Our Public Libraries Are Being Turned Into Video Arcades

Dave Gibson Complains Our Public Libraries Are Being Turned Into Video Arcades.

Generations of Americans who valued education and insisted that their children understand not only the importance but the enjoyment of the written word, have given way to barely functioning illiterates who spend hour after hour trying to get to the next level of Guitar Hero. We are headed back to a time in this country when only the rich could read and write with any proficiency, and apparently our public libraries are now on board with that disastrous goal.


There's always been an "illiterate," non-book reading class of people in this country, and there will always be. The problem is that kids today take anything as truthful if it's on TV or the Internet. Kids at my library don't want to research--just get the information and go back to games or chatting with friends or checking his or her myspace page.

What's that I'm feeling?? Oh yes...it's revulsion. Illiterate people can't play the majority of video games because guess what? They require being able to read. What's with the hater?

Isn't it important to get people IN to the library to begin with? Librarians certainly can't provide services to people who don't come. I think that game nights would be an excellent way to get people to come to the library who would otherwise not show up -- and if the librarians are wise they'll use these opportunities to start building relationships and encourage the kids to come back for more than video games.

"I suppose that literary classics, poetry, geography, and great American novels are no longer "relevant" to teenagers!

Sure they are. In the loop of "Father Knows Best" episode that apparently runs in your head.

Teenagers put up with these things so they can get to college, get drunk and have sex. And its been that way since before electricity.

Why do newspapers always hire Grampa Simpson to write articles on libraries?

ha! Well put. :)

All I could think of when I read the story above was of a biological byproduct of dairy farms and it wasn't milk related.

So the rich kids read more than others? Guess what - they are ones who can afford the video games and badass systems to play them on in their own homes. It's all the others who will be lucky enough to have a library to lure them in with games - and show them the world, as well!

Mr. Gibson states "When I was a kid...I did not need movies or games to attract me to the library." When I was a kid, there weren't as many other forms of entertainment available (two tv stations, no cable or home PCs); I went to the library FOR entertainment. Now, we need to compete to get kids into the library...and THEN we can tempt them with books. We also gain credibility with the kids if they see that we understand things that are a big part of their world, i.e. gaming. "Hmmm...if the librarian is "with it" enough to know what DDR is, or how to play (badly) Guitar Hero, maybe she's cool enough to be able to recommend a book that won't bore me to tears." And maybe another after that...It's all about relationships and trust, at this age and at any age.

this is just part of the problem with public libraries since they forgot what they were in the early nineties, and decided to become this hybrid amazon.com/barnes and noble/arcade/rec center ordeal that we have now. I am a young adult librarian and soon we will be losing ref desks for kiosks so that we are encouraged to wander around and bother the patrons ala target employees. this is sad. the video game aspect, while i don't agree with it, isn't the libraries fault. we have books here. we just have adult and children too stupid to read them now.

This has to be one of the my cynical, negative comments I have ever read. I am concerned that you hold your clients in such disdain, and wonder how are you motivated to get out of bed to go to work each day. In my practice as a librarian (and before that as a technician, as a clerk, and as a page) it has always been my practice to ask people if they need help and give them assistance on the spot, not wait for them to come to me at a desk. Many people are intimidated by the desk and feel shy about approaching someone for help. Many intelligent people don't want to ask for help because they don't want to appear ignorant. There is a way to approach people and ask if they need assistance that is not intrusive. While it may be efficient to have reference staff located centrally, it is not meant to be a place where they hide out from the "stupid."

This all sounds like you are having a difficult time adjusting to changes you are being asked to make at work. What worked in the Nineties does not necessarily work today, thus the need for change. Some of these may not be pleasant changes. Or even smart changes. But being bitter and hiding behind anonymous comments is not going to be constructive in helping improve services. You need to give a constructive, positive influence to the changes so they will be appropriate and effective. You may be losing your reference desk, but what advantages does this give you? You need to turn this on its ear and make it work. But that will only happen if you can look at it from a more positive standpoint.


I could have written most of that. The PL I worked up to 2006 wanted to get rid of the reference desk and have us help patrons in the stacks. We would have a laptop and a wireless headset.

The mantra is that the library has to change to meet patron needs. That is fine, up to a point. The library still has to be a library not a video store, game room, porn shop and cafe.

Do one thing, and do it will and people will see the value in it. Be a library.

Here's a comment that a fellow commenter solicited (I won't name her because I like her), from outside the library system, and with an alien perspective to boot. So this should be fun.
In an establishment where the beneficiary is the patron (he/she who benefits pays), the employee who insults a visitor is fired on the spot, or should be. But there is no economic necessity for the visitor to a library to give a flying fig about books, because the typical library serves not academic needs, but political needs. This is the tragedy of the commons, in a "free" library. Calling a visitor "stupid" is no more shocking coming from a librarian than from a DMV clerk or an IRS collector or a prison guard or, in a hidden coffee room, a congressman. And library video games are no more surprising than Miss Piggy postage stamps or New York Rangers license plates.
Sorry. Probably not what you wanted to hear.

Books are not being taken out of the equation in public libraries. We can have the best of both worlds. We have the classics for those who want to read them and we also have one of the best young adult fiction collections around, but no teens coming in to read them. Gaming consoles is one thing we are using to attract them to the library and once there, they are able to see the other great things, whether books, magazines, CDS, DVDs, Internet access, homework help and more we have for them.

And maybe surprisingly to some, its not just the teens playing games. Our intellectually disabled users are big fans, as are dads coming in with their young kids, even some of our seniors are getting into the act.

Its about making the library an appealing place to come. For some people, books aren't enough and so we offer other things, like dvds, cds, paperback romances, internet access and now gaming. Our bread and butter is still books and we still love them, but in the 21st century the public library is more than books.

I wanted to point you all to a post on my blog which includes a chat with my mother regarding this article and what libraries should be. It's sparked and interesting discussion, if you're interested.

I really wonder about this. Why exactly do we need to pander to reluctant teens? They don't stay teenagers forever. And once they're adults, their mindsets change. When I was a teenager, I checked out books for entertainment, because I was really into that. But for those who aren't, so what? I have plenty of friends who had no interest in books as teenagers, but now that they have small children, that absolutely doesn't stop them from patronizing the library now. Priorities shift. I also never used the library while in my 20s because I could buy my books. That never stopped me from voting for every pro-library funding levy. Most of us recognize the value of investing in our community. And speaking of voters, while alienate all those elderly patrons who definitely do vote? If it's teens there voluntarily versus seniors there voluntarily, yes, everyone needs to make room. But dragging in reluctant teens with video games and concerts? And then trying to keep all your existing pro-quiet patrons both coming back AND believing you're not wasting their tax dollars? Is that really all worth it? Again, I don't see a risk of losing those teens for the rest of their (evolving, changing) lives just because they're not coming in now. And I certainly haven't seen anything to indicate that you're enriching the lives, literacy, etc of those specific kids. The ones who do not feel they already have information needs. We're trying to accomplish a lot already. It seems like an odd focus. Yes, an exciting fun shiny high-tech focus that the nextgen staff probably enjoys. But the ROI doesn't really seem to be there.

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