Video Games and Books: Why Central Library Offers Gaming to Teens

Photo by Tim Hursley

Libraries may bring to mind an image of exclusively books, but at Central Library in Downtown St. Louis technology is an integral aspect of the experience. And while the two may seem like nearly opposites, some of the most frequent ongoing programs at this St. Louis Public Library branch are related not to books, but video games.

“The purpose of a library has evolved over the years to be a more community-oriented space rather than just a place to check out books,” says Jenny Song, young adult specialist with St. Louis Public Library. “Video games are an easy, fun way to get teens into libraries where they can build relationships, learn about library resources and explore the collections. It also provides a safe space with equitable access to equipment that may not be readily available for all.”

What kind of equipment? Library patrons may sign in to free Wifi as well as access complimentary computers, printing and Chromebooks. A recording studio and design software-filled computers are available in The Creative Experience Room, also accessible by all patrons. And Song explains that teens have a variety of gaming options while visiting the space, including several popular consoles, a custom-built arcade stand with retro games and tech toys like Bloxels and Snap Circuits.

“Central Library offers a mix of programs and events for young adults from Makerspace Club to Teen Hall Meetings,” says Song. “We strive to incorporate fun, inclusive programs that build leadership and social skills as well as introduce our patrons to technology they may not have access to outside of the library.”

Song explains Makerspace Club is themed around use of the tech toys and creation software, while the Teen Hall Meetings are centered around discussions among the young patrons about programming and new ideas while fostering better young adult services and a sense of empowerment.

“One of the most popular events are our video game tournaments where teens will sign up to play Super Smash Bros or Naruto Revolution against each other with prizes for the first and second place contestants,” Song says, noting a recent team-focused virtual reality marathon. “We are able to gauge the success of each program or event by direct feedback and by the fact that many teens regularly return to the library.”