What it’s all about


I know I’m preaching to the choir with this one, but it made my day so I thought I’d share.

As we’ve said before, games can bring people together.  This is beautiful.


Let the kids say “Wii!”


From over at Mental Floss:

Good news for all the parents out there who are worried about their kids not exercising enough. A new study by researchers at Brigham Young University and University of Massachusetts has shown that kids who play 10 minutes of active videogames, like Wii Boxing or Dance Dance Revolution, get exercise that’s just as stimulating as a three-mile walk on a treadmill. This is particularly good for kids who live in cities where playing outside is either dangerous or unpractical. Better still, the kids most at risk for obesity enjoy playing games even more than their lower-BMI counterparts.

Of course, the benefits only work if the child is playing an active title that uses the full range of motion from the Wii, Move or Kinnect systems. You can’t just sit around all day playing Angry Birds or Super Mario Galaxy and still expect to get any health benefits.


The Beauty of Halo


Head on over to Just a Bald Man… to read his excellent post “THE BEAUTY OF HALO”

For those parents who believe that video games have no redeeming educational value, I simply ask you to sit down and watch your child for a while – not just once for a few minutes, but over a period of time. If we take the time to really pay attention – to put down our iPhones, step away from the TV, lay aside our book – and really watch them, we can see some amazing things. Some of those things are obvious. The can learn about history, art, music, adventure, and a wide array of other things that virtually all parent views as “beneficial learning.”

What type of media belongs in a library? (or, Who Are We?)


I’ve been getting alot of questions lately: “what IS 8bitlibrary“?

6 months ago i would have said “it’s the gaming-in-libraries blog”! And I’m not, 6 months later, saying that statement is wrong. But we’re about a bigger issue, and that is: “we’re the #makeithappen blog“.

In libraries, #makeithappen is a taking new exciting ideas and seeing them through to the end. It’s the blog about all the really cool new stuff people are actually doing in libraries.

I had the opportunity to watch the Joaquim Phoenix movie I’m Still Here thanks to the Netflix instant queue. It was a great documentary about Joachim trying to become a Hip-Hop star. I won’t give spoilers, but the end, to say the least, “leaves you wondering”.

Tonight, again because of the Netflix Instant Queue on Xbox, I got to see the 1998 documentary Wrestling with Shadows, which ultimately chronicles the end of Bret Hitman Hart’s WWF career, with the Montreal Screwjob being the crux of the story. Everyone KNOWS wrestling is scripted, and the movie takes you through the process of how wrestling IS scripted. However, the end of the movie is the story of a script gone wrong, where the person who was supposed to win was “screwed”. In the 90s wrestling era, this was a defining moment of “OMG, wrestling can be REAL sometimes!!!”.

When the movie started, I felt that the fact that a documentary was being recorded at the convenient moment when the ultimate wrestling “real” outcome (vs the usual fake wrestling) was proof that even at the time wrestling was “real”, it was also an elaborate hoax.

I suggested to my wife that this would be a great program for a library (like a book discussion, but with movies instead of books). Show both movies and have people discuss the fictional and the factual elements of both, and maybe try to decide which told a better fictional but factual story.

My wife said “this doesn’t belong in libraries“. There’s lots of dicks, boobs, balls, sex, and drug use in the Joachim movie after all, and the wrestling movie was full of violence: everything we love to censor.

I thought back to all the books I have read since becoming a librarian. Lots worse violence. Way more sex and drug use. Much more graphic violence. They are making a MOVIE out of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, after all! As an aside, that book was set right in the same historical period as the Montreal Screwjob.

I said to myself: WHY is it ok to have certain forms of “inappropriate” expression in books but not movies? Why do we treat some forms of media as sacred, and other forms as dirty?

This, of course, is also what is about. We believe that storytelling media shouldn’t be judged just because it is presented in a certain media format and not another.

