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Should Libraries Lend Games?

Updated on July 24, 2012

Libraries lend a few different types of materials: books, e-books, audio books, CDs, videos, and DVDs; Blu-Ray has even started to make its rounds. However, not many of them, if any, keep computer or video games in their collections. There are pros and cons to this idea, as the advantages and pitfalls are about evenly matched. Several libraries have gaming programs, but those materials, more often than not, are privately owned by its members. Ultimately, as is usually the case, the need is determined by the community and the cost analysis is done by those in charge of the budget.

Pro: Games are just as popular as any other medium lent by libraries and rental stores. An appropriate amount of time allowed for circulation may be calculated for beating the game or getting as far as one possibly can in a reasonable timeframe. Con: They are so popular that they may not be returned on time, if ever. Some games take a long time to complete, and not everyone is good at them. Reality: Long waiting lists are nothing new, as popular novels and movies take a long time to circulate and sometimes never come back. Late fees and/or replacement penalties would also apply. Games would also have to be pulled off the shelf for library-sponsored game nights, not unlike any other activity such as film screenings or anime sampler nights.

Pro: It seems almost every home has a computer or game system. Everyone likes games, as is evidenced by people of all ages forming Wii Bowling teams and competing in semi-serious tournaments. Con: There are several game and computer systems out there, and it would be impossible with an ever-shrinking budget to even consider trying to please everyone. Reality: In an uncertain economy (or one that is certainly bad and showing no signs of improving anytime soon), we should be thankful for library-sponsored game nights. In fact, whatever happened to the days where teens came in and pulled board games out of the cabinet to play? Donations are also welcome as well as suggestions for links to free downloadables.

Another road block to achieving any sort of game collection or public activity would be any number of people against game-play. Just like extremists who want certain books banned and television shows censored, there are those out there who think all games have an aspect of degeneracy to them and deplore the practice. I know that at least where I went to public school, we weren't even allowed to play Uno unless it was in Spanish class. In most places, trading card games (TCGs) are frowned upon not for their nerd-dom but as a potential vehicle for gambling, the appearance of promoting violence, or in some cases the dark arts.

Basically, what this argument boils down to is that it is impractical to circulate any games because there are too many operating systems to choose from and it's too expensive to buy several copies of the same game to satisfy everyone's varied needs. Any games kept on the premises are used in-house for library programs. As long as the public is interested and these library-hosted game nights are popular, those will continue to exist. In short, the idea that games can circulate has been thwarted by budget constraints, insatiable demand, and crazy people who hate fun and denounce it as evil.


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