Gaming Glitches: Handling Issues Related to In-Library Gaming

Ah, the unbridled enthusiasm of a project that did not crash and burn the moment you implemented it!  Earlier this year, I wrote about having a gaming system in the library and the positive results we’ve had.  I admit that I was more than a little optumuchistic (to borrow one of my favorite phrases from one of my new favorite series, The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place; go read it now, thank you).  I wanted this black box to be a catalyst for social change, giving access to teens who wouldn’t normally be able to play, making new friends … all I needed in my mind’s eye were flower crowns and maybe a Maypole to dance around.

For a while, things went really well.  We had very simple rules: don’t leave the controllers/system unattended, don’t give the controller to someone else, and bring back all the items to the Youth Services Desk when you’re done.

Now that teens know it’s here, we have a core group of regulars.  Many of them walk over from a middle school that is less than a mile away.  Over the summer, this wasn’t a source of teens (obviously), and they had all day to expend some energy.  But when you get teenagers that have been cooped up in a 70s-style linoleum palace of a school, in the dreaded MIDDLE SCHOOL, there will be sassiness, energy, and attitude.

The three main problems we’ve experienced are probably very common to any library that has a gaming system.  They are:

  1.  Teens not bringing the controllers/games back after they have been reminded multiple times.
  2.  Teens being exceedingly loud in the room, screaming at each other and talking about interesting topics so as to disturb other patrons.
  3.   Food.

Now, depending on how your teen area is structured and what your food and drink policy is like, this may not be a problem.  For us, the biggest hurdle to changing these behaviors is that our teen area is in a completely different area of the library and there are no staffed hours.  So the food smuggling can be hard to catch unless it’s after the fact.  But when someone dumped a can of Pringles over another teen’s head, yeah, we noticed that.

We are currently keeping a list of teens who sign up for the PS4, as well as what time they were on.  This way, we can note who caused issues and have a little talk with them the next time.  If that doesn’t work, we can impose a break from gaming for a few days.  I’ve also made a point to walk out to that area as much as I can to check on them.

If issues persist, I would like to tag the controllers and check them out to teens, but this has the disadvantage of excluding teens without library cards or who have large fines.  On the other hand, maybe using the PS4 would be a good incentive to getting a card or talking with circulation about clearing things up.

This is an evolving process, and it’s important to remember that your game system idea hasn’t “failed” because of teens choosing to act a certain way.  You just have to keep analyzing the issue from different angles.

Do any of you have a game system in the library?  What challenges have you faced and how have you dealt with them?




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