Archive for the ‘Games and Gaming’ Category

How GameRT Became Our Newest Round Table

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

I got a first-hand glance at some of the inner workings of ALA policy and procedure during the past six months as I helped shepherd GameRT to round table-hood, so I thought I’d share that experience here to help illustrate one way in which groups form within the Association.

Back in 2007, ALA member Scott Nicholson noticed that the new wave of more social board games and video games were allowing libraries to expand the gaming programming so many of them had already been offering for decades, if not longer (think chess, SCRABBLE, summer reading programs, etc.). To help librarians share knowledge to grow their programs, he formed the original ALA Games and Gaming Member Interest Group (GGMIG), a community that crossed all types of libraries and all types of games.

To start an ALA-wide member interest group (a MIG) only takes signatures from 100 current ALA members and a mission statement/charge. The request then goes to “COO,” ALA’s Committee on Organization. While it’s true that anyone can create an informal community using ALA Connect, but if you want a more official informal group, you start with a MIG.

I used to be one of those people who jokes that only ALA would need a “Committee on Organization,” but we are, after all, librarians, and we do need a group to manage the organization of new, official groups. After sitting in on a couple of COO meetings, I now realize the group is very necessary if we want to avoid duplication of effort and resources (an important function in an association that will turn 135 next week).

Finding no existing groups with conflicting charges or goals, COO recommended to ALA Council that the GGMIG be approved. Council did exactly that in 2008, and the MIG popped into existence. Dr. Nicholson was the MIG’s first chair, and it was able to start presenting programming at ALA conferences. You can find their session at both Midwinter and Annual on Saturday mornings, from 10:30 a.m. to noon.

As the group’s activities expanded, though (helping with National Gaming Day @ your library, running the popular Open Gaming Night social at Annual, etc.), it became clear the MIG needed to become a Round Table in order to better meet its goals.
So in 2011, then GGMIG chair Chris Harris and incoming GGMIG chair JP Porcaro submitted the required 100 member signatures requesting that the MIG become the Games and Gaming Round Table (informally known as GameRT). They also had to come up with a starter mission statement, bylaws, and how much the dues would be. The request went through the same cycle as the MIG, so it started at COO and was recommended to Council, which approved it at the 2011 Annual Conference.

Round Tables are the next step up in the ladder of official ALA groups. Whereas members don’t have to pay dues to join a MIG, round tables are something you formally pay a small amount of money to join. This gives the round table a budget it can use to implement its activities. Other differences between the MIG and GameRT are that the round table can make formal recommendations to ALA, issue publications, give awards, and partner with other organizations. In addition, if GameRT’s membership reaches 1% of ALA’s total membership, it gets representation on ALA Council.

GameRT on my ALA membership form

Because ALA’s fiscal year runs September 1 through August 31, new groups get added to the membership form and into our member database in September. That work was completed this week, which means GameRT is truly official now and ALA members can now log in to and join the Round Table for $10 (my cost was pro-rated because I’m halfway through my current membership year).

GameRT on my member profile

There’s also a new GameRT group in ALA Connect where members can share ideas, ask questions, etc., and the Steering Committee will begin setting up a committee structure for the Round Table’s various projects (National Gaming Day, ALAPlay at Annual, an award the group will sponsor, updating the Library Gaming Toolkit, and more).

In addition, the Steering Committee needs to put together a slate of candidates to run for office within GameRT in the spring 2012 election. The group will need a president, vice-president (incoming president), and a treasurer to handle the money now that they have a budget. Want to volunteer for office or a committee? Contact current chair JP Porcaro.

I was always the GGMIG’s staff liaison, so I’m now the GameRT liaison since the MIG no longer exists. I submit the group’s meeting requests, keep the committee rosters up-to-date in our member database, and generally help however I can. I’m their tie into the behind-the-scenes side of ALA, so I help its various groups navigate the ALA cloud to accomplish their goals.

I’m really looking forward to working with GameRT members to expand ALA’s gaming initiatives. I hope you’ll join us if gaming is one of your interests. From time to time I’ll post here how the Round Table is progressing, just to share how this stuff happens.

