoyed the game ‚ often all at the same time.

A new opportunity
Partly modelled on the scientific conference of two years ago, the new R U Game conference is set to take place this week, with a focus on gaming in libraries. One day, the conference takes place in real life, one day the conference takes place in Azeroth. If you can reach the conference personally, I applaud you; I’d love to be there in Sydney myself. If you can’t, I hope you’ll join me and others online, in WoW, for the second day of the conference.

If you don’t already play the game, you will need to create a Battlenet account and sign up for a month’s subscription to the basic World of Warcraft game. (Unfortunately, the free trial accounts do not give sufficient permissions to attend and participate in the conference. The expansions to the game will not be necessary.) In the US, this will set you back approximately $35, which is still a whole lot cheaper than most professional gatherings. That’s it ‚ that’s the only cost. Once you download the game ‚ give yourself plenty of time, ahead of time ‚ roll up an Alliance character on the Saurfang server (it’s an Oceanic realm), and begin your trek to Stormwind where everywhere will be meeting.

You’ll also want to go to the RUGame2010 site to sign up for the free conference. The Games and Public Libraries wiki has lots more detailed information about the seminar, as well.

When and Who
Time zones are tricky for many, and virtual conferencing can be even more confusing. In Australia, the virtual part of the conference takes place the morning of June 24th. If you plan to attend from Canada or from the US like me, we’ll be attending the evening of June 23rd. (The virtual conference begins 8:30 pm, Eastern Daylight Savings Time ‚ New York. If you’re in California, it starts 4:30 pm.)

I’m going to be talking about MMOs in libraries ‚ not something we do a lot of, for good reason, but there are certain possibilities. Scott Nicholson will be talking about board games in libraries. Alan Beck is one of the key personnel working on the project offering WoW at Arkansas Regional Public Library. And someone I’m particularly eager to hear from is the Australian researcher Huon Longman talking about his studies of WoW.

I hope you can join me in Azeroth this week! According to Ellen, this may be just the start of a regular meeting of like minds. Game on.

(Addendum: Let me here acknowledge my recent absence from the virtual pages of Library Journal. Real life and technology conspired together to keep me from fulfilling these duties. I think both are straightened out so I expect to return to my regular appearance here once again.)

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Liz Danforth About Liz Danforth

Liz Danforth, MLS, is a freelance game illustrator, scenario designer, and game developer who was inducted into the Academy of Gaming Arts and Design's Hall of Fame in in 1996. She has 18 years experience as a part-time paralibrarian in Phoenix and Tucson and is one of about a dozen "gaming experts" working with the American Library Association on a million-dollar grant-funded project to study the use of gaming to improve literacy skills and to develop a model "toolbox" for gaming in libraries. Through Danforth Design & Development (D3), she also works as an artist, a writer, and a library consultant. Follow her on Twitter @LizDanforth.

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  1. [...] been incredibly impressed with what I’ve seen to date. When Peggy Sheehy spoke briefly during the Australian R U Game conference last month, she elicited comments like “I’m paralyzed with jealousy for her [...]

  2. [...] from around the globe at the R U Game seminar. Beforehand, I wrote in these pages about “A Different Library Conference” and invited people to come if they weren’t at ALA. Some two dozen librarians attended [...]

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