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A few things I’ve learned about library outreach

March 8, 2011

Be patient

Elsie, being patient

While it is common to want to get instant results and justification for all the work that is put into planning and carrying out events, it is important to realize that it can take time for word to spread. Even with the right advertising, you cannot deny the value of word of mouth.  So, if only a few people show up the first time an event is planned, make sure to put in just as much effort to run the second event as if the turnout at the first was amazing.  The first time I held a video game tournament at my library, 10 people showed up. A recent tournament brought in 30 participants, and even more for retro system free play.  The same can be said of social media.  We recently added a promotion on Foursquare at my library.  Check in three times and receive a mini Mudd Library notebook.  It took about a month, but once a couple of people started to check in, word got out and now we’ve had a lot more participation.

Get a champion

As much as we can try to be involved in the genre of the events we are planning, we have to remember that we are removed from our patrons.  I am a gamer, and am not that much older than the students at my library, but the fact that I am not a student creates a big gap.  Having a patron who is interested in the genre to provide advice, or even to help plan an event, can make a huge difference in the quality of your event.  The same can be said about getting professors on board.

Know the media

After throwing one Super Smash Brothers Brawl tournament at my library, I decided that it would be better to borrow my brother’s Wii and unlock all of the characters than to continue to find a student from whom to borrow a Wii.  It took about a week, but after playing at least 400 matches after putting our son to bed, my husband and I thought we had unlocked all that needed to be unlocked for a Smash tournament.  The next day, when I was setting up, one of the students was trying to select the tournament approved levels, and noticed that a bunch were missing.  It turned out that there was way more to unlocking everything and getting the Wii tournament ready than just playing levels over and over again.  A student was able to run to his room and get a Wii, but I was pretty disappointed all of our playing didn’t pay off.  I didn’t even win my match in the tournament.  Long story short- do your research.  Play the game, look at web sites, ask your patrons.


Video Game Art and Music

February 23, 2011

Recently, I have been coming across a lot of information about video games as art. I was pretty excited to see that both the Smithsonian and the Museum of Modern Art are hosting video game related exhibits.

Feng Mengbo Long March: Restart (Installation shot) Photo: Matthew Septimus

  • Smithsonian, The Art of the Video Game: The creators of this exhibit acknowledge the passion behind gamers, and are using that to select the games that will be on display. Gamers can visit the exhibit’s website to vote. The exhibit will run during spring of 2012, then will be available as a traveling exhibit.
  • Long March: Restart: MoMA exhibit by Feng Mengbo. This exhibit depicts “the massive military retreat of The Chinese Communist Party’s Red Army, under the command of Mao Zedong and others, that began in 1934” through the media of a video game (see MoMA PS1 Blog). The viewer interacts with the exhibit by playing the game, displayed on a 80′x20’ screen, with a wireless controller. (Excerpt from my blog post at News from the Mudd.)

This past summer, I helped a music history professor find information on popular music in video games.  Since she was not familiar with video games, my husband and I had her over to our house to get a mini lesson on music in video games.  We showed her the opening cut scenes from Final Fantasy X-2 and Kingdom Hearts for popular music, the opening cut scene from Mass Effect 2 to show an example of music that adds emotion to a game, and the opera scene from Final Fantasy 3 for a timeless example.   We also played the Final Fantasy victory music that was played at our wedding.  While helping her with research, I was excited to find out that schools are beginning to add areas of study that focus on video game music composition.  One example is the Berklee College of Music’s Video Game Scoring minor.

Another subject we talked about was the popularization of video game music.  I was surprised to discover that there is very little scholarly research being done in this area.  Video game music inspires a variety of bands and remixes, see Overclocked Remix, and even orchestral concerts such as the popular Video Games Live.   This delves into the area that I am most interested in- video game culture.  With recent publications such as Extra Lives, and Reality is Broken, I have a feeling that this is an emerging area of study.

  (Yes, Final Fantasy X-2 is my favorite video game)

Google Voice Text Feature for Libraries

February 20, 2011

This past summer, my husband finally convinced me to set up a Google Voice account.  One of my favorite things I discovered about Google Voice is the texting feature.  It allows a user to receive text messages not only to Google Voice, but also to an email of her choosing.  Since text a librarian features have been all the rage, I thought it would be pretty awesome to set up an account for my interlibrary loan department.  I began by creating a Gmail account, then proceeded to create a Voice account.   The phone number I chose is 920-659-0717.  Voice provides the option of trying to make words out the number, if one so desires (like my husband’s gaming blog 919-886-4IMS).  I set up the account so that a phone call to this number will make the interlibrary loan office phone ring, but if a text message is sent, the message will arrive in my Outlook inbox (as well as my Google Voice and Gmail inboxes).

To advertise this service, I made little signs and placed them around the library.  For even more convenience to your patrons, it is possible to create a QR code that starts a text message to the given phone number.  To create one of these, take a look at my favorite QR generator, Kaywa, and select SMS for the content type.

Google Voice has lots more useful features, like call widgets that can be embedded into web pages and voice to text conversion of voice mail messages.

This is a great way to try out a text a librarian service without having to worry about a software install or, best of all, without a cost.

Woman’s Business to be Beautiful

December 2, 2009

At work today, I received request for a rather interesting book- The Ugly-Girl Papers; or, Hints for the Toilet. I could not send it to another library because of the poor condition of our 1877 edition, but I was able to read a little from it for my amusement. The first part of chapter one is titled “A Woman’s Business to be Beautiful”. Perhaps the first line of this chapter, “the first requisite in a woman toward pleasing others is that she should be pleased with herself” (p. 9) actually is worth considering- for men and women. Unfortunately, the book goes down hill from there. I found a New York Times book review of an earlier edition from December 1874. The gentleman reviewer seems to find the book pretty amusing and even goes so far as to call it loathsome. While many of the suggestions in this book are ridiculous at best, I wonder how much of his mocking tone comes from the misogyny of the times.

Finally, for your reading pleasure- I give you The Ugly Girl Papers


December 1, 2009

I have been reading the book Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer and it has been making me feel kinda bad for no longer being involved in animal activism.  I don’t eat meat- but I used to be more involved.  I have also been feeling sad lately because it has been almost 2 years since I was last able to play World of Warcraft. Tonight, I happened upon a video that made me feel better in both respects.

When I played WoW, I blindly fought hundreds of [almost] helpless creatures just to get ahead. This video reminded me that by not playing WoW, I have been avoiding the greedy slaughter of countless murlocs…

“And then, they killed Harold and took his lewts”

Nice to meet you

December 1, 2009

After weeks of wondering what to say for my debut blog post, I’ve decided to just start things off by describing what I plan to talk about.   I plan on discussing and sharing interesting news about video games and gaming, books, gaming in libraries and learning environments, new technologies in libraries, vegetarian stuff, and random fun stuff.  That’s about it.