by Elizabeth Ferguson
Library Media Specialist, Staley High School, North Kansas City SC
Doctoral Candidate, Emporia State University
I am a library media specialist at Staley High School in the North Kansas City School District and doctoral candidate at Emporia State University. As a teacher librarian, I balance supporting my building’s curricular needs with developing programming designed to engage teenagers and trick them into learning.
I have always enjoyed gaming, though I wouldn’t have called myself a gamer. As a kid, I associated the title with video games, and I am very bad at video games (except for the PS1 X-Files game, at which I was fantastic). Now, I’m over gatekeeping. I don’t believe arbitrary thresholds of labor or success must be met to gain the title “gamer,” and my joy and awareness of gaming has expanded. My local hobby shop has something for everyone. I am very excited about the Labyrinth games I just ordered from them.
My husband has played D&D for a long time, and I would be remiss to not acknowledge his role in my transition from party game dabbler to dungeon master. We started with a stack of 3.5e books in our first house; we’ve now moved closets and tubs filled with 5e materials, miniatures, and props. I’ve always been a storyteller and dreamer, and I’m fortunate to have friends and family with even bigger imaginations than mine.
To me, gaming is an opportunity to embrace cooperation and failure – both invaluable parts of education. I offer D&D programming at my library because my students need connections and opportunities to come together without overt competition or curricular pressure. There is no barrier for entry. The library supplies everything needed to play, including dice and knowledge. I like to believe that inclusive spirit is one reason people love our program so much. We offer workshops for people who have never held a d20, and we offer support for people who are running their own campaigns. We try things, mess them up, and try again. I’ve led adventurers through a few sunken citadels and pirate ships, but I’ve also introduced a lot of adventurers to each other. Adolescence can be hard. It’s easier with a party.
Few things beat the satisfaction of watching a student paint the 3D miniature we’ve printed for a character they lovingly created. Gaming is a gateway drug for some fantastically complex thinking and doing, though it helps to have a brother who’s an engineer and 3D printing enthusiast. My kids see possibilities and are inspired, even if they don’t consider themselves the type; isn’t that the very essence of what we do in school libraries?