November 12, 2010

"The New Technology"

I was quite surprised at finding an article in The Library Journal about the introduction of video games to the public library in Piqua, Ohio . . . dated April 15, 1981. Their goal: to introduce the 25,000 residents of their rural community to "the new technology". As part of their electronic learning center, the library bought a Radio Shack TRS-80 Level I microcomputer, a Sony Betamax with a Hitachi colour camera, and an Atari with 17 game cartridges.
"The potential problems of supervision were overcome by placing the games in a stack area beneath a stairway— an area just large enough for two players and the equipment. The location, secured by a decorative iron gate, is in clear view of the main circulation desk, and a 'No Spectators Permitted' rule is strictly enforced."
Oh, you want to play video games? Right over there under the stairs and behind the iron gate. Move along, nothing to see here.
"We did attempt to conceal the purely recreational nature of the videogames at first by purchasing a few learning games cartridges (spelling, math, etc.). Our cover was quickly blown, however, because these cartridges have been easily ignored by the players."

"The heaviest use (about 85 percent) is in the age range from ten to 15 years. An occasional parent-child team enjoys an hour together, encouraging us to believe that this is not an activity just for children."

"We have come to believe that videogames may have as acceptable a place among our electronic library services as light fiction, popular magazines, and comedy record albums have had among our more traditional offerings."
I found this article all sorts of amazing since I've been reading all about the same arguments and studies of video game collections being implemented in public (and academic) libraries, except this trend has pretty much just been over the past 10 years. Considering they were almost 30 years ahead of mainstream acceptance of video games in libraries, I say the Piqua Public Library deserves the slow clap. Bravo.

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