Playing On: A Virtual ALA Play

This is a guest post by Ruth Monnier.

In 2019, I wrote about attending ALA Play in Washington, D.C. No one could have foreseen that a
pandemic was coming, and it would be at least two years (or more) before ALA Play would be in person. With the rapid change of ALA Annual Conference 2020 to a virtual-only conference, there was not an official ALA Play* event hosted by the Games and Gaming Round Table (GameRT). In 2021, ALA Play was back! Well, back in a virtual sense at least.

In 2019, I mentioned the following benefits of ALA Play: seeing games in play, one-on-one time with game designers and vendors, game advisory, and informal time with other ALA attendees. Virtual ALA Play 2021 replicated some benefits, not all.

ALA Play 2021 used Zoom and its breakout rooms. There were no game designers and vendors directly showcasing their games or performing game advisory. However, the most important element of ALA Play is playing games with others, which remained. Within a virtual setting, ALA Play began with testing your gaming knowledge and trivia via Kahoot! Instead of the normal range of games, there were only JackBox Games, Board Game Arena, and Codenames.

In the process of playing, the GameRT members modeled the best practices of online games. These practices included explaining each breakout room before allowing individuals to self-select a breakout room for their interest and a GameRT member was in each breakout room in case of technical or other issues. Additionally, they were transparent about on-the-fly decisions, such as asking others to join a different game breakout room to ensure that all had a good experience. While playing, there were discussions on how gaming looked like for you over the pandemic. Individuals shared what was and was not successful for them as well as their gaming format.

Learning about new games, how to promote and play games in libraries, and individuals’ successes and failures with game programming creates space for fellowship. I believe that this fellowship exists at ALA Play because there is an equal emphasis for all attendees, regardless if you are a public librarian, academic librarian, vendor, or a game enthusiast. This communal atmosphere of ALA Play is
replicated all year on League of Librarian Gamers (GameRT’s Facebook page), GameRT’s Discord server, and GameRT’s virtual game nights. You can see past events on GameRT’s website.
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To summarize, ALA Play provides a social space to learn about games and from each other. No matter the format, ALA Play is always fun and games! Hopefully, you will mark your calendar for next year’s ALA Play.

*The first virtual game night was via Discord on Friday of Annual 2020 where Second Chance and Jackbox Games were played.


Ruth Monnier is a Learning Outreach Librarian at Pittsburg State University in Kansas. As a lifelong card player and board gamer, she enjoys playing with friends and is always looking for fellow bid euchre players. Ruth has a B.S. in Education and B.A. in History from the University of Dayton, Ohio and a M.L.I.S. from Kent State University, Ohio.

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