Board Games in the Library

Sometimes, you just need a game night. Last week, my boyfriend and I had a game night with a friend (who just finished her MLIS!!) and her husband. My friend and I work in two different branches of the same library system and while we were playing games and eating pizza, we also talked about our library’s game collection. My branch has circulating board games in both the adult and children’s collections, while her branch, which is smaller, doesn’t have a game collection.

Board games are fairly commonplace in libraries at this point and they allow young people to build soft skills, offer players of all ages a break from screen time as an in-person social activity, and spur critical thinking. From classics like Monopoly to strategy games that can take hours to play, there’s something for everyone. As a library student, there’s never been a better time to take a break, have a game night, and consider the place of board games in various types of library collections. As a starter, you can also check out a series of blog posts from OCLC about different types of board games and the ways they can be used in a library setting.

Board Games in the Children’s Room

Right now, library children’s rooms look vastly different than normal due to COVID-19, and what sense of normal they may have returned to this summer could rapidly change due to the spread of the Delta variant. However, in pre-COVID times, the library I worked at had a collection of board games that were available for in-room use only. While I started at the library during COVID, I’ve heard stories about how crowded the children’s room could get after school. Board games are one thing that can be offered to young patrons in the library to focus their energy on and to try and mitigate chaos (though a heated game of Monopoly is its own kind of chaos).

In addition to an in-room board game collection, we also have a circulating collection of board games. This collection includes classic games like Connect Four and Sorry, along with educational games and games that target early literacy and learning like Zingo and Braintopia Kids. Board games are often expensive, so having a circulating collection allows families access to the benefits of board games without the cost, and they can try a game once without having to go out and buy it. There’s more incentive to play more games instead of just settling for what you are familiar with when you know you can just return it after one play if you don’t like it.

Board Games in the Adult Collection

When it comes to board games in adult collections, of course the same benefits that they can provide applies as one bonus for offering them. The other is that tabletop gaming is incredibly popular and offering games for checkout helps meet the needs of library service populations. Plus, if you think kids boardgames are expensive consider that the average boardgame intended for adult audiences is around $50 and many of these games have numerous expansions which expand the game and can increase the playtime of a game. Libraries can help make board gaming a more affordable hobby or help people get into the hobby. In addition, a board game collection can help increase a library’s programming because these games can be used to host game nights or hold a regularly scheduled gaming group.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison has a LibGuide with additional resources regarding games in libraries.

 Board Games in Academic Libraries

While I have no interest in becoming an academic librarian, I’m so excited about the myriad possibilities for board games and gamification in the academic library setting. Board games can help make the academic library a more friendly space for college students who may otherwise struggle to see themselves in that space. Not only can games provide social opportunities for students, but they can also help market the library. Donnelly and Herbert writing for College and Research Library News share about how game nights at Georgian Court University brought students into the library and allowed them to discover library resources and services in a fun manner.  American University shares about their board game collection through a LibGuide if you’re interested in what a game collection at an academic library can look like.

Make it Professional

Whether you’ve been playing board games semi-seriously for years, just loved Clue as a kid, or are getting into modern strategy board games, there’s space to expand your interest and connect it to your career. The ALA has a Games and Gaming Round Table (which includes all types of games, not just board games) which you can join for just $10.00 a year. At Simmons (where I attend library school), students have access to professional development funds which could be used to pay for membership for this roundtable, check and see if your institution might offer similar funds to help jumpstart your access to resources and communities that aligh with your professional interests.

The games that have started getting me into board gaming include 7 Wonders, Dominion, and Puerto Rico. I’d love to hear your thoughts on board games in libraries and your game recommendations in the comments!

Macy Davis is getting ready to start her final semester at Simmons University in the MA in Children’s Literature/MS in Library and Information Sciences dual degree program. She’s thankful for good friends, good coworkers, and good board games. You can find her on twitter @bookishlybright or through her personal blog.

Photo by Pavel Danilyuk from Pexels

5 replies

  1. I didn’t realize ALA had that roundtable! I’ll definitely have to look into it. I’d love to have board games in the library (after Covid).

    Liked by 2 people

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