by Kathleen Uy
My name is Kathleen Uy and I am a Librarian I-Adult/Teen Services for Montgomery County Public Libraries. Montgomery County is located adjacent to Washington, DC and is the most populous and diverse county in the state of Maryland.
I began playing non-traditional board games, as well as role-playing games, about 10 years ago through gaming meetup groups. As a former teacher, I saw the learning potential games could have for young people.
After reading about board games being used in the library for both teens and adults, I decided to propose such a program to my manager while working at the Aspen Hill Branch of MCPL. I wrote out a proposal to the Friends of the Aspen Hill Library and received enough funding to purchase a set of board games to start the program. I partnered with a local board game group and the program was off and running. The program was run once a month and I even added an introduction to Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, which was well received by parents and teens. I also ran escape room programs, an Oculus Rift program, and gaming with the Switch. The programs brought in teens and young adults that normally did not attend our programming.
In early 2020 I moved to the White Oak Library Branch and continued the board game program, but had to stop due to the pandemic. When the library system decided to switch to virtual programming, I brought my gaming programs back virtually. We play Dungeons & Dragons using Zoom and Roll20, and we consistently have a wait list every month. MCPL’s digital strategies department was so excited to see this program that they made a special graphic logo for it. For board games I used Board Game Arena. I ran trivia games and an escape room virtually via Zoom, and also used social game sites such as JackBox.
The programs bring in teens and adults from all across the county. Parents love it because they know their teen is in a safe environment, and of course the travel time is zero. During the lockdown, teens got their friends to join the same D&D adventure so they could spend time together virtually. Parents and their children also attend my game programs together. Now that we are back in the branches, I continue to offer the Dungeons & Dragons program virtually, albeit on a reduced schedule.
Gaming is often misunderstood by many people and until they actually play, they often don’t realize how mentally stimulating modern games can be, in terms of strategic planning, attention to detail and social interaction. As librarians it can be daunting to try and convince administrators to support gaming programs so I recommend that librarians looking to start their own game programs reach out to other librarian gamers. One great resource is the Facebook group League of Librarian Gamers and of course don’t forget to check out the International Games Week resources.
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.