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October 12, 2007 7:43 AM   Subscribe

The Library Arcade features one surprisingly entertaining flash game about pleasing library patrons, and one less entertaining, but probably more directly applicable, game about shelving. You can also try to discover the cause of a mysterious disease using your research skills in an arcade-like game [username: Tammy, password: Allgood]. More on the discussion of the role of games in libraries.
posted by blahblahblah (26 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
That was indeed surprisingly entertaining.
posted by DU at 8:08 AM on October 12, 2007 [1 favorite]


Why would someone asking who Frank Zappa was scoff at the Frank fucking Zappa biography I hand him and insist on something from online or in a database? Did you really want a genealogy.com profile on the surname Zappa or did you want to know about the fucking musician? I suppose this aspect of the game is to realistically depict fickle, ignorant patrons?
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 8:17 AM on October 12, 2007


I evaluated the shelving game earlier this week. Its main flaw in my mind, is the presence of a ticking down timer. I would much rather accurate shelving than fast shelving - time saved by the latter is often wasted trying to find the books that were dumped hither and yon by inattentive/lazy student help.

We're sticking with LCEasy for the time being.

As for gaming in my library - I'm all for it. I came across some students who had hooked a PS2 up to a monitor in a study room. They saw me approach and sought to hide the system, but told them it was fine and I was just checking to see how they connected it. Though at ease with the technology, the students were not at ease with the traditional image of the library.

In addition to an image problem, there's also a student involvement problem. My Director has bought a Wii for the library, I have an extra 360 I'd be willing to donate, but we cannot install these things in the library without some demonstrated "student need". Simply put, they need to ask for it. But they won't. I've spoken with dozens of students about how I'd love to set up gaming tournies on the weekend or have old skool NESes available for checkout, if only they'd ask through the proper channels, show a little interest, and make a bit of an effort.

But still they do nothing, letting our 20 study rooms complete with flat screen TVs, our hella wired building, and the big projection TV go to waste. It's like I'm the Grail King and they're all befuddled Parzivals.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:25 AM on October 12, 2007 [8 favorites]


That's fun! Professors need to use this one or something similar to get students to know how to choose good sources.
posted by sociolibrarian at 8:30 AM on October 12, 2007


robocop is bleeding, that sounds like a good AskMe.
posted by sociolibrarian at 8:32 AM on October 12, 2007


This reminds me of the "Dinner with Andre" game that Martin plays in a Simpsons episode. There were three gaming moves, "Bon Mot, Trenchant Insight, and Tell Me More!"
posted by ericbop at 8:54 AM on October 12, 2007


Though at ease with the technology, the students were not at ease with the traditional image of the library.

You mean the one where it's a place of learning instead of an arcade?
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:15 AM on October 12, 2007


Our new boss in so bass-ackwards. She won't allow us to be on the computers at the circulation desk if it isn't work related.
We've tried telling her that..JUST being on the internet is work related because you are gaining research skills.
posted by doctorschlock at 9:24 AM on October 12, 2007


I actually had a job shelving library books as a teenager; it was actually kind of fun, because I would end up browsing through many of the books before putting them back. I was glad to see the game used LC classification; none of that weak-ass Dewey Decimal shit here!
posted by TedW at 9:46 AM on October 12, 2007


I really hate all those pricks who are "looking for something online or in a database, but this will have to do for now." It's in this book. Look it up.
posted by yhbc at 9:47 AM on October 12, 2007


You mean the one where it's a place of learning instead of an arcade?

That's the one. As more and more information flees the building for the web, the library must shift from being a storehouse of information to a broker of information. So instead of having everything here for the patron, we need to have everything required for the patron to access the material they want. Obviously, this means computers and net access, but to an increasing amount of libraries it also can mean game systems. As the methods of student learning morph every year and games increasingly become a tool for teaching and learning (see this post for example), it makes sense for libraries to keep pace and investigate new systems.

