Book Review – Librarian’s Guide to Games and Gamers: From Collection Development to Advisory Services

Bibiliographic Info

Author: Michelle Goodridge, Matthew J. Rohweder
Publisher: Libraries Unlimited
Published: 2021
Page count: 259
Formats available: ebook, print (paperback)
Get a Copy: Paperback ($65.00 USD) | Kindle Ebook ($61.09 USD) | WorldCat

Summary

As gaming has become more mainstream we’re seeing an upward trend in the growth of gaming collections and gaming programming in various types of libraries. This is resulting in the need for librarians and information professionals who have experience with and knowledge of games, gaming, and gamers of all types. Whether you class yourself as a gamer or not there’s no way to know everything so a good reference book is a good tool to have in your back pocket. That’s what this book is, it’s a starter guide and a ready reference book for those already doing this kind of work.

Matt and Michelle have done all the groundwork here so that you don’t have to start totally from scratch or reinvent the wheel when it comes to adding or growing a gaming collection and gaming services at your library. It’s one of a small number of comprehensive resources on this topic that exists in print and electronically specifically geared for and targeted to library staff. It tries to run the gamut to get the reader up to speed with all the genres of gaming in order to help them build skills in conducting the gaming equivalent of reader’s advisory in their libraries.

This book is ideal for anyone interested in a library career path that could involve responsibilities for a gaming collection of gaming programming, this includes academic librarians, children’s public librarians, youth and teen public librarians, and K-12 school librarians. It could also be of interest to library students and library professionals who consider themselves gamers and just want to learn more about this growing trend area in LIS.

Review

From the outset, I should mention that there’s going to be some bias in this review because the authors are good friends and coworkers of mine. But it should be noted they didn’t ask me to write this post I offered to review the book because I am so proud of them both and because I really do believe in the book and I want to share it with all of you. I will be unfailingly honest about its strengths and flaws because I want to paint an accurate picture of the book to help you see why it’s a useful book for you and your libraries. So with that ethical note out of the way let’s get into the review, I’ve structured it the same as my last HLS review on The Future Academic Librarian’s Toolkit, to review the structure of the book, the content, and the contributors before I move into my overall thoughts.

Structure

Structurally the book is very simple, concise, and clear in what it wants to achieve and it’s laid out in a way to make finding the information you want simple. That’s what makes it really useful as a reference tool in addition to its usefulness as a teaching tool. There are two main sections split into 6 and 5 chapters respectively as well as a conclusion and a quick reference appendix which only makes it more useful as a reference source.

Part 1 focuses on the game collection itself it includes chapters that introduce the concept and then walk you through how to build, maintain, and program with the collection. These first four chapters do make a lot of sense together as a bundle. It’s very reminiscent of a videogame walkthrough actually with beats of “do a” and then “do b”. This vibe is reinforced throughout the chapters with good use of subheadings and an instructional but not academic tone to the writing. This is structured very clearly to be an informational text. Chapters 5 (User Behaviour in Gaming) and 6 (Gamer’s Advisory) feel slightly out of place to me in Part 1. I think they would have been good grouped together in their own part to act as a bridge between the two larger parts. I think also it would have been nice to see a chapter in part 1 on promoting and marketing the gaming collection separate from how to conduct programs with it.

Where Part 1 focuses on the mechanics of making a gaming collection happen and how to do things with that collection, Part 2 focuses on how to help your users engage with the collection through gamers advisory, and this is why I thought it made sense for chapters 5 and 6 to be pulled out of part 1 because they don’t really do either of those things but they do help you understand how Part 1 will feed into Part 2 (chapter 5), and what is to come in the chapters within part 2 (chapter 6). To that end, Part 2 is broken down into chapters that focus on providing advisory for different types of games. These chapters are structured to include lists of suggested games which is a very useful feature.

