Portage might hold the instruction manual for Wisconsin libraries that want to boost their video game collections.
The Portage Public Library has upped its video game collection from 15 titles to more than 300 since it hired Teen Services and Technology Coordinator Chris Baker in May 2017.
On May 31, he will make a presentation on using the games to reach “untapped demographics” to librarians from across the state at a Games in Libraries conference in Eau Claire.
It will be his third presentation about video games for librarians since October, when he presented at the Wisconsin Library Association’s annual conference in La Crosse. On May 2, he presented at a conference in Rothschild, just outside Wausau.
His presentations use 2018 research from the Entertainment Software Association, which says 64% of U.S. households own a device for playing video games and 60% of Americans play video games daily.
“It’s the most popular recreational medium in America and we ought not to ignore it,” Baker said of video games in libraries. “It’s here to stay.”
Research shows video games appeal to people of all ages and backgrounds, Baker said, not supportive of misconceptions some people might have about the hobby as a habit of male teenagers. The average gamer is 34 years old, Entertainment Software Association reports, and 72% of all gamers are 18 or older.
Moreover, adult women represent a greater portion of the video game playing population (33%) than boys under 18 (17%).
“I want there to be more knowledge and training available to librarians so they know how to curate collections in their own libraries,” Baker said. “That’s the biggest thing. There are a lot of training and education opportunities that are already available for libraries to learn how to buy the newest and hottest books, the newest and hottest movies, but those opportunities are sparse for video games.
“I’m hoping to offer as much of this information as I possibly can. I want to be that source for other librarians.”
Librarians adding to their collections should establish relationships with the people who work in video games stores, Baker says in his presentation. Generally, these are the people most passionate about video games in a community, “So why not rely on them?”
Portage started small in its video game collection efforts, Baker said — at first purchasing cheaper, older games to build a large base — but now the library is keeping up with the latest hits for the major consoles of PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch.
Going forward, Baker expects the library to add 50 new titles to the collection per year.
Many of the video games housed in Portage are educational and not solely for entertainment, Children’s Librarian Dawn Foster said. The library has games for older consoles, too, so people who don’t own a newer system can still enjoy the library’s collection, she added.
“I think it’s so important to have materials that appeal to a wide variety of ages and interests,” said Foster, who at the same WLA conference in October presented on the importance of providing children with materials authored by people from various cultural backgrounds.
“We’re so lucky to have Chris (Baker) here in Portage, and he’s attracted a lot of attention from other libraries across the state.”