That and games are fun. Library science, as a profession, had its stick removed from its ass back in 1984.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:54 AM on October 12, 2007 [5 favorites]


As more and more information flees the building for the web, the library must shift from being a storehouse of information to a broker of information.

I'm cool with all of that, aside from the part about Halo. I don't see how non-educational games* can "increasingly become a tool for teaching and learning" in the library...the only real justification I've heard people use for stuff like that in public libraries is as bait (i.e. bring 'em in with the video game tournaments, hope they'll pick up a book on their way out).

For the record, I love non-educational video games. The less educational the better. Just not in the library.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:34 AM on October 12, 2007


Where's the button for "Do your own research, shithead." Is this what librarians do all day, find out exactly where the answers to people's extremely narrow specific questions are? "That way is fiction, that way is fact. Now turn off your iPod and do some work, you fucking waste of biomass."
posted by Pastabagel at 10:38 AM on October 12, 2007


What happened in 1984?

I tried to find fault with the idea of gaming at the library, but I can't, really. Is the problem that games aren't OK in a library? My local libraries have always had Scrabble and puzzles and chess and Trivial Pursuit - I'm not sure I can reasonably argue that gaming is different. Is it different in that the gamers are using the library for entertainment rather than for its "true purpose?" Well, I also go to the library for entertainment. I go for readings and classes and demos, to browse pretty picture books, to check out what's new, to idly peruse, and not all of what I'm doing counts as a learning or skill-building experience. So I can't fault gaming on that account.

I understand the thinking. I'm sure it's just a question of priorities. As long as the spirit of the library resides in helping people get access to the information and experiences with information that they want, they're probably not going to become an arcade.

But there are some problems with the assumption that technology can save an institution which has an underlying problem of ill-developed mission or leadership. Again, a question of focus and philosophy.

(I still hate electronic catalogs and I'm so glad I grew up with physical card catalogs. Learning categorization and cross-referencing through your senses is an irreplaceable experience. That, and it's so much more efficient to rifle through 40 cards in a drawer than page through 4 horribly laid-out screens of search results).

would much rather accurate shelving than fast shelving

That's totally a good point. Books "lost" on library shelves are a bane. When I worked as a page in high school and college I was assigned to "read shelves" for those errors whenever we got caught up on carts.

But fast shelving was not much of a concern anyway. I loved being a page because it took me to all sections of the library, and for every book I reshelved I stopped and flipped through three. It wasn't the best use of public dollars, probably, but I think that has a lot to do with how I turned out.
posted by Miko at 10:45 AM on October 12, 2007


My main problem with video gaming in the library is that it's loud. I don't think every neighbourhood library needs to be the Library of Congress, but 90% of the problems we have with noise revolve around kids playing games, yelling at and to each other during the playing of games, etc.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:55 AM on October 12, 2007


After playing the patron game, I'm really puzzled. Do patrons at a reference library actually care what form their information comes in? It surprised me to be told "I was looking for something online or in a database" or "I was looking for something in a book" -- if these folks are getting their questions answered, and if the information is reliable, what's the beef?

Nitpicks: You wouldn't just hand someone a journal off the rack without checking the journal index to see if there was anything about their specific question. In many cases journals might have provided great answers ("What alternative fuel technologies are currently being developed?"). Also, I wouldn't want to use WikiQuote alone to find out who said "I think, therefore I am," when it's readily available in Bartlett's and Bartlett's has professional editors. I've had a few go-rounds with quoting sites online that misattribute and misquote. Why not go with the more reliable source?
posted by Miko at 11:02 AM on October 12, 2007


Is this what librarians do all day, find out exactly where the answers to people's extremely narrow specific questions are?

Yes. Because most people would not know how to find them themselves. Many people don't even know how to make their questions narrow or specific. Librarians are trained to help them narrow them down.

There is more "look it up yourself" (or various more-polite-sounding permutations thereof) in school libraries or university libraries, where students are supposed to be expending effort in learning to use the library. Public libraries and special libraries, depending on how busy they are and how inadequately they're staffed, are more likely to do the reference interview and then simply deliver the goods.