Content

In terms of the content of this book, as I mentioned above, it’s informational. The content is written in a very accessible way to help the reader understand the information being presented and then an explanation of how to use that information in a real-world context. That’s the crux of the content of this book, it is very focused on how the information within the book can be applied by real librarians in real-life scenarios. It feels very much like a case of “here’s everything we learned about doing this so that you don’t have to go through the same trials and tribulations that we did!” That kind of content really reinforces the goal of this book, to help librarians build collections and make sure they get used. What you’re learning here is what works so you learn about pitfalls to avoid and so that you don’t have to start from scratch or reinvent the wheel. Think of yourself as a video game protagonist, the content of this book is the tutorial stage of a new video game called “so you want to be a gaming librarian?”

The lists of suggested games that I mentioned under the structure section above are some of the most important pieces of content in this book. These lists contain descriptions of the game that cover genre, formats, platforms, age groups, user behavior types, gameplay numbers, and “game alikes” to suggest other very similar games. They can help you put games you’ve never even heard of into context by connecting them to games you have heard of and vice versa by introducing you to new games using games you’re already familiar with. These are great if you’re new to the world of gaming or usually only stick to a certain type of game.

Contributors

Up until very recently, Michelle Goodridge had been Laurier’s inaugural liaison librarian for the Game Development program. She spearheaded the building on the gaming collection and oversaw all of the game collection programs and services at Laurier, so I know she knows her stuff on this topic. As for Matthew Rohweder, while he doesn’t at present have any game-related responsibilities in his current role I know he has in past roles. They’re both self-described gamers who have done various research projects and presentations on different subjects related to gaming and libraries. They’re authoritative sources to be writing this book. It’s interesting to note that the book has a Canadian context because they’re both Canadian, but they don’t come at the topic in a way that would make it only applicable in a Canadian context, they may be Canadian but they’re universally presenting the topic. As collaborators, they bring a good amount of diversity to this volume because they have different interests and experiences with gaming both in and outside of libraries that come to bear here but also meshes well together to create an even more comprehensive picture for the reader.

Overall Thoughts

This feels like such a timely book. Gaming in libraries seems like it is set to become a trending and growing niche and it does not really if ever come up in library school in my experience. Perhaps in children’s or youth services (but what about these services and collections for adults?) or very briefly in an instruction class in the form of games-based learning and gamification. This book is filling a gap and is much needed in that regard. It can act as an instructional manual for those learning about this avenue in library school or after finishing, or it can just as easily function as a ready reference source for the working gaming library professional. It’s not going to cover everything but it’s a great primer and good enough for quick reminders. My biggest criticism is that I think it would have been great t information around and for K-12 school libraries. I’ve been removed from that realm for quite a few years myself so I’m not 100% sure how relevant game collections and gamers advisory is to that sector, but it feels like it should be applicable. Perhaps that’s something they could look into if they decide to do a second edition at some point in the distant future. The good thing is that even though they didn’t address this context specifically the advice and resources presented are broad enough that someone in K-12 could translate the information to meet their needs if it doesn’t outside the box. I mean one of the best parts about gaming is how you can customise a game to suit your gameplay style and I think this book overall does a really good job of embodying that mentality, it’s like a base game that you can mod the heck out of to trick it out to suit your style and situation.

That’s the review for this book, but that’s not all about this book. I have in the works another post related to this book because I thought it would be great to get our HLS readers a look at the behind the scenes of how the book came to be. Part 2 is to come in January! We’re working on it now.

Up next: An interview with the authors about the book in January!


In addition to being a Contributing Writer here at Hack Library School, Lauren (she/her) is currently in the final semester of her MLIS part-time, online, through the University of Alberta, she expects to graduate in Spring 2022She holds an honours BA in English/Religion & Culture and a BEd, both from Wilfrid Laurier University. Her interests are copyright, open education; accessibility; and diversity, equity, and inclusion in LIS. Lauren is the Copyright and Reserves Supervisor at Wilfrid Laurier University, serving on the Library’s Accessibility Committee, and the Student Advisory Council. She also co-hosts a bi-weekly Twitter chat on library issues and trends (#lisprochat) and was a research assistant on the Opening Up Copyright project in 2020-21. Find her: @rendages, @lisprochat | about.me/laurenbourdages

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