And so, I ask, how have libraries dealt with “controversial” content in one form of media that is less-controversial in other forms? We already know that some library board in the middle of nowhere decided to ban their library from showing the Michael Moore movie Sicko just because they didn’t agree with the argument the movie made. I’m sure they already own books that make similar arguments, and no one cares. Cranky Kong, Donkey Kong’s grandfather, would probably applaud their ban.

So, should libraries ban content in some formats and not others? And, do you feel like is just a “gaming blog”, or do you feel like we talk about gaming so much because we are touching on an issue that is really relevant to current libraries?

I wrote an article in January 2011′s School Library Journal along with contributor Beth Gallaway on the USA Supreme Court Case on First Amendment Rights and how they apply to video game content (vs, say, the same content in a Bugs Bunny cartoon). Same issue, different media format.

I would really love to get a convo going, either here, on twitter, or on facebook, about what you think!!!

Thanks for reading, true believers.



Gaming for Children with Special Needs: What to Play?


Chances are, if you made it to, then you’re well aware of the benefits of gaming, including the development and reinforcement of various cognitive, literacy, and social skills. So the question is, what are you going to do in 2011 to enhance gaming services in your community? Our suggestion is  expanding these programs to a new audience, and there is none better than children with special needs.

For complete information on the how and why of gaming for children with special needs, see the article from the December 2010 issue of School Library Journal, “Rated E for Everyone”. Then come back and check out this list of game recommendations and get a program started for this frequently under-served audience!

Card & Board Games

  • ThinkFun Zingo is a fun, fast-moving matching game similar to Bingo in which players try to match up their picture card with tiles that are revealed by pulling on a Zinger. The first player to fill his or her picture card wins. This game is great because it accommodates 2 to 8 players, keeps kids engaged, teaches image and vocabulary recognition, reading, matching, memory, concentration, and encourages social skills such as taking turns, following rules, and sharing.
  • I Spy Memory Game is a memory game, for 1-6 players, with riddles just like the I Spy book series, which can be played three different ways to accommodate younger and older players. This game helps young players to develop memory, reading, thinking and language skills, as well as important social skills such as taking turns, following rules, and sharing. Kids that enjoy reading I Spy books and playing I Spy computer games will enjoy this board game, which has simple rules, is easy to set up, and can be completed fairly quickly.
  • Jenga is a stacking game consisting of wooden blocks that are big and easy to grab.  This interactive, engaging, and tactile game teaches kids the importance of strategy and concentration, while improving dexterity and coordination. Jenga is great because the rules are simple, a game can be set up and completed fairly quickly, and requires only 1 or more to play.
  • Pictionary Card Game is a fun, fast-moving card game that is played in teams as small as two, which combines the fun of Pictionary and Charades. Players race to act out the clues using only the simple images on the cards by combining them, building scenes with them or using them as props. This interactive game is great because no drawing is required, is easy to play, and improves concentration, while fostering imagination, creativity, thinking skills, teamwork and cooperation.
  • Sequence for Kids is a fun, fast-moving sequence game, similar to Bingo in some ways that preps kids for strategic thinking as they anticipate their opponents’ next move. This game is great because it only requires 2 to 4 players, fosters social skills such as taking turns, following rules, and sharing, and builds matching, pattern recognition, counting, and literacy skills.