For instance, I've mostly worked in medical libraries, serving health professionals/students. These people are more valuable to the hospital when doing their jobs. My job was to get them the information they needed to do their jobs, when/where they needed it. Teachable moments had to be saved for when the person had the time/interest to learn more about the tools.

I suppose this aspect of the game is to realistically depict fickle, ignorant patrons?

Again...(IMO) yup. We're all fickle when it comes to something we really need to know. If you'll take something only partly helpful in response when you bring a question to a librarian, you're being too polite.

As for the ignorant part, well...I'm the one who works full time in the library; aren't most library visitors therefore more ignorant of the library than I am? Why shouldn't I help them? That's what I'm paid to do.

It's really interesting to see the emotional responses to these games. Time and again I figure the only people who will respond to library-related MF postings are librarians. Time and again I'm proven wrong. It's great.
posted by gillyflower at 11:13 AM on October 12, 2007


would much rather accurate shelving than fast shelving

That's totally a good point. Books "lost" on library shelves are a bane. When I worked as a page in high school and college I was assigned to "read shelves" for those errors whenever we got caught up on carts.


Noooooo! One of my favorite jobs was finding "missing" books at Stanford's Green Library. It was quite fun. I thrived on inaccurate shelving.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:18 AM on October 12, 2007


What happened in 1984?

Ghostbusters!

Regarding non-educational games in the library, I'm not looking to put in a Ms.Pack-Man machine by the photocopiers*. What I think would be ideal would be if we were approached by student gamers/gaming associations to host something they set up. Providing resources to students is one of the roles at academic libraries and if we have the resources to support a LAN Halo tournie, we might as well. From a resource standpoint, I can see that requiring the same amount of time and equipment as a debate tournament.

The "lure" factor is another one, to be sure. The cost per student user of some of our databases** is much higher than the cost per user of a game system. When proposing/defending a budget, circ transactions and bodies in the door is something the administration uses to help determine the size of our money-pie for the next year.

I also see some value in the social aspect of the games themselves - students playing together to achieve a goal are learning teamwork skills for the future. There is an amount of learning involved with setting up a LAN (Lord knows I can barely do it) and more technical skill is never a bad thing. Plus, games themselves teach things such as resource management, design, and killing alien invaders - all skills that could be valuable come the probable or improbable future.

All this may not apply to public and special libraries (although I am told one of the reasons Bloomberg terminals became so popular in business libraries is that they were a great source of baseball scores), but I think it is important stuff in the academic, especially the undergrad academic, world.

Sorry if this reply was long or disjointed, I was interrupted a few times to go teach students how to set up their laptops to play nicely with our wireless connection.

* Although..... The addition of a Wii and a 360 to the library is more dealing with the culture of our organization. The library has a reputation of being the leader in technology on campus, so it is worth it for us to pursue multiple emerging trends. We we bust out the Wii as a destressor during finals? Prolly. Will we check it out to students? Noway.

** So why not ditch the databases? In support of some university programs' accreditation, there's simply some stuff we got to have, even if it's not used a whole lot.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 12:03 PM on October 12, 2007


We're all fickle when it comes to something we really need to know. If you'll take something only partly helpful in response when you bring a question to a librarian, you're being too polite.

Yes, but my complaint really is the game's insistence on a particular medium when any with reliable information will do or, in the Zappa reference I made, in a medium counter to one you would look for. One of the patrons asks how many cars Toyota sold last year. There's obviously no book containing that information, and no periodical that I know of (though when it comes to automobiles, I am largely ... ignorant), so I gave them information online which has the benefit of being very current, which suits that patron's needs. When they want a Zappa bio, but would prefer it from an online source, I'm thoroughly confused. He's been dead for years; I don't foresee many changes to his bio that a current, online source can trump a printed book with. If this were a real patron, I'd be very confused on their preference of medium.