I think GameRT is a great example of a dedicated group of members coming together within ALA to advance a part of libraries and librarianship they feel has a lot of value. Consider this the official announcement that you can go join GameRT!

Win Prizes Playing the Big Game at Annual

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008

We’re always looking for new ways to help attendees connect with friends, friendsters, colleagues, and future friends at our conferences, and this year we’re experimenting with a new concept that we hope will also expose librarians to the concept of “big games.”

What’s a “big game?”
We’re all familiar with games – usually we play boardgames on tables, and more people than ever are playing videogames on screens. Both can be very social experiences, depending on the game and the players, but “big games” force you to interact with your surroundings and usually with other people. These are games that take place out in the physical world, and the everyday objects we take for granted are the playing pieces.

They use city blocks as grids for the playing field, and the game is usually a variant of capture the flag, tag, a scavenger hunt, or hide and seek. They often involve using cell phones to send or receive information, but not always. Some examples of big games include:

You can learn more about big games here, and especially why they may be a good fit for some libraries, by listening to Greg Trefry’s talk at the 2007 ALA TechSource Gaming, Learning, and Libraries Symposium. In his slides, he notes that libraries are ideal venues for this type of activity because we have things like tools (photocopiers, computers), secret codes (think Dewey Decimal System), a building for the game’s headquarters (sometimes multiple buildings if there are branches), and referees (librarians).

What does this have to do with Annual Conference?
Just as some libraries may want to use big games to interact more with their communities, ALA is experimenting with using a big game to help conference attendees interact more with us and with each other during our biggest deal of the year – Annual Conference. We’ll be in California next month, and there’s so much history around the state’s books, authors, and popular culture that it seemed like a natural fit to try a big game around that theme.

The style will be an information scavenger hunt, and the game is called California Dreaming. It’s being designed by Come Out & Play Productions, a company that specializes in these types of events. Anyone attending Annual can play for free, and though you could play on your own, you probably want to sign up for a team because the clues will be spread out across the entire convention center campus. Plus, the game will be played over two days (Saturday and Sunday, June 28-29), and you can’t be everywhere at once. You’ll find clues in conference materials, in sessions, on the exhibit floor, and elsewhere. You’ll be looking for questions about the history of California pop culture, and you can bring your answers to the Game HQ in the new Gaming Pavilion on the exhibit floor or you can text them to us.

If you want to sign up to play, you can join one of six teams:

  1. Academic librarians
  2. Library Society of the World
  3. Public librarians
  4. School librarians
  5. Special librarians
  6. Students

There will be some cool prizes (from companies such as The Cartoon Network, Electronic Arts, and Microsoft), so you’ll want to form teams ahead of time in order to hit the ground running when the game begins on Saturday morning (June 28). You can still sign up when things start on Saturday, June 28, but why not get started now? Watch for more information to appear from the California Myth Authority soon!

Get Recognition for Your Gaming Program

Wednesday, February 13th, 2008

2008 is going to be a big year for gaming at ALA, something I’ll be blogging more about in the near future (including an exciting grant from the Verizon Foundation to educate librarians about gaming and its benefits). Right now, though, I want to note that if your library is doing anything innovative or creative in the area of gaming, you could gain national recognition for your efforts.

ALA Presidential Citation Recognizes Gaming

ALA President Loriene Roy is offering a 2008 Presidential Citation to libraries — and librarians of all kinds — that use games and gaming as tools for learning, literacy development and community development.

Citation winners will receive a certificate and be featured on ALA’s games and gaming Web site. Winners will be notified in mid-May, and winning selections will be announced at the 2008 ALA Annual Conference in Anaheim. Roy will present the citations at the ALA’s first open gaming night at the conference.

Nominations are being accepted in three categories: education, recreation and innovation, including creative collaborations. Applications are being received from Jan. 14 through April 21. Self nominations are strongly encouraged. Apply online at

The nominations will be reviewed by a panel of experts from the library field, the gaming industry, academia and philanthropy.”