I’ve been mentally marinating on this whole “Gaming and Libraries” movement (or whatever you want to call it) for awhile now, and when I saw the “Inside Higher Ed” article “When ‘Digital Natives’ Go to the Library” posted on Techmeme this evening, I decided that, even though I don’t feel as if I’ve fully sorted everything out yet, it’s an important topic, and one that seems to be popping up everywhere. Also, as this blog is as much an iterative conversation with myself (which generally leads to this kind of rambling) as it is with whoever comes across it, I figured I’d roll with it and see where it took me.

First of all, full disclosure, every guy I’ve ever dated has been a moderate to hard-core PC gamer: Wolfenstein, Diablo, Diablo II, CounterStrike, WarCraft, World of Warcraft….you name it, if it was an RPG/MMORPG, they played it. So, when I first heard that librarians were going gung-ho for gaming (say that three times fast), I was a little puzzled. I didn’t see the connection between what my geeked out boyfriends were (and still are) doing and what I viewed as the standard “library mission,” (assist/provide environment in which patrons can seek wanted/needed information). And in a lot of ways, I’m still pretty skeptical.

The points on which the “Gaming in Libraries” proponents and I do see eye to eye on are as follows:

  • You shouldn’t have to “RTFM” to use the system. Or, in slightly less blunt terms, systems should have “lowered consequences of failure,” as James Paul Gee puts it.
  • Reward exploration. Games do. Wikipedia does. Library systems should.
  • Make it fun! See: Wikipedia.  When was the last time you went to your library’s OPAC and thought, “YAY! I get to look for literary criticism of A Moveable Feast!” Granted, Wikipedia is intended to serve as a jumping-off point, but still…get my point? FUN.
  • Patrons want to self-serve, for many reasons. I have a library degree, and I still get a little intimidated going to the reference desk. Part of that is my innate pig-headedness in not wanting to ask for help, but a lot of that is my instinctual response of not wanting to admit that I don’t know…whatever it is that I don’t know, and I know I’m not alone in that. Additionally, I’m very rarely in the physical library when I have a reference question. I’m not saying IM reference is a silver bullet, but it helps create another avenue for patrons to request assistance, and is one that gamers and just straight-up “digital natives” (like myself) are very familiar with.

I know that I’m not saying anything here that many, many other library bloggers haven’t also said many, many times about library systems. And I do agree with the “Gaming in Libraries” proponents that, for some people, until you have a visceral, physical, kinesthetic (thanks, SLIM, for that word) experience with some forms of technology (gaming being one of those), you’ll probably not ever fully understand the mentality of a lot of those moderate-to-hardcore gamer patrons. That being said, I think that it’s very possible to glean a lot of these “why people like games better than OPACs” points without actually becoming fully proficient at Halo 2.

My two cents. For an interesting look at the geek perspective on this article, take a look at some of these (surprisingly library-positive, given Slashdot’s usual tone) comments on this article.

Facebook “Books”

Ever since Facebook has opened itself up to all users, not just those of us with .edu e-mail addresses, they’ve made themselves equally open to third-party developers of applications.

Tech dilletante that I am, I saw that one of my friends had added the”Books” application (not to be confused with Amazon’s “Book Reviews” application) and decided to take it out for a spin.

 As you can (mostly) see in the screenshot above, you can:

  • Utilize Amazon’s database to search for and display your current reading (even by ISBN!), to-be-read, and finished books
  • Rate the books from 1-5 stars
  • Reivew the books, using as many words as you want
  • See what books your friends are reading
  • Presentation is clean, minimal, and succinct
  • Similar application for CDs and DVDs coming soon.

So far, I’m not seeing anything to complain about.

What would be really cool, though, is if one of the folks at OCLC came up with a similar application that browsed WorldCat or your local online catalog and linked to the items at your local library. Just a thought. 🙂

Okay, I’m officially jealous. Texas Women’s University is using Koha to teach their library school students about library automation

Like DRM (Digital Rights Management), open-source library software isn’t a subject that I’ve really learned about or discussed in library school. With this in mind, I put together a list of the sources that have (so far) been the most helpful in keeping me up to date on recent developments:

“Librarians stake their future on open source.” Michael Stutz, December 21, 2006, on Article mainly discusses Evergreen and its release, also Koha.

Evergreen – An open-source ILS developed for the Georgia PINES library consortium.

LibLime: A company that helps libraries adopt open-source software; provides support for both Evergreen and Koha.

 oss4lib: A blog where members post news about open-source software in libraries.

I’m sure there are some more that I’ve missed, but those are what I have for now. Also, I’d highly recommend playing around with the Georgia PINES OPAC. The layout, the search options and results…they’re all great. Really. If my undergraduate alma mater’s OPAC had looked and functioned like that, I would have been much happier when it came time to do research.

The OPAC Sucks: A Musical Interpretation

With choice lyrics like:

“The OPAC sucks, that’s all I gotta say
You’re outta luck if you can’t spell ‘Hemingway'”

this video is destined to be a speed metal library classic.