Video Games

  • Wii Active Life Outdoor Challenge is a fitness game that will get kids up and moving, similar to Nintendo’s Wii Fit, in which players are actively engaged in a variety of 16 fun, energetic, fast-paced mini-games such as river rafting, mine-cart adventure, log jumping, see-saw, jump rope, water trampoline, and many more.  Using a specially-designed eight pad Active Life mat, this game will help kids will improve their overall fitness level, sense of balance and coordination, eye-hand coordination, literacy skills (reading on-screen directions), as well as foster teamwork, cooperation, and social skills such as taking turns and sharing. (ESRB Rating: E for Everyone)
  • Wii Boom Blox Bash Party is the exciting sequel to Wii Boom Blox that challenges the players’ reflexes, dexterity, and problem-solving skills. Like the original Boom Blox, players use the Wii Remote to direct objects and forces toward structures made of blocks in order to knock them over. The Jenga-like gameplay requires players to pull out blocks, with the goal of toppling over as many blocks as possible, without bringing down the entire structure, and like Jenga, kids will learn strategy skills, improve dexterity, and observe physics in action.  Wii Boom Blox Bash Party is great for all ages, is easy to play, and features quick games that foster teamwork, cooperation, and collaboration. (ESRB Rating: E for Everyone)
  • Wii Just Dance 2 is the energizing sequel to Just Dance, featuring 45 songs that can be used in four different dance modes to help kids improve their overall coordination and physical fitness levels, build teamwork and social skills such as sharing and taking turns, and work on memory, pattern recognition and following instructions.  Basically, players hold a Wiimote in their right hand, and copy dance moves presented by an animated dancer presented on the screen. Just Dance 2 is suitable for tweens and teens, but if you have a younger audience, you may also want the very recently released Just Dance Kids (ESRB Rating: E for Everyone), which will contain more age-appropriate songs and lyrics targeted toward a younger age group, which also helps kids work on similar skills as noted for Just Dance 2. (ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+)
  • Wii Party is an interactive and engaging kid-friendly party game featuring 13 different party game modes and 70+ mini-games, which provide kids with lots of variety that includes cooperative and competitive gameplay that turns over quickly to keep the game moving. This game helps kids improve their eye-hand coordination, builds literacy skills (like Wii Sports and Wii Sports Resort, players can read on-screen instructions for help), and social skills (taking turns and sharing with other players).  (ESRB Rating: E for Everyone)
  • Wii Rayman Raving Rabbids TV Party is the third Wii game in UBI Soft’s popular Rayman Raving Rabbids series, and features 60+ fun, quick minigames. The “rabbids” are bunny-like creatures who communicate by screaming and occasionally hitting each other with any object that comes into their hands. The rabbids have taken over the TV stations, broadcasting a series of nonsense shows in an effort to drive Rayman crazy. Players will discover new and innovative ways to play with eight types of gameplay, which will help them improve their sense of precision, dexterity, balance, and coordination, and reading written instructions to complete the mini-games will help kids improve their literacy skills. This game also fosters teamwork, cooperation, and social skills as kids practice taking turns and sharing.  (ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+)
    Game reviews by Peggy Wong, Children’s Services Librarian, Piscataway Public Library
    pwong AT lmxac DOT org

More on violent video game U.S. Supreme Court case


Quote: Where do you stop? What about violent books, violent movies?

Simple & Easy Shared Library Ideas (via Infolink)


Mary Martin, director of the Long Hill Public Library in NJ recently did a poll on the listserv for Infolink, one of our regional library cooperatives in NJ, and the results were so good I had to share them with you readers! Hope you can pass these ideas on as well!

NJ has a truly great library community.

Simple & easy shared library ideas – August 2010

Ways to Engage Patrons
Front Desk Raffle
Run a fun contest at the circ desk every few months (e.g. get a quote from a book, display it and have patrons guess origin of quote. Those who guess correctly are entered into a drawing to win something simple (a gift card to Starbucks, DD, etc)

Raffle Ticket Inside Book
Variation of above, but put a “raffle” ticket inside books so people will be surprised when they find the ticket. (Bestsellers, hot movers, etc). The raffle ticket could even ask people for their opinion of the book.

Summer storytime

Does your town have a pool or a lake? There’s no law that says storytime must always be offered at the library. One library does a special storytime at the pool during the summer.

Book Bingo for the Whole Family

“Join us to play Bingo and win a book! All ages welcome, parents and grandparents too! No registration required.” All you need is some refreshments and some books as prizes (they use donated books so there is no cost aside from the refreshments). This has been very popular – the library who ran this had over 70 people in July.

Adult Summer Reading Program
A librarian writes: Based on this year’s water theme, we expended to the elements in general. We asked people to read a book or watch a DVD concerning the elements. We provided a list of suggestions to get them going. For each title, they fill out an entry slip for a drawing. We’ll do a drawing for some mugs at the end of August.

