Digital and analog games have long served modern public libraries as educational tools and as drawcards for new patrons – from dedicated gaming zones and children’s spaces to Minecraft gaming days, makerspaces, and virtual reality collections. Much has been written about the role of games and play in libraries’ programming and collