Libraries are one of the most important cultural institutions in the world. In any society, it is absolutely vital for the public to have free access to information and resources at any time, regardless of socioeconomic standing, race, religion, sexual orientation, etc. People talk about voting all the time, and that as someone living in a free country you really should vote because there are many many people out there who are literally dying for the same right. I think it’s the same with having a library card. it provides you with free access to all the information you could ever need.
I know what you’re all thinking: “But Mike, my library sucks! It’s full of crappy old books and there’s nothing to do there.” Now, I obviously can’t speak to the quality of every single public library out there, but I’ll bet it offers more than you think. Seriously; go check out your library right now (after you finish reading this, of course). Also, if your library doesn’t have a good selection, there’s a thing called Interlibrary Loans in which they will bring something in for you.
In ever-growing numbers, public libraries are carrying CDs, movies, magazines, and …. wait for it …. VIDEO GAMES! One more thing, they are all completely free. Video games are, as a mainstream entertainment medium/art form, around 40 years old. They’re still young and in many ways immature, but it is extremely exciting to think that they are being included in libraries. To provide some perspective, when movies were 40 years old, they were discovering amazing innovations like SOUND and COLOR, and they were still DECADES from being considered culturally vital enough to collect and archive.
My library started getting games in 2009, and ‘M’ rated games just this year. The big irony in all of this is that even though I’m obviously a huge fan of games, I can’t play any of what’s being offered at my library (PS2, PS3, Wii, 360). My PS2 is bricked, I gave my Wii to a non-gamer friend so she could access Netflix, and I don’t own a PS3 or 360. Still, I’m happy to be an advocate because gaming is worth it. Also, as a PC gamer, I actually think there are even more possibilities for the future than with consoles because the hardware is already readily available. Access to a decent computer can lead to all sorts of things like cloud support, Steam, OnLive, MMO clients, Free To Play, etc. It wouldn’t be too hard to have a client for something like League of Legends installed on a public PC, so a user could just log in and start playing. Every library system also has an I.T. Department, which means that theoretically they could manage servers for games like Minecraft or WoW. Imagine having your library, a community centre, as a home base for your online gaming community.
I have some homework for all of you out there. Go out and visit your local library. Talk to the staff there, and ask about what kinds of materials they carry. Ask about video games. If they don’t carry them, get a library card and lobby the shit out of the purchasing department. Tell them about libraries in the USA, Canada, England, and other places which are carrying games as part of their circulating collections. Tell them that if public libraries are serious about staying relevant in the 21st century, they need to thrive in change and be responsive to what their public really wants. Do that, and you might be surprised by the reaction you get. I’m going to let you in on a little secret: Librarians are EXTREMELY subversive. Even though we seem like mild-mannered civil servants, we love nothing more than pushing hot buttons and messing with The Man.
You don’t believe me? If it weren’t for a group of pissed off librarians, Michael Moore’s Stupid White Men would never have been released. We are the kind of people video gamers need as allies. We want to be on the cutting edge of what’s out there; that’s what we’re all about. So, get your ass to your local public library, get a card (which you’re paying for with your taxes anyway) and plant a bug in their ears to start getting involved with gaming.