Gaming Librarian Spotlight: John Scalzo

Media Librarian, Irondequoit Public Library, Rochester, NY

Interviewed by Julie Hornick

Tell us about yourself.

My name is John Scalzo and I am a Media Librarian at the Irondequoit Public Library in Rochester, NY. I manage the DVD/Blu-ray and music collections in addition to the video game collection, and I also handle the library’s social media accounts and contribute to the operation of the Maker’s Lab.

What is your favorite game?

Tetris. I know it’s just a simple puzzle game, but it’s also a completely perfect video game. I grew up playing Tetris constantly for the NES and Game Boy, but I also really love clearing line after line on modern variants like Tetris 99 and Tetris Effect.

What game are you excited by right now?

I’m bouncing between a lot of games right now. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge is a great arcade-style brawler, Cuphead’s new expansion is just as good as the original game, and Fall Guys’s gameshow-like battle royale is just goofy fun. I haven’t started it yet, but I’m also really looking forward to playing Splatoon 3.

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

I’m definitely most proud of hosting the inaugural Rochester Game Festival at the library in 2017. The event came together thanks to a partnership between the library, the game development program at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), and the ROC Game Dev meetup group. We took over the library’s meeting room and recruited two dozen local developers willing to demo their then-upcoming games for the public.

Our game convention was a huge success, and we realized that we needed to go a lot bigger in the future. A “Mini” version of the Festival was held at the library again in 2018 and 2019, but the main Festival is now held yearly at the big event space at RIT, giving us the ability to host more than 50 developers and thousands of attendees. In 2020, we even worked together to temporarily transform the Festival into an online livestream. And though the in-person event returned in 2021, we’ve continued the live broadcast to involve as many people as possible (even if they don’t live in Rochester).

The Festival is a great way for the local game development community to come together as one and a great opportunity to show the public what’s happening in the industry in their own backyard. I honestly can’t wait to see what we come up with for the Festival in the future.

Does your library have a gaming collection?

Absolutely! The Irondequoit Library had a pretty impressive CD-ROM collection in the late 90s, but after DRM restrictions made it hard to add new titles, I lobbied to add console games in 2005. The CD-ROMs are long gone, but the console game collection has steadily grown over the years, and we now offer a total of more than 1,000 titles across every major platform.

What games are popular in your community?

Patrons really seem to love the Nintendo Switch. We can’t keep any of those games on the shelves. I’m not sure I could narrow it down, but titles in the Super Mario, Legend of Zelda, and Just Dance franchises are especially popular. If you’re thinking of adding a console game collection to your library, I would recommend starting with the Switch. The public will thank you.

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

I’d say do your research, create your proposal, and just go for it. Whether it’s video games or tabletop games or card games or sports, people love to play. You might be surprised with just how much support for including games in your library already exists in your community and among your administrators. And I’m always willing to talk to anyone who needs help.


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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