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Gaming Librarian Spotlight: Chris Spradlin

This month’s spotlight is of a different nature than the usual submissions. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library (CML) would like to honor and remember a valuable member of their community who passed away this past August. Chris Spradlin made many contributions to gaming across the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area and forged deep connections with his colleagues and community. This month’s spotlight is dedicated to highlighting Chris’s contributions to gaming programming at CML, as well as the impact he had on his community. Answers to the interview questions were provided by Kristiana “kb” Belsito, Chris’s partner.  

Tell us about yourself. In a nutshell, who are you and what is your role at your library?

Chris Spradlin (he/they) was a Teen Library Associate for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library (CML), a public library system in North Carolina. Chris believed in the importance of empowering youth to use their imaginations, create stories together, and forge meaningful relationships all through the magic of gaming. Throughout their tenure at CML, Chris worked with a wide range of youth from a variety of backgrounds including queer youth, siblings, and BIPOC teens.

On a more personal note, Chris was a lover of dinosaurs, comic books, Doctor Who, and actual plays. He had two cats, Strax and Marie. Chris loved to cook for himself and for friends. Garlic hummus and pimento cheese were his specialties. Attending the local comic book convention, Hero’s Con, was an annual tradition, and Chris would leave the event with a bag full of stickers, prints, comics, and new dice.  Chris loved his job, the customers he was able to interact with every day, and his coworkers who he was able to collaborate with.

What got you into gaming?

From an early age, Chris pursued media that allowed him to escape reality while also teach him lessons to apply in the “real world.” Chris’s mother would buy him comic books on a regular basis, which he treasured. This early exposure to fantasy worlds translated into a passion for gaming as well. In his young adulthood, Chris played many role-playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons, various Call of Cthulhu games, and Pathfinder, to name a few. Chris also enjoyed playing video games of all kinds such as Neverwinter, Ark, and Minecraft. When Chris was raising his children, he bonded with them over video games. Gaming was a constant in Chris’s life until the very end of it.

What game are you excited by right now? Why?

Wanderhome was a game that Chris backed and was very excited about playing, but unfortunately was not able to play before his death. The game is full of sweet role-playing and collaborative story-telling without any combat. This was appealing to Chris because he was raised on D&D which so often hinges on violence and action, and he wanted to expand his gaming horizons. Chris was always excited for new games created and released by BIPOC and queer people. He was constantly following and financially supporting projects online so that more diverse games could make their way out into the world for more gamers to enjoy.

Share a program that you have developed or participated in that you were really proud of or excited by.

During the Black Lives Matter initiative in the CML system, Chris decided that they wanted to create a gaming program for teens centered around that theme. So when Chris discovered “Harlem Unbound”, a Call of Cthulhu based RPG set in the Harlem Renaissance, he immediately created a program highlighting it. Seeing the need for more diversity in teen library gaming programs motivated Chris to step up and create a space for exactly that!

Tell us about a time when you had to advocate for your game programs or collection.

Mint Hill, the branch where Chris was the Teen Library Associate, is in a more rural area of Mecklenburg County, and sometimes customers could be vocal about displays and programming that did not seem “appropriate” to them. As an openly queer individual in a predominately non-queer environment, Chris actively advocated for his QueeRPGs program which sometimes created tension within the library when a customer questioned the program being marketed to teens.

What games are popular in your community?

There has been a huge influx of Dungeons and Dragons as well as other RPG programming throughout the CML system. Chris is one of the reasons why D&D gaming manuals are circulating in his library system! He constantly advocated for the growing community of gamers who could not necessarily afford to buy their own manuals but wanted to learn and play D&D.

What value do games or gaming bring to you, personally?

For Chris, gaming brought community to him. During lock down, Chris joined a community of like-minded gamers on Discord and they quickly became some of his best friends. He would talk about them as if they were sitting in his living room gaming together in person, and they got to know each other beyond the confines of role-playing. Finding this community in an “unconventional” way was a gift to Chris and the people that he connected with online. Once his virtual gaming family learned about Chris’s death, they held a memorial in their Discord server sharing stories and memories about him. Without Chris’s passion for gaming, he would not have met these players who had such a huge impact on his life.

What value do games bring to your library community?

Similarly, gaming brought community to CML youth.  Teens who might not have met each other outside of the walls (or Discord servers) of the library became adventurers, investigators, and teammates when they joined Chris’s programs. Chris co-led a Dungeons and Dragons teen program at the library with kids who attended the program all the way through their high school years into early college! When library programming was shifted to solely virtual offerings during the lock down, teens would attend Chris’s programs to socialize even if it was from behind a screen and over a headset.

What is one thing about games or what you do with games that people don’t know about, but that you wish they knew?

Chris was an avid collector of virtual tokens. He would spend hours at a time searching for and organizing tokens to use with his MANY virtual campaigns. There were countless numbers of folders on his work account with various examples of “elf with curly brown hair” or “dwarf with red beard” or “owlbear cub.”

Interested in being featured in a Gaming Librarian Spotlight? Know someone who would be great? Let us know by adding a nomination: Gaming Librarian Nomination form

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