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Gaming & Libraries: Learning Lessons from the Intersections


2008 may be remembered as the year in which gaming became just like any other service in libraries, with librarians implementing gaming initiatives that look very much like those we already offer for books, movies, music, and computers for as varied an audience as other library services are offered. As gaming in libraries has become more of a mainstream service, rather than a curious exception, anecdotal evidence has appeared on mailing lists, in newspaper articles, in conference presentations, and on blog posts, and general themes have begun to emerge. Overall, it’s clear that there are some common lessons libraries are learning from implementing gaming, and as with everything else in our profession, librarians want to share those lessons with their colleagues.

Implementing a library gaming program is not just a source of entertainment; it can further engage the library and its patrons with their community. The transformations that occur when libraries bring people together around content cannot be dictated, forced, or structured. And yet, many libraries are now using videogames as an infrastructure to provide transformational experiences for traditional nonusers in order to connect with them on a personal level. When this happens, these connections become just as powerful as the ones today’s adults experienced in their youth, and they give these teens that same sense of engagement with their libraries.

--Jenny Levine

About the Author

Jenny Levine is the Internet development specialist and strategy guide for the American Library Association’s information technology department.

She earned her MLIS from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1992 and has been an eminent technology training evangelist for librarians during her career. Levine is a keen advocate for gaming services and libraries, as she is a gamer and has witnessed, through personal observation and study, how gaming services can help members of several generations (particularly younger users) feel connected to the library. “Gaming,” she concludes, “provides a wealth of service intersections for libraries today and for the libraries of the future. And that future is all about opportunities and weaving together threads, both old and new.”

She has written two Library Technology Reports on this topic; has organized two ALA TechSource Gaming, Learning, and Libraries symposia; and helps coordinate ALA’s National Gaming in Libraries Day each November.

Levine also writes about gaming and libraries on a regular basis on her popular blog, The Shifted Librarian, which can be found at She began the first librarian blog in 1995, The Librarians’ Site du Jour, which can still be accessed at

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