Teen summer reading program
At Long Hill we run both a teen and an adult summer reading program. For each book the patron reads or listens to, they fill out a raffle ticket. We draw winners weekly, and they win either a mug or a book (we use donated books as prizes). At the end of the summer we have one grand prize teen winner and one grand prize adult winner, each win a $25 gift card to Borders. We also offer the option for the patron to review the book, and we post their reviews on our library blog.

Storytime for Grownups

Because why should kids have all the fun?

Blind Date with a Book

In late January/early February, wrap up some books in brown paper, decorate with Valentine’s Day theme and encourage patrons to choose one to take home. Long Hill did this last year, it was fun and patrons enjoyed the opportunity to check out a book they might not otherwise have chosen.

Happy Holidays from the Library Staff!

Engage the staff by asking them to recommend holiday or winter themed books or DVDs. Then create a bookmark with their recommendations and give it out to library patrons.

Sharing Our Knowledge w/ Patrons
Staff Picks/May We Recommend?
Display backlist titles or staff picks that people may not have had a chance to read, at the front desk. You’d be surprised at how the staff picks fly off the desk. One caveat: pick books that are in good shape with interesting cover art. They are more likely to catch patrons’ interest.

If You Like cards in the stacks near popular authors

“If you like James Patterson you might also like….” these have been very popular at our library, I am happy to share the cards with anyone who wants to use and/or modify them.

Help patrons find their way around Nonfiction with shelf end cards that include not only the Dewey numbers but the subject patrons will find within that Dewey range – e.g 910.202 – 940.54 Geography, Travel, Ancient History or 600 – 618.24 Nutrition & diets, health & medicine

Recent Returns cart
In front of the circ desk, we have a cart where we put recently returned new books. We deliberately put the cart next to the book drop at the desk, because right after people drop off their old set of books is when they’re looking for new stuff to read. It cuts down on shelving, gives people a smaller section of books to browse.

“Bestsellers You Haven’t Read Yet”
Create a new section right next to New Fiction (or even use a folding bookcase or cart in front of the circ desk) with colorful books by big authors (Grisham, Roberts, Patterson, Picoult etc). You could even do a variation on the theme and do a “Best Books You Haven’t Heard Of” or a “Staff Picks” section. Assign someone to keep the display fresh and replenish it when necessary.

Get those oversized books circulating!
A librarian writes: “One thing we do is combine our browsing shelf with two lower shelves, and we choose a selection of oversized books there. Our oversized books tend not to go out as much as the other books, mainly because they are shelved separately. By showcasing them, not only do they go out, but people will go to the oversize shelves more than before.”

Oversized art books
One library I visited has a special set of shelving near the circ desk where they display oversized art books. As soon as they created this special section, the circulation of this type of book skyrocketed.

Summer Reading Lists
Make sure you have printouts of the local schools’ summer reading lists (both required, and recommended), and put them in binders. It may also be nice to post links to the reading lists on your library’s web site. We didn’t have the K – grade 5 recommended reading lists printed out until one of our staff members mentioned that she was getting a lot of requests for them. So I talked to the elementary school librarian and got the lists, then printed them & posted on our website.

Creative use of volunteers
Reading Buddies (teen volunteers)
Teen volunteers come in to read to little kids. Great all year round but especially during the summer when you have all those teens who want to volunteer

Computer Tutors (adult volunteers with computer skills)
Adult volunteers who have computer skills come to the library once a week at a set time, and help whoever comes in with their questions. It’s been very successful at Westwood Library and they’ve gotten great feedback from their patrons.
Another library described a similar program, PC Tutoring. They offer one-on-one computer tutoring to patrons twice a month, on several PC basics.

Better Communication with Patrons
Ask patrons for help in maintaining your collection
Patrons complaining about DVDs, audio CDs not working properly? You can create a simple slip asking patrons “Help us keep our collection in good repair” and including checkmarks where they can indicate what is wrong with the item. Then train staff to look for those checkmarks when an item is returned. And clean/repair item before it is reshelved.

