Gaming Librarian Spotlight: John Pappas

John Pappas, Ludington Library, Bryn Mawr, PA

Interviewed by Julie Hornick

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

I am a reference librarian at the Ludington Library. Along with the usual reference duties, I maintain and develop the board game collection (as well as other non-traditional collections), host game nights (in-person and virtual), maintain a rotating art gallery and do an unholy amount of weeding.

How would you define a gamer? 

I honestly wouldn’t. Putting arbitrary definitions on things like that is just a form of gatekeeping. If you play a game you are a gamer if you want to be. I am also a reader, breather and an eater so…

What got you into gaming? 

Surprisingly, libraries were what really got me into gaming. I was an Outreach Services Manager at a public library and was exploring new programming and allocated some funds to a board game meetup. After learning a few games (Alhambra, Ticket to Ride, Kingdom Builder) and hosting a few nights, I really got into it and it’s been a keystone program ever since. 

What is your favorite game? Why? 

I’m a huge fan of Brass: Lancashire. It’s a heavier economic game set during the industrial revolution of England. You construct buildings to produce resources in order to develop industries, build a network of canals and railways and sell goods. It’s a delightful struggle to get enough income to get your strategy moving while opponents loom close by to snag up real-estate. Every decision is important in this game so it is engaging from beginning to end.

What game are you excited by right now? Why? 

Root – an asymmetric war game that is cute as a button. You play one of four (or more with expansions) woodland factions and try to control the forest. Factions play shockingly different from each other so you may be expanding and building in one game, ruthlessly attacking or slowly biding your time in another. 

Box art for Root: A Game of Woodland Might and Right
  • The Marquise de Cat is stretched out far into the Wilderness at the beginning of the game and ultimately scores points by building and expanding while policing the other factions. 
  • The Eyrie is an old guard attempting to uproot the upstart Cats. They start with a roost in a far corner of the Woodlands and must capture as much territory as possible within the strict dictates of their ruler without collapses back into turmoil and upheaval. This is by far my favorite faction.
  • The Alliance are a hidden subversive force in the Woodlands. They gain the sympathy of the common folk and ferment revolt when they can. While they start slow and sneaky, once they get a foothold (and hopefully a base or two) they become a FORCE.
  • Lastly, the Vagabond is a rogue player who will aid and disrupt others as they see fit. No armies, no warriors, just a lone adventurer completing quests and lending aid when it can benefit them. 

Root thrives on player interaction and reading the other players intentions. Like Redwall meets the Game of Thrones with a much better ending. 

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

The LGBTQIA+ Board Game Night was always an exciting and fun time and very rewarding. The Golden Gamers (a 65+ game night) was also tons of fun to develop and plan.  

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

Our board game collection is still fairly small in comparison to some other library collections. We have approximately 50 games. Mostly titles like Ticket to Ride, Codenames, Splendor, Sushi Go Party! , King of Tokyo, and other games that I can teach from the desk when people are interested. Our collection is centered around “Family” games (games that kids can play but usually require an adult to teach or moderate) but we’ve recently included heavier games like Terraforming Mars, Wingspan, and Viticulture.

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

It’s never required too much negotiation with administration to get gaming in some form at the library. It may take a soft touch with circulation and assurances that they don’t have to count out every piece when games are returned.  

How do you get your games? 

I order from a distributor (Peachstate Hobby Distribution) if I can. Their selection is limited but they sell at half MSRP and provide purchase orders which makes it much more convenient. If I am unable to locate from them, then I order from one of the large online retailers (Coolstuffinc or Miniature Market). They provide a small discount (~20%), ship for free over $100 and accept our tax exempt paperwork. I will also occasionally purchase second hand games from our FLGS (Friendly Local Game Store) or online at the Board Game Geek Market. It would be wonderful if more FLGSs provided discounts to libraries as I would like to order locally, but my budgets tend to be small and the collections popular.

What games are popular in your community? 

Top 10 Games according to circulation are:

  1. Sushi Go Party!
  2. Ticket to Ride
  3. Codenames
  4. Splendor
  5. Kingdomino
  6. Ticket to Ride: NY
  7. Clank! A Deckbuilding Adventure
  8. Pandemic
  9. Biblios
  10. Azul

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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