The Canadian perspective on games and libraries comes to us from Christine F. Smith, ILN Country Ambassador for Canada.
Games have existed as cultural artefacts for much time, and in recent years, we have seen games and gaming join our paperbacks and story times in library programs and services around the world. Gaming can been seen quite noticeably in the Canadian library landscape. From the Greater Victoria Public Library’s video game lending, to the Atlantic Provinces Library Association’s “Games@theLibrary” week and Montreal’s grand 13-day “Montréal joue” festival, Canadian public libraries from coast to coast have integrated games and gaming into their organisations. Canadian universities are also on board with gaming, as seen through the creation of such institutions as University of Calgary’s Taylor Family Digital Library Digital Media Commons and McMaster University’s Lyons New Media Centre
Canadian school libraries are now starting to join the fun of integrating games and gaming into their programming, as well. And rightly so! “Games of every type play an important role in developing fundamental competencies for life…They require players to learn and follow complex sets of rules, make strategic and tactical decisions, and, collaborate with teammates and others, –all things they will have to do in college and in the workforce.” (Retig as cited in Lipschultz, 2009). As school libraries work to teach 21st century skills to their students, gaming offers a wide array of opportunities to engage young people with content and share skills in a new and exciting way.
At Bishop’s College School in Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada, exploring the world of games has played an important role in our library’s programming and collections. In 2014, the library celebrated its second annual International Games Day @ your library (IGD). In celebration of this event, two guest speakers were invited to speak to students – one, a professional video game developer, and the other, a university professor of game theory. Following these talks was a day-long celebration of game play where the entire school participated in playing a wide array of board games. Bishop’s College School was also selected as the only Canadian institution to participate in IGD’s 2014 Global Gossip game, a modern day version of the broken telephone game where a message is told between players across libraries around the world. The library’s collection went on to supplement these activities. In recent years, library staff have created a board game lending library and for these events, they complemented their advertisements of library materials with content on careers in the gaming world, a viable career path as Quebec ranks third globally in game developers per capita (Caoili, 2008).
The library staff of BCS strongly encourages other school libraries, across Canada and around the world, to get involved in games and gaming. It may seem challenging for those used to more traditional media, but according to the American Library Association games truly help people “learn a range of media literacies beyond basic reading that give them models for navigating our information-rich world” (ALA, 2013). As stated by Scott Nicholson, Associate Professor of the Syracuse University School of Information Studies “Gaming is participatory storytelling. The designer of the game sets up the backstory, the world and the rules, and in playing the game, participants get to play a part of the story. Games allow us to mentally engage with a different time and place and explore decisions and roles that we would not encounter in our everyday lives” (Nicholson, 2008).
About Bishop’s College School
The Peter G. Holt Memorial Library is located at the centre of the campus at Bishop’s College School (BCS), a culturally diverse independent boarding and day school serving students in grades 7-12 from across North America and around the world. BCS is located in the heart of the picturesque Eastern Townships in the city of Sherbrooke, Quebec Canada.