Ask for what you need in your answering machine message
At Long Hill, we noticed that when people left messages for us at the front desk they usually failed to give us the info we needed (e.g. if it was a renewal) or they would be crystal clear in their message up until they told us their last name, which always ended up sounding like “Blarfengar.” So we changed our answering message to say “We’re sorry we missed your call. Please leave a message with your name, and please spell out your last name for us. Provide your phone number and your request. We’ll return your call as soon as we can.” This friendly message that clearly tells them what info we needed from them. It has cut down on the head-scratching we were doing when we checked our messages.

“You don’t have enough mysteries.”
One librarian writes: I met an elderly gentleman at a community event. He told me he stopped using our library because we didn’t have many mysteries. When I asked him for more details I learned that he thought the only mysteries we owned were on the New Book shelves. So now we have a sign on our New Mysteries shelves that says “We have over 7,500 mystery novels and many others available from other libraries at no charge…”

Cheap Advertising/Marketing
Use printable business cards to advertise services. For instance, if you want to promote Reference USA you can print business cards and hand them out to business patrons for them to file in their wallet, where they might actually have a chance of finding it when they need it.

Contact your local newspaper and find out if they have “community blogs.” Long Hill’s local newspaper encouraged us to start a blog with them. We use it to promote library events and what is interesting is that the newspaper staff read our blog, so occasionally they will print an article in the paper about the library even though we didn’t send them a press release – they just take the info from our blog.

At Long Hill we get BookPage book review magazine (for patrons) and we subscribe to the NextReads database (providing 21+ book related email newsletters people can sign up for.) When BookPage comes we put a sticker on it saying “Like what you read here? Sign up for NextReads for even more great recommendations.” To increase use of NextReads newsletters we also created easy sign up sheets and put them all around the library (including in our New Book binder) to encourage people to sign up. (We also use NextReads for our monthly children’s events email newsletter.)

Tax Forms
As you know the State of New Jersey stopped providing tax forms and instructional booklets this year. One of Long Hill’s staff members suggested we print out a couple copies of the instructional booklet, put them in binders and allow patrons to check them out for 7 days. This was a great way for us to serve the patrons

Easy Technology Tools
A librarian writes “We are a small library and only have 4 public Internet computers. We also have a large number of latchkey kids. This summer we decided to implement separate adult and juvenile usage times. Adults get their time on the computers from 10:30 to 12:30 and kids get their time from 2 to 4. Now we don’t have adults complaining about the noisy kids at the computers with them, and can guarantee that kids won’t be bothered by adults during their designated time period.”

Digital frame
You can get a cheap digital frame and put pictures from library events on it. Long Hill has this at our front desk. The kids especially are mesmerized by this – they look for themselves and their friends in the pictures.

Mario Learns a Lesson


“bit and run” — Mario’s Ladder from Cory Godbey on Vimeo.

I saw this on Topless Robot today. Corey Godbey, if you don’t know, is an amazing artist who curated a collection of Where the Wild Things Are inspired art entitled “Terrible Yellow Eyes.” He’s also illustrated many folk and fairy tales. His work and interests are a lovely intersection of gaming, art, and storytelling, which is a wonderful model for libraries to follow.

A pretty diverse group, chillen at the Gaming Station

Open “Gaming Stations” in the Library


Hey all,

Justin has really been killing it on here with his great posts on gaming programs, and I felt inspired to share an experience of my own.

In 2005, in my previous job as head of a public library children’s department, I had the opportunity to try out something that I suggest every public library at least try for a month, if not implement permanently. If you own a console, take out/open your TV, turn on the TV&console, and let your library users play the games all day. Whenever you are open.

A pretty diverse group, chillen at the Gaming Station

The concept is simple: you allow books to be read and checked out all day. You allow your computers to be used all day. Same goes with other media; newspapers, magazines, etc… Your library spent a small but good amount of money on the console and the games, let your library users play with them! It doesn’t only have to be for programs. Similarly, open gaming doesn’t mean that you still won’t get a chance to run programs!

