Though many libraries nationwide have closed during the Covid-19 pandemic or are serving customers by appointment only, they are still trying to be active in the communities they serve. One of the most unusual programs that a few libraries continue to provide, believe it or not, is competitive video gaming, or esports.
Last year, two dozen libraries received sizable grants from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) as part of the Future Ready with the Library project to help middle school students prepare for success in life and careers. Two notable ones – in Pottsboro, Texas, and in Cherokee, Iowa – decided to put that money behind esports.
Those who did reinvented areas for esports and played host to events as students clamored for more ways to learn and explore digital realms. In Pottsboro, the library combined with both the high school and Austin College back in August 2019 to hold technology classes, practices and tournaments using resources provided by the North America Scholastic Esports Federation (NASEF).
Even during the crisis, the Pottsboro Area Library has been a go-to resource for the people it serves. Thanks to a WiFi access point outside the building, customers have been able to utilize the parking lot and other locations to get on the internet. More recently, cars with students came up to partake in a very cool initiative – a popup drive-in-movie-style esports event!
For those who can’t game or face stay-at-home orders, Pottsboro Library Director Dianne Connery, and Tyler Hahn, the Youth and Special Services Director at the Cherokee Public Library and a NASEF Middle School Fellow, offer strategies to other libraries and faculty to keep kids playing:
Plan a tournament. More experienced players can build organizational skills by planning a future tournament. Use a Discord server, group texts, or email for planning purposes.
Create a library game-a-thon, gaming event where there will always be at least one person playing a game. The people who are playing also have challenges to complete or have their own tournament play. This can be captured online with a specific hashtag for the event.
Bonus Objective challenges can be completed based on participant interest such as coding a game in scratch, creating a 3-D model, creating art of a particular fandom, or writing game reviews for new or favorite game.
Stretch it out! With many classrooms becoming digital, it is hard to avoid ample amounts of screen time. However, what can be done is taking multiple breaks in and between sessions and practicing healthy gaming and computer stretches and being mindful of proper posture. Also, having a dedicated computer chair or work station helps alleviate some of the stress on the body.
Keep the WiFi on! Libraries and other organizations should do their part to keep access to the internet as equitable as possible for patrons and provide access for both essential and recreational activities for whole person wellness.
Build community! Work with other businesses and leaders in your own community to create opportunities and to build connections with how gaming and careers in your own community intersect. Tie-ins with popular games such as Animal Crossing show that there are professions/professionals such ecology experts, bankers, and fishing within their own back yards as well as their virtual islands.
Chris Burt is the Esports Editor for District Administration and the Program Chair for the Academic Esports Conference and Expo.