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* Tuesday, December 6, 2005

Gaming Symposium 08: Speakers Panel

Christy Branson, Eli Neiburger, Matt Gullett, Kelly Czarnecki, George Needham

Christy Branson: as an academic, she’s thrilled to see what the publics are doing

Eli: it’s not really if you’re going to do gaming, but when; or are you not going to do them anymore because there’s no millage support; now that we’ve had a conference about this, it’s officially legitimate

Kelly: there’s certainly a community here to help you; want to give you confidence you can do this

George: one of the things Matt said gave him an a-ha moment, that libraries shouldn’t be approaching these organizations as beggars; we have reams of data about our users, and we’re nervous about using it, but we could leverage this in exactly this kind of situation (we have 20,000 patrons within 5 miles of your shop)

Matt: the biggest thing he’s taken away from this is how Les characterized this as the library as a center for technology and innovation; Eli made the point that books are a technology – a good one that’s been around for a very long time – but now we’re talking about a different technology that incorporates a lot of aspects from other items or services we either offer or missed the boat on

Eli: another thing we’ve touched on here and there is that there is an image problem with games, and libraries certainly understand image problems, but every medium has its detractors (I’m sure there’s a Torah scribe out there that is still mad at Gutenberg); the market demands prurient use of the materials, but that doesn’t mean you throw the baby out with the bathwater; the truth is that there are things on our shelves that are FAR WORSE than the worst thing in Grand Theft Auto

George: just wants to reiterate how much this sounds like the arguments about videos in libraries in the 1970s; it’s just another way of conveying information

Kathryn: thinks about the phrase “le livre retard” = “the slow book” from the time of Gutenberg; it was considered to be a ridiculous effort, slowing down progress instead of speeding it up

Kelly: brought up Steven Johnson’s book “Everything Bad is Good for You” and the example of what would have happened if video games had been invented before books

audience member: the media curve for take-home technologies is increasing rapidly; maybe we become multimedia formats (“a box of bits”) to prepare for the next and future formats; George, how do we deal with this?
George: it’s very hard to generalize this; there are some libraries that are far ahead and are setting the standards; “the gap between the person who says ‘I can’t believe you have this’ to the person that says ‘I don’t believe you have this’ is shortening;” Seattle PL as a great example; next we’ll be looking at downloadable video; NetFlix model – the hell with fines… you get 25 items, and you don’t get the 26th until you bring back the 24th (we noted Elmwood Park Public Library is moving towards this! – they got applause!)

Kathryn: thinks policy-making is a methodology for anxiety avoidance – we create policies to avoid dealing with issues that cause anxiety, when we need to really examine if we should just figure out a how to make it work

audience member: it didn’t work with movies to say people will come in for DVDs and take books, too; can’t hang your hat on loss leaders; now is the time to have the dialogue, and this argument needs to have validity on its own
Eli: most of the library leadership in this country have a book fetish, and you have to pander to that to get the money; this isn’t a loss leader; eventually, these book people will be dead

audience member: every boy has discovered Runescape, and now Omaha PL is looking at doing multi-location Runescape tournaments; does anyone have success stories with this kind of thing?
Eli: he did think about using their LAN for this type of multi-place gaming, but there was no payoff for them; would love to see leagues formed at the national level and winners from each library competing

audience member: has anyone tried contracting with Apple for a group license
Eli: likes this as a future model, but the publishers are holding all the cards
George: it’s very difficult to do anything with Apple because they don’t do group purchase contracts; Random House is going to offer payment by page; it’s our job to make quality convenient, because otherwise Bruce Newell is right that convenient trumps quality
Kathryn: applies to academic libraries, too

audience member: when we think about creating a game for teaching information competencies, we’re realizing that if we don’t contribute to these kids environments and learning, then we won’t be relevant; digital divides, what does information literacy really mean? (can you find a resource, can you evaluate it becomes can you collaborate in a group environment?); we need to be very explicit and demanding with our vendors, and we’re the ones that need to say that they are doing it wrong; these kids can do World of Warcraft but not our vendors’ products, and that’s a problem
Eli: Constance talked about the literacy scare… maybe the interfaces just stink; maybe it’s not the user that’s broken

