How can game-lovers help their library participate in International Games Week?
First, check if your local library already participating in International Games Week either by asking them or by looking on the map; bear in mind that our volunteers update this every few weeks or so, so they may have registered even if they aren’t on there).
If they are, great! Just RSVP, and if you’re feeling really motivated ask if there’s anything you can do to help, other than just turn up and have fun.
If not, contact them and ask if they know about the day. If they don’t, tell them it’s super-easy – and free! – to participate. Then give them the address for the library-focused blog (http://games.ala.org/) and tell them you would love to participate in this global celebration of libraries if they can organise an event.
If they can’t, which is quite possible – libraries are always strapped for time and resources because we always want to give our users more opportunities – and you are feeling motivated, all is not lost. If you are willing to get together a group of your friends to share games with other library users, and the library is happy just to play host, that is more than enough to make the library eligible to register!
If they seem interested, but unsure about how to explain or justify having games in the library to their managers, you can point to the Games in Libraries Blog.
If you want to bring electronic games, talk to the library staff about what equipment and games they already have, what they can spare for you to run something, and whether you can supply whatever’s missing; then work out a space to run the games event in, and how the day will run.
If you’re just bringing tabletop or other non-electronic games, it’s even easier: just ask the library staff if they would mind you using the library space in this way – which is perfectly acceptable in most library spaces – and if they say they don’t mind, ask them to register their library as a venue. That’s it! You’re playing in International Games Week! If the library can assist with a little staff presence, or some snacks if their policies allow food in the space, or other support, that’s a bonus.
What to do on the day
The biggest thing to remember on the day is that your objectives are not quite the same as a regular game day. While getting together with friends and having fun is still part of it, you have two larger objectives: introducing new people to the hobby and running not just a fun event but a fun library event.f
Fortunately, these overlap hugely! Basically, there are four steps to follow.
Pick games that are fun introductions to the medium.
Having some co-operative games works really well, not only because some people have an aversion to competition, but because most people have never heard of them – and curiosity about how they work is a potent hook!
Make sure that the people who join in are having fun.
If your group is normally prone to smack-talk, make an effort to hold back on it – not everyone gets it right away, and even if you’re not on the receiving end, it can be offputting to hear from the next table. Make an effort to acknowledge good play and learning, especially for beginners. And choose the friendliest players, not necessarily the best players, to teach games to newbies – remember that a lot of rules and mechanics that are second nature to us are completely new to a lot of people, and also that working them out for yourself (maybe with a little help) is part of the fun!
Make the event feel welcoming – and even better, inviting – to people of all ages and backgrounds.
The best way to do this is to remember to actually welcome/invite people! If you’re shy, as some of us gamers are, making this effort can feel a little (or a lot) daunting. But remember that even though you’re in a shared space, from the outside you probably look like a large group doing their own thing, and that means people might not know they are welcome to join you if you don’t tell them. Plus, of course, some of them might be shy too, even if they don’t appear to be!
Invite a wide range of friends, too – having a group of gamers with visibly different demographics also helps more people see that they are welcome to join in.
Enable the people who aren’t joining in to use the other parts of the library as normal.
Being considerate of other library users is not only going to keep you in the library’s good books [sic], it will make you more approachable. And some of those people who are trying to do other things might decide that, once their other business is done, they are a bit curious to see what those friendly people who seem to be having so much fun are up to.
If you achieve these four aims, odds are that by the end of the day, you will not only have met/created a bunch of new gamers, you will have shown the library that games actually do fit really well with their mission of sharing culture with their community.
So thank you for your interest and support – hopefully, it will have paid off for you as well as your local library!