Gaming Librarian Spotlight: Emma Fish

Library Assistant II, Lebanon Public Library, Lebanon, OR

Interviewed by Julie Hornick

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

My name is Emma Fish, and I’m a Library Assistant II with the Lebanon Public Library in Lebanon, Oregon. I have a Bachelors in History from Oregon State University, and combined I have roughly 10 years’ experience in the book retail and library sphere. Working at a smaller rural library, even as support staff we wear a lot of hats. Some of my biggest ones include collection development for Nonfiction materials and our Library of Games, technical services, and cataloging. 

What is your favorite game? Why?

Wingspan! After hearing all of the enthusiasm for this bird themed engine building game, I tried it out last year. Not only did it become my favorite game to bring to game nights, but it piqued my interest in learning more about the birds themselves. I picked up a copy of How to Know the Birds by Ted Floyd, and I spiraled from there. Now I’ve bought multiple backyard bird feeders, go on regular birding walks, frequent local birding message boards, and keep spare binoculars and identification guides in my car’s glove box, just in case! It’s great how games can both reflect our interests and inspire them. 

Does your library have a gaming collection? If so, tell us a little bit about it.

I started researching what would go into adding a board game library to our collection while working from home in March of 2020, when the reality of how significantly COVID lockdowns would be affecting our lives really started to set in. When my library opened back up to the public, I sat down to talk with my director about the research I had done. She was encouraging and supportive, so I jumped right in and started working! Our circulating collection started out with 11 games, all either donated by staff members from their own game closets or by game publishers. We’ve had great luck working with local game creators from my home state, such as Weird City Games, to incorporate their work into our collection. We currently have 85 games available for circulation, from toddler games through adult strategy games and everything in between. We’ve also built up a diverse collection of Tabletop Role Playing Game books that are available for checkout. 

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

Games have always been a means of connection for me. From passing a Gameboy back and forth between my siblings on long road trips, to begging my brother to include me in his D&D campaigns when I was in elementary school, they have always created a space for community. I’ve been playing and collecting board games for about 15 years, and it has been beautiful to see how this community has grown. Every year there seems to be more visible representation for people of all backgrounds in gaming, and more spaces for genuine conversations about diversity and inclusion to take place. It’s a very exciting time to see a hobby that I love grow and evolve!

What would you tell someone who wants to bring game programs or collections to their library?

From the perspective of someone who enjoys board games, I’d love programmers and collection developers to know that gaming is a community! As gamers, we want to come together and share our experiences. However, one of the biggest challenges for players is to find safe spaces to meet and play with other people where everyone feels welcomed and included. Libraries are such a valuable resource in this regard! 

From the perspective of someone who works with board games, there are so many ways to learn about them! I follow blogs like this one that talk about game recommendations and related topics. I read reviews and preview rulebooks to decide if a game is right for our collection on websites like I also watch YouTube reviewers and listen to Podcasters who talk about their thoughts and favorites. The workers at local game stores are amazing resources for learning about what people in my area enjoy. I’ve been to public game nights hosted locally, and conventions, too! If you’re intimidated by the learning curve of trying to develop a collection with a subject as broad as board games, there are so many people out there who have your back and want to help you succeed! 

Do you know a librarian or library paraprofessional who likes games and/or runs gaming programs at their library that should be spotlighted? Maybe even yourself? Fill out this form! Nomination is not limited to ALA Game and Gaming Round Table members.

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