Celebrate National Library Week with esports!

Esports and libraries make natural partners. This is especially true today in our new normal of social distancing and emphasis on digital communication and interactions. Kids have three spaces of existence: their homes, their school, and then their activities outside of these two. With schools nationwide being out, in some cases for the rest of the summer, libraries typically become the second space of kids as a way to continue to enrich their learning and cultivate interests. In rural communities like my own, it is difficult to find high speed internet, so many youth flock to the library with their devices in hand or even sit outside of our vestibule at night in order to connect online with friends. Libraries have become second spaces and are the new second space in the digital age, especially in rural communities and communities without access to high speed internet at home. Libraries bridge the gap of access and allow all to connect without the fear of being asked to leave for not purchasing goods to use the “complimentary” internet provided by some businesses. Libraries do not dictate what one needs to learn but ask “what are you interested in?” and provide the resources to further study those interests.                                                                                                                            

In my own community, I have seen esports grow from an after school program to a movement. I’ve witnessed students take charge of their education and voice what they’re interested in is important and lobby the school and superintendent for esports programs at their schools. The school is more than happy to oblige and begin working with the library to implement a curriculum based on STEM not only in the school as an after school option, but as a module inside school like physical education, art, and music. Home school patrons are forming their own leagues based on games which they have interest in, and are using the library as the forum to gather and connect with one another over their shared interests. My own library has plans to grow how we use esports as a medium to connect students with our own summer reading program and how we can connect to those reluctant to read outside of school.        

If you are a library interested in forming your own esports program, I have a few tips and tricks to get started:

  • Ask your patrons which games they are interested in or what they play at home. Having their voice and choice in the matter is what will make an esports team a success.
  • Have a safe, moderated place for team members to chat outside of programs, whether it be a discord server or a private group in social media.
  • You don’t have to have the latest and greatest consoles. Nostalgia is huge, and many of the games on older consoles play on the same principles as newer games or remakes. Don’t have the money for a few new consoles? Use the last generation or older! What matters are connecting interests in gaming and scholastic outcomes.
  • Reach out to other gamers and scholastic esports educators in your community or online. Nobody expects anyone to be an esports expert from the start. There’s a wonderful community online of educators and after school staff who run programs like these nationwide who have insight into any number of questions you may have.

Here are a few tips to engage with your patrons right now via distance:

  • Engage with your patrons where they are on social media, even if it’s a platform where you haven’t traditionally marketed.
  • Challenge your creators! Post challenges featuring different games or genres. Want to move? Host a victory dance-off.
  • Post short videos of yourself engaging in your programming. My library has consoles where we have our own tags. Share what your team or program does for games with flashbacks and screenshots to build hype for your next season or program.
  • Encourage community. Create a group or server for your patrons to connect and share their tags which can be moderated by your staff.

 

Contributed by Tyler Hahn, Youth and Special Services Librarian at the Cherokee Public Library

Drive-in esports - a great way to hang out while social distancing!
A creative idea at the Pottsboro Area Library

You can celebrate National Libraries Week by joining NASEF’s Minecraft COVID-19 Challenges. Check out challenge #4, and design a library that timelines the outbreak along with providing useful information for the public. Submit a 3-minute video of your library created in Minecraft, and share your link on Twitter! Include the hashtag #MinecraftCOVID19. 

See these stories recently published in the YALS (Young Adult Library Services) Magazine:

Connecting with Teens through Esports

What Goes Into Building an Esports Team