Gaming Librarian Spotlight: Jackie Rivera

Jackie Rivera, Library/Media Clerk, Warren Junior High, Bakersfield, CA

Interviewed by Julie Hornick

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

Jackie Rivera

Since 2007 I have been a Library/Media Clerk at the middle school/junior high level, but my students know me as Mrs. Rivera, the school librarian. Not only am I the keeper of all library materials, I have also been a leader for the Safe School Ambassadors program, the school’s Battle of the Books coordinator, and the Scholastic Book Fair chairperson, respectively. I love working with this age group of students. I feel they need more love, patience and guidance than other school age kids. It’s my honor to serve and work with them.

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

In 2016 I noticed a shift in the role of the school librarian. The days of “silent libraries” were dissipating and moving towards being a collaborative space. I was looking for an inexpensive and fun way the students could get together in a neutral setting during their lunch breaks when I came across an article in ALA GameRT. I started with the annual International Games Week in November. In this digital age of texting, social media etc., I saw a need for face to face contact so students were asked to bring board games only from home during that week. It was such a huge success that I implemented Board Game Fridays and eventually bought games for the library. My library is now packed every Friday and it’s great to see so many smiling faces!

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

Currently, I have about 20 different games – everything from standard, age appropriate games like Trouble, Connect 4, Sorry, Mancala, and Uno. I also have concentration games like Checkers, Chess, and Mastermind. There’s a group of students that play with Pokémon cards but I have no idea how to play that! It’s been a learning process trying to find fun games that can be played within 40-45 minutes, which is why I signed up for emails from GameRT.

How do you get your games?

I started out donating some of the games from home that I had after my children outgrew them. I’ve purchased some from Amazon. The reviews are helpful in my decision making process. I recently purchased Kanoodles and Rubix Race. The kids liked them at first because they were new and fairly easy to figure out but after the novelty wore off they went back to the standard games. GameRT has been helpful in keeping me in the loop on the newest releases and I really appreciate the descriptions that tell you about how long it takes to play a round of that particular game.

What games are popular in your community?

Jackie with some of her student volunteers.

The games my students seem to gravitate towards are the standard games they know such as Connect 4, Trouble, Mancala, checkers, chess and Uno. It can be tricky trying to implement a new and unfamiliar game because the students don’t have the time (or patience, sometimes!) to learn a new game. At the end of this school year I plan to send out a survey to the 7th grade class to get their feedback on what kinds of games they’d like to see in the library next year.

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

If you decide to implement board games at your school as a lunch time activity, I recommend avoiding games with too many pieces because they easily get lost or go missing. I have a check-out system where students must come to me with their name and school ID number which I write down on a sign-up sheet. I found this is helpful in keeping them accountable. I also set a timer that gives them a 3 minute warning to clean up before the bell rings. Keep in mind it will be a big change if you’ve only ever had a “silent library”. But the rewards far outweigh the “noise”. Most of the kids that come to the library are the quiet kids, the ones that don’t necessarily like to play sports and aren’t interested in just “hanging out.” I know the library activities have played a role in helping to change the culture of our campus for the better!

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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