Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Gaming in Libraries 2005: Tue Dec 6 Keynote: George Needham


George Needham, Vice President for Member Services at OCLC Online Computer Library Center in Dublin, OH presented “What Can Libraries Learn From Gamers?” as the keynote speaker this morning.

Opened with a nod to the OCLC Pattern recognition scan to explain how OCLC got involved with gaming. He admitted he is not an MMOG player, but plays backgammon tetris, and as of last night, DDR.

George used his own family as an example to show that we have always lived in times of constant change. In 1889 (the same year Nintendo company was born to create a trading card game). George’s grandfather Joe Duffy lived in times of financial crisis, political upheaval, the industrial revolution, breakthroughs in travel, mass communication, and entertainment, all of which lead him to a life-long love of gadgets. His life was shaped by the way he adapted to these changes – just as ours are shaped by the way WE adapt today.

George presented a quick history of video game firsts:
1958 Tennis for Two video game
1962 Space War computer game
1975 Pong arcade game
1983 Nintendo Console Gaming in Japan
1985 Nintendo Console Gaming in Japan
1989 Nintendo Game Play
1987 Air Warrior MMOG (b&w, $10/hr to play)

Libraries are traditionally about 5 years behind the curve, and we hang on to things too long. Anything we’ve added since 1965 is a new service.

Next, George showed a slide full of statistics, noting that “72% of all statistics are made up on the spot.” Instead of talking about the numbers on the slide, he mentioned a more current BBC survey – 10 slides about any given topic – latest survey 6-65, on gamers in the UK that showed 60% had played games, 48% were women, and 100% of kids between 6-10 have player, 97% of kids between 11-15 have played.

“Today’s students think and process information fundamentally differently than their predecessors.” Well, said George, this is what the founders of Sesame Street found 25 years ago.

Next he talked about digital immigrants and digital natives. One way to tell them apart is that digital natives dial their devices with their thumbs; immigrants with their forefingers, and if you don’t have a device you haven’t left the old country.

Immigrants VS Natives
Coentional speed/Twitch speed
Linear processing/Parallel processing
Linear thinking/Random access
Text/Audio pictorial
Technology uneasy partner/Technology: Friend

Next, he talked about Born with the Chip, an LJ article, and John Beck and Mitchell Wade’s Got Game. Other ways to tell natives from the immigrants: natives easily multitask! Gamer characteristics include an inherent distrust of leaders and bosses, and heroic attitudes. They want to win, they help newbies along and they compete, collaborate, and create. He cited a research study has demonstrated that gamers who become surgeons are better surgeons – their patients have shorter recovery times (the hand-eye coordination learned from games lends itself well to laproscopic surgery that involves a small camera and a television monitor.

George, like Walt yesterday, reminded us that the new format fight is one we’ve had before.
He had some great suggestions for how librarians can appeal to gamers by rethinking how we offer our services:
  • Multiple paths.
  • Multiple formats and platforms.
  • Consider the non-print user.
  • Stop being an information priests and priestesses.
  • Ask what the user can contribute.
  • Reconsider WHERE we offer services: physical layout, time open and thought process: the
  • online services are journeys and markers, not destinations.
  • Rethink privacy our users think of it very differently than our users do.
  • We need to mine our users for data to improve our services. Encryptanet.com allows content creators to set up short term licensing agreements for others to use your content for a low price (ie $.25 for 24 hour access). Allows customer based collections! Use circ info to figure out what the 80% is that doesn’t move. Put extra money into the 20% that DOES, and allow the users to suggest purchases.
  • Librarians should provide short cuts or cheats, not training.
  • Understand that risk-taking and trial-and-error are ok! It doesn’t have to be perfect. Let your users de-bug! Failure is not the end of the world. “Nobody ever died of bad cataloging.”
  • Expertise is more important than titles or credentials. An MLS lets you do almost anything, but we should bring in PR, IT, Business managers, and other experts to help us.
  • Stay informed about gaming academic programs in game studies and designing games, where students are now entering college able to tackle projects immediately without retraining.
  • Recognize multiple intelligence – gaming appeals to a learning style different from traditional text-based learning.
  • Create learning concepts around games.
  • Make mash ups for crossovers – a website that brings together all things Harry Potter for example (although, this has been done – check out http://www.mugglenet.com
Great, how do we do it?
  • Appeal to the Board by showing how doing these things will meet the mission of the board.
  • Play an online game.
  • Stock cheat books.
  • Offer IM services and use text messaging (“this is a cultural hangup we have to get over!”). Test with staff first, and once a comfort level is established, introduce to patrons.
  • Throw a LAN party in your library, like Migell Acosta at the Santa Monica Public Library
  • Bring digital natives into your planning process, even if they don’t have an MLS.
  • Respect non-print learning.
“There are a million ways to kill a new idea,” said George, illustrating his point with a New Yorker cartoon. My friend Elizabeth Thomsen calls it pigeonshooting: sitting in a worry tank and shooting down ideas out of fear.

George concluded with a slide of his son, a digital native who doesn’t know what film, or dial telephones. He knows what it means to google Spongebob, and his generation will rock the gamer generation. The gamers are our voting futures who will choose to support or ignore libraries. He ended with several inspiring quotes from Gandhi, Dickens and lastly Jorge Luis Borges: "Nothing is built on stone/All is built on sand,/But we must build as if the sand were stone.”

“Perceptions of Libraries and Library Services” is a report now available online or in paper format for around $20.

Some great questions were asked such as what takes precedence, the library space as public space, or the web portal? George suggested we focus on the library as third place. And build great public spaces in our new buildings, and recognize that libraries are NOT the first place people go to for information. They never have been, as evidenced by a fifty-year-old report. Friends, family, newspaper, etc all come first – library ranks around number seven in a recent report and the report from fifty years ago. A real discussion developed as participants suggested linking to game sites instead of offering strategy guides, because it reinforces the box of books model and brought up the sticky issues of privacy and confidentiality and security, for example, police showing up because a patron has used IM t say they are going to commit suicide. My thought is, hey they could do that with the telephone. Or a note in a returned book. Fear and worry can’t hold you back. George reminded us that if we aren’t upsetting someone we aren’t doing our job.

An Illinois library director asked how we make the jump from Box of Books to being viable?
Even GAMERS have a perception of what a library is. How do we get beyond that? George responded that our patrons have a strong brand image of libraries and they only see books and videos. Mainly because when patrons walk in, the first thing they see is books. Build on that identity by borrowing from a business model. Bring people along slowly. Find your media, community and staff allies. Librarianship is the one profession where when you go in there is no intake or barrier before you see the professional. George recommended Joan Frye Williams as a resource who can give this talk about librarians and image.

Someone asked about data available about libraries offering equipment or services for a fee. Public Library Data Service is a report from PLA that asks about charges for services. There are different levels of service that libraries have traditionally given, such as McNaughton collections or room fees. George acknowledged that allocation is a huge issue.

One participant stepped up to the microphone just to support the diversifying of decision makers by age, ethinicity and background, both in the planning process, and the staffing, while another advocated teaching information literacy not just how to use the catalog. And when a participant asked how to start using teen volunteers, someone jumped in with a computer tech volunteer example.

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