When we learned libraries were installing video games to draw teens and young adults through their doors, our first thought was that it’s like luring people to church with free beer. Who says that’s a good idea? Sure, they’ll come, but then how do you get rid of them?
The library, we thought, was a place for study and contemplation, not a hangout for gamers. Yes, we know modern libraries often have more DVDs than Blockbuster, more computers than the local community college and better coffee than Starbucks.
Comic books and CDs can be checked out along with books and magazines. Yoga and wine-tasting sessions supplement story hour, poetry readings and lectures. Some libraries have become de facto senior centers, resource labs for home-schoolers, rehearsal studios for community dance and theater groups . . . but still. Video games? What’s next—miniature golf? Walk-in medical clinics? Taco Bell?
To our surprise, the video game trend is endorsed by the Chicago-based American Library Association, which recently received a $1 million grant from the Verizon Foundation to develop a national model for library gaming. Eighty percent of public libraries allow video games on their computers, according to a 2007 Syracuse University study, and 13 percent have separate game systems such as PlayStation, Wii or Xbox.