My experiences were very positive. I had multiple age groups constantly collaborating and sharing information in a way that is unique to the gaming medium. Users who would have in other circumstances had no reason to even speak to each other at the library are now sharing tips and becoming friends (oh, and hopefully talking trash on each other, :-p).

Open gaming also fosters a new way for libraries to include multiple age groups in activities. Public libraries traditionally segregate people based on age (“Children’s Room”, “Teen Room”, “Adult/Reference room”, in NJ we have a growing amount of libraries with “Senior Rooms” thanks to the work of Allen Kleiman et al.). I don’t think that there is anything wrong with age segregation in libraries; it HAS worked and CONTINUES to work for libraries. But there’s also nothing wrong with mixing everyone together, and in my experience with open gaming, this is THE BEST WAY to get every age group engaging / sharing information & experiences together.

In an open gaming situation (vs a set-times-for-gaming situation), I’ve found that parents/teens/seniors who otherwise wouldn’t  have picked up a game are now having fun “playing” with kids/teens/parents/grandparents/babies. It’s really an amazing, unique-to-libraries experience to see a two-year-old kid playing video games with their grandparent and an 8-year-old kid they’ve never met. Where else could you see that same 8-year-old become friends with a 15-year-old? Or a 20-something couple walk in the library for a book and end up sharing a really good time with a bunch of teenagers they’ve never met before? And in a school library situation, you’ll see teachers and students engaging in a way they’ve probably never engaged before, and students will build friendships with students they may have never even met before.

Libraries aren’t only about information, they are also about valuable human experiences, and gaming is the best of both worlds: a modern information media as well as an all-ages platform for fun  interaction.

You’ll notice I didn’t go over any “problems” you may run in to. It’s 2010 now and the idea of open gaming probably isn’t as “new” as it was in 2005, so I think it’ll probably be easier for you to try something like this in your library. There’s always 1,000,000 reasons not to do something; don’t let those reasons stop you from trying this. Let me know your experiences if you do this in your school / library!


3,2,1…Mario Kart tourney!


GT System wiki

Eli Neuberger, Ann Arbor District librarian and author of Gamers? In the Library?, suggested using GT System for the hardest part of running gaming tournaments,  the ‘heavy lifting’ of creating brackets, points, matches.  You create brackets online without the frantic scribbling on paper or on an spreadsheet.  There hasn’t been a 2010 announcement of events, but contact information is found on the wiki to find out more.

GT System is a framework and a set of web tools for producing videogame tournaments of any size for players of any age or experience level. It gives you everything you need to promote and run a videogame tournament at your institution, and it allows all GT system players to see where how they stack up on local, regional and national leaderboards!

Patrons drop and add on-site to tournaments, so all the pre-game work can get blasted by surprises.

One experience:

I ran a Mario Kart tournament without this system – our library had an Under 12 years and Over 12 tournament.   The children’s librarians did not fully get across to some kids/parents that they were wait listed, so all showed!  Had to work quick on my blank ppt to change the brackets and matches I worked on.

Also, there were going to be 4 adults working the tourney, and two couldn’t come.  Left a lot of work setting up controllers, announcing brackets for one while the other worked the room, helped sign in kids, talked with parents, took photos…

I was fielding calls from college students about using cheats and their own controllers.  Having played Mario Kart, I was familiar…but not the endless hours these kids had!  You might just have to make decisions on the spot– just stick to them!

Eli told us that if you have elementary kids, someone will cry.  I think at least three kids cried.  It’s hard when their parents are there, and you want them to have fun.  But competition is a fact of life, and not everyone gets the blue ribbon.

Siblings bring their own twist; I had a set of triplet boys, and two made it to the finals of 3.  The great thing was the parent who told me the triplet who won was not athletic or academic, so it was a win on a big stage for him, a first.

I created certificates for the top three winners, and a gave a gift card for GameStop to the winners in each age group.

The library I’m at now has weekly teen gaming, monthly elem. level gaming, and many tournaments.  I’ve offered to try a MK tourney again- loved the cheering and laughing a whole room of parents and siblings made.

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