Column Description: In this column, we will explore the benefits of gaming in the library and how it can be an asset to both staff and patrons. We will explore the various types of games that are out there, as well as some ideas to adapt them for people who aren't familiar with the world of hobby board gaming. Other topics that will be covered will include how to build a board game collection for your patrons and creating gaming related activities to help boost staff morale.
The most commonly asked question when I tell people that I am into board games is whether or not I mean games such as Monopoly, Clue, or Scrabble. And while I do appreciate the place these games have had in our cultural history, my answer is a resounding no. My personal board game journey started in 2011 with a game called Agricola, which is a game about building a farm. In this game, you have wooden pieces to represent fences, animals, and crops that you grow. Think of it as “Farmville: The Board Game.” When I purchased this game, I was very intimidated by the sheer number of pieces as well as the length of the rulebook, but upon diving in I realized I had discovered something fun and special. I am not expecting anyone to go out and buy a complicated game that originated in Germany with hundreds of pieces by finishing this article, but I hope you can at least understand some of the benefits of gaming in your personal life as well as your library.
The first and primary reason why I love board games is that it forces people to get off their phones and away from screens for the majority of the time. I have witnessed firsthand when families get “together” which consists of the entire group sitting on the couch on their phones. Board games get people to sit around the table and share an activity that encourages people to look at one another. So much of our daily lives revolve around technology, and I find myself lost when I don’t have access to my phone or my TV to able to get through the night. But with a board game, you don’t need any sort of power, other than some sort of light to be able to see the board.
As we get older, we often don’t get to learn new things in our day-to-day lives. Learning a new game helps your brain stay engaged and active. I get great joy in learning and teaching the games that I purchase and think of each one as a puzzle to decipher. With the help of videos and the rulebook, I spend about 1-2 hours per game learning the intricacies of the rules and then I get to gleefully impart what I learned to others. Teaching games is an art unto itself, one that takes time to perfect with practice.
My final reason and perhaps one of my favorites, is because it brings together people from all walks of life. You can play the same board game with a teen that you can with an adult or a senior. I enjoy playing games with people of all different ages and seeing how fast some people get into the game and catch onto the rules. My current favorite group of people to play games with are our teens, which is the age group I work with in my library. They constantly impress me with how fast they learn the rules and how often they beat me when playing!
The board gaming hobby is one that has risen in popularity in recent years. With new sections in Target and Walmart alongside the popping up of board game cafes, you will find that by introducing board gaming into your library and possibly into your personal life, you will draw new patrons in and possibly new friends as well! In my next article, I plan on going into the different types of games that exist out there.
Brian Schwartz is currently the head of Teen Services at the Patchogue-Medford Library. He grew up on Long Island, spending the first 10 years of his life in Elmont and the rest in the town of Holbrook. He attended Stony Brook University with a Bachelor's degree focused on English Literature before going on to LIU: CW Post for his Masters. He has worked in libraries for over 25 years, having started as a page at the age of 15. Through various part-time jobs, he has worked in Children's Services and Reference as well. His favorite part of his job is interacting with the teens as well as his coworkers.
His hobbies include aspiring to read 100 books a year, walking 8 miles a day, and gaming. His favorite board game is a game called Suburbia, in which you build your own neighborhood. His favorite video game genre is JRPGS (Japanese Role Playing Games). His favorite color is yellow and he enjoys the music of Tori Amos, Aimee Mann, the Beatles, and almost any artist from the 80's or 90's.