Why exactly should libraries carry video games? Or music or movies for that matter? Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of free gaming, but I can't help but question the increasing multimedia nature of libraries.
Good thing, then, that the American Library Association is prepared with an answer for me and librarians nationwide.
This past November, nearly 600 libraries checked out more than 14,000 games on National Gaming Day. But why?
Adding games to the growing list of content that libraries check out helps establish the neighborhood library as a third place, a community gathering spot between home and work or school. That third place, according to the Librarian's Guide to Gaming, encourages play, socialization and cultural enrichment.
More interesting, though, is the association's take on the importance of gaming and play.
"Board games, card games, and videogames are, in essence, information, and the human act of telling stories, presented in new formats that involve the player. Games may fulfill a library's mission to provide cultural, recreational, and entertaining materials; to provide academic curriculum support; or to provide resources and support their industry or profession."
I would argue that gaming also helps children and teenagers prepare for life's challenges in a non-threatening way, allowing them to confront problems in a setting that allows for failure, and teaches through it.
The site is a fantastic jumping off point for lots of fascinating discussion, including a look at the connection between literacy and gaming, the cathartic effect of gaming, the health aspects of gaming and the importance and nature of fun play.
Jim Rettig, president of the association, sums up the values of gaming in libraries best:
"Games of every type play an important role in developing fundamental competencies for life. They require players to learn and follow complex sets of rules, make strategic and tactical decisions, and, increasingly, collaborate with teammates and others: all things they will have to do in college and in the workforce."
I'm convinced, hopefully this more formal roll-out of gaming through libraries will help to convince others as well.