By the way, I believe librarians are--after teachers and mothers--the most unappreciated (and these days, underutilized) professionals.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 12:15 PM on October 12, 2007


Why must they always get so angry.
posted by unknowncommand at 12:25 PM on October 12, 2007


Food for thought, robocop. I see where you're coming from, and I'm relatively young, so I'm not really an old fogey who wishes we could go back to the days of card catalogues. My heels drag on this issue mainly because of the disruptive activity games seem to bring out in patrons. Again, I don't think public libraries require morgue-like levels of silence, but despite everything that goes on here, there are still lots of people who come in expecting a quiet place to study, and I feel like that's more important than games.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:55 PM on October 12, 2007


Library science, as a profession, had its stick removed from its ass back in 1984.

What happened in 1984?



That was the year I quit library school. You may all thank me.
posted by JanetLand at 12:57 PM on October 12, 2007


One of the patrons asks how many cars Toyota sold last year. There's obviously no book containing that information...

Have you done that search? I'll wait until you do. Because the book cited in the game is very likely to have that information. (I don't happen to have one at my library, but I could check at the public library on the way home.) Book collections are full of surprises, and some books are more frequently updated than you'd think.

...and no periodical that I know of (though when it comes to automobiles, I am largely ... ignorant)

Then you probably don't know too many car magazines, or what type of information they might have, huh? Again, do the search before saying the information wouldn't be there.

...so I gave them information online which has the benefit of being very current

But not necessarily very reliable. (Or current, for that matter. The internet is aging, and it's possible to find information that hasn't been updated in five or ten years, even though the website may look high-tech and recently redesigned.)

which suits that patron's needs.

How do you know it suits their needs? Did you ask? The game does not give you the opportunity to do a reference interview. This isn't your fault, but no self-respecting librarian would take ONE question from a patron and then hand them something. Further questions would be important in establishing what the patron wants/doesn't want. That is one area where this game falls short of reality.

When they want a Zappa bio, but would prefer it from an online source, I'm thoroughly confused.

Maybe:
--The patron is a student who has been asked to find only online sources for a project. Maybe it's an internet research class? Maybe he just needs to find a certain number of internet sources for his bibliography, but is not handy with internet searching (yes, there are still people who don't know how to search the internet).
--He is assuming the online source will be more up-to-date or factual; not necessarily true, but that doesn't mean people don't think it.
--He doesn't know what the word "online" means and wants something from the library's databases rather than from the internet.
--In his particular field of inquiry, he is aware that online sources are the best/most up-to-date/etc., even though I might not be.
--He's just a very finicky person. Part of customer service is giving people what they ask for, or making it clear why it's unavailable. He doesn't have to explain why he wants an online source as opposed to something else.

The first four possibilities would be brought out in a decent reference interview. The last is just the library patron's prerogative.

By the way, I believe librarians are--after teachers and mothers--the most unappreciated (and these days, underutilized) professionals.

Thank you. And thank you for questioning what we do. At least you care enough to ask.
posted by gillyflower at 2:38 PM on October 12, 2007


BTW, I don't feel underutilized...!
posted by gillyflower at 2:40 PM on October 12, 2007


Is this what librarians do all day, find out exactly where the answers to people's extremely narrow specific questions are?

Echoing Gillyflower: in my current (academic) library role, I would probably give them the answer, but show them how I got it. It's a lot more complicated than "fiction there, fact there' - it's more "OK, this court case you're looking for is Canadian - I knew that from the DLR abbreviation, but if you want to find out what an abbreviation stands for, go to this website, or this book. The case will be in this database, not this other one that you usually use, but to search for it you have to use the format D.L.R., because the database is badly designed...etc".

Hopefully, next time they can do it for themselves.

In a corporate or government library, I'd get the information I was asked for, in the format the user preferred. And ideally do some analysis of it myself, or at least highlight key portions for them.
posted by Infinite Jest at 12:37 AM on October 13, 2007


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