audience member: we focus on the materials aspect of it, but the social aspect of making a truly all-ages family event has a very high value; saw this in Eli’s presentation; it’s an opportunity for the public libraries, at least – an ideological shine of being a safe and enjoyable place;  but we have to make sure we’re doing these things; what can we use to do this? libraries are still meeting places despite all of the coffeehouses, bookstores, etc., some of whom never check out books; when she asked them why they come there, it’s because of the technology… too many distractions at home, so they come to the library; how do we retain that gathering place, because that may be what partially saves us
George: what you’re saying is very accurate; it hurts me to say that we’re not going to survive on information; with Random House driving down the price of bits of information, he’s really wondering what a public or even academic library’s role is going to be long-term in this kind of a situation; but there aren’t a lot of places people can just “go” with no commercial expectation and you can just “be yourself;” the idea of library as gathering place has resonance
Eli: we’d better be the best “third place” in the community, and our non-commercial nature gives us an advantage (and publicly-owned) – in fact, this might be the only edge we have left; it might be ironic that we push all of these services to users at home, but what they really want is to come to us!

audience member: trying to shift their services (musiclibrary.com)… will there be a model for delivering gaming to patrons offsite?
Eli: it’s already started at GameTap.com, but a lot of the game publishers are big enough that this has already happened in games; download games yourself before they’re even released (become playable on a specific date); that train has left the station

audience member: the other great thing about the library as a “third place” is its neutrality; eg Christmas… wants to get away from all of the commercialization of it, so goes to the library where they don’t have anything about it; question about other countries and how does this translate there? are we behind them?
Eli: the American public library is a pretty unique institution
George: the U.S. is way behind in how it uses technology, especially cellphone tech; you can’t say anyone is ahead or behind on the web because it’s pretty much the same thing; if you think WE have a book fetish, try other countries!
Eli and George noted how mobile technology is prevalent in the developed AND developing world
George: it’s not so much rich and poor anymore as urban vs. rural

audience member: not just urban vs. rural, but also rich vs. poor; showed article about a CPL branch that is packed because the library has internet access on computers; it’s a disservice to say either/or; it’s not video games OR books; we shouldn’t make it oppositional because that makes it harder to go to your board and make the argument
George: quoted Walt Crawford that we don’t live in an “either or” world; it’s going to be different from community to community; we have to get away from the idea that we’re media OR books
Eli: it’s not so much that the book will die out, but that the idea that the ideal of the book as the best format will die out; your grandchildren will still know books and enjoy them, but it may not be the only place you go anymore to get information; the 8–track went by the wayside, but vinyl found its niche
George: the 8–track is gone, but music is still around; it’s the content that’s important; content, not containers

Kathryn: where would you like to see the kinds of conversations and the things you’ve seen here go? what would you like to see happen to support you?
audience member: thinks we need more authoritative reviews of games; everyone needs to know there are good and valid educational aspects of these games
Eli: GameRankings.com is an excellent resource that has reviews of the reviews; however, educational games don’t sell newspapers, so the controversial content is what gets the notice
audience member: from an academic library, would like to know more about how to use this in an academic setting
audience member: would be useful to have some kind of a toolkit or guide… talking points
George: hates to say this, but bibliographies; can’t give them to the 10–year old, but you can give them to the 50–year old
audience member: much of the discussion was broader than just gaming in libraries, but also what libraries are about… was a good place to start the discussion; would like to see some of these discussions happen online on OPAL, repeatedly
audience member: doesn’t see an immediate application for gaming in academic libraries, but certainly from a pure nerd perspective, there’s the potential to create games for librarians by librarians; can we create an infrastructure to do this? seems like there was a spark to start this today, so can we collaborate on this?
Chad: as an interim resource for this, join Beth’s libgaming mailing list
audience member: the way we train librarians has to change; she just graduated recently, and she was completely unprepared for this symposium; most graduates are clueless, so thinks we need to demand library schools need to change; get to YALSA!

Christy: likes how Matt is getting the students to build their own games; it’s great that librarians are building content for them, but wouldn’t it be great if the kids learned the content enough to build the games themselves
George: this is one of the places where it makes sense to hire people who know how to do this and not shoehorn librarians
audience member: Constance recommended Filament Games as a company for this

Kathryn wrapped it up, and we’re done!

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