In the US, libraries have firm research to draw on when making the case for gaming as a relevant service that supports the broader mandate of our profession. You can thank Scott Nicholson and the Game Lab of Syracuse for some of that. In 2007, he directed two surveys of libraries nationwide to determine the extent and type of support for gaming that already existed, and probed into the results of offering game programming. The results showed wide acceptance of gaming in libraries, whether active programming or passive permission. Results also affirmed the pervasiveness of observations that gaming brought new or rarely-seen patrons into the library, that those customers used other library services when they came for game events, and that they returned later for non-game programs: in short, that gaming expanded our reach into the community and marketed our services. The Library Game Lab continues its work collecting longitudinal data and expanding on the questions being asked. You can read more details about all the results here.
Now Sarah McNichol is undertaking a similar survey in the United Kingdom where gaming in libraries remains more controversial. Money is tight and a new service still needs to prove its worth. With questions adapted from Dr. Nicholson’s surveys, she seeks to acquire the facts through a short questionnaire which will be open until 31 August 2010.
The survey is intended for libraries of all types, but strictly in the UK. If you cannot fill out details yourself, please contact your colleagues who can. Those of us involved in providing gaming services know it’s about considerably more than “we like to play games, so let’s do that here!” Why this short-sighted canard gets trotted out by people who merrily say “I like to read and that’s why I work in a library!” will always amaze me. Let’s get the facts assembled so decisions about gaming in libraries can continue to move forward. Well-grounded and persuasive research about gaming activities, and the potential benefits and difficulties of promoting gaming in libraries, will benefit everyone with an interest in the subject.