For reasons I won't bother to bore you with, today is the first day I've been able to post (or really, spend any extended amount of time on a computer) since returning from the ALA TechSource Gaming, Learning, and Libraries Symposium. This is unfortunate since the Symposium really pumped me up and gave me no shortage of library marketing inspiration. So much, in fact, that I anticipate discussing gaming and related marketing issues over a number of posts. To begin with, I'd like to share with you the over-arching message I took away from the event: Forget about being the third place. Be the first lab!
After listening to speakers like Eli Neiburger, Jim Gee, Greg Trefry, and many others, I learned that games, perhaps better than any other pursuit, build community and spark intellectual curiosity. Eli spoke about how gaming brought seniors out from their retirement homes to challenge teens to Dance Dance Revolution contests; Gee described how students who wouldn't crack open a textbook in school eagerly poured through tedious gaming guides teeming with sophisticated language for hours; Trefry told stories of how big games dramatically altered the ways in which people perceived their physical surroundings. Do you know of other media that are so transformative? I sure don't. Games and the application of gaming principles capture the essence of what libraries are all about. They engage patrons' imaginations, and allow them to play around with ideas in an interactive, risk-free format with wide cross sections of the community. In the process, gaming patrons actually construct a series of unique experiences, thereby turning the library into a laboratory of sorts.
This "community creativity lab" is where where I see libraries' future and competitive advantage. I can't think of any other free, publicly-accessible place (except perhaps for museums, which we should be partnering with), where people can come together for purposes of serious play and creative enterprise. Unlike other "third places" like Starbucks that attempt to be a home-away-from-home space, libraries are much more. They are where old and new knowledge are explored, created, and re-envisioned. Our duty is to recognize and facilitate the many varied creative pursuits of our patrons and give them the value-added spaces, resources, expertise, and community engagement to explore them in greater depth. Gaming represents one avenue for libraries to look into, but there are many others as well.Some of you may be skeptical about the potential of gaming and libraries, which is fine. I wasn't entirely sold on it either until I understood it better. So, I will continue to analyze how gaming makes sense from a library marketing standpoint based on what I learned. My next post will address who makes up the gamer market segment and what value-added services draw them in.