Gaming sessions draw kids to New Port Richey library
NEW PORT RICHEY - In a large room on the second floor of the New Port Richey Public Library, a dozen students gathered around various video game consoles and a table full of card games. The March gaming session happened to fall on International TableTop Day, March 30. Jessica Meredith, the library’s youth services librarian, started an open gaming session in January for preteens and teens to occupy them on the last Saturday of every month. A Nintendo Wii, Xbox Kinect and original Nintendo console, along with a large box of games to choose from, are available for students to use. There are also card games like Apples to Apples. “I think a lot of teens in this area are not fortunate enough to have Internet or gaming systems at home,” Meredith said. “This is a chance for them to play and come to hang with friends. A lot of their parents are working two jobs.”Despite being International TableTop Day, a holiday designated by celebrity gamers Felicia Day and Wil Wheaton for people to unplug and come together to play board games, the teens tended to gravitate toward the video games. Faith Plotkin, 12, tags along to the library’s gaming session with her older brother, 15-year-old Liam. The siblings are homeschooled and gaming sessions are an opportunity to get out of the house and play with other kids their age. Matthew Vanvalkenburg, 15, is at the library on Main Street every Saturday, from opening until closing. “This is fun because I’d never played on the Kinect before,” Matthew said. “I don’t get to play a lot of games at my house.” The New Port Richey Library provides a variety of programming, much of which is geared toward kids. Activities include movie nights and an anime club. It even gives teens the opportunity to provide feedback to library staff and ideas for future events through the Youth Offering Library Opinions Club. “We want to get more opinions on what games the kids like to play,” Meredith said. Gaming in libraries is not new. Board and card games have long been a standard at many libraries internationally. Video games, on the other hand, have only recently been introduced, due to their tendency to be loud and controversy among librarians about whether they cause violent behavior. But at the New Port Richey Library, all of the games are rated “E for Everyone.” Numerous articles online give advice to libraries looking to incorporate video games into their programming. Techsoup for Libraries, an online resource, says that gaming events “draw teens and their parents to the library.” “Teens have been visiting the library less often and checking out fewer books as their information and entertainment options increased. There’s increasing evidence that gaming events in the library will increase circulation and reading among young adults.” It creates a connection between young adults and library staff and helps teens develop teamwork and organizational skills. Meredith said she’d like to look more into Trading Card Games like Yu-Gi-Oh and Magic: The Gathering, as well as other types of hobby games. There won’t be an open-gaming session in April, Meredith said, because all the rooms are booked for the month. The event will return in May and will likely be offered several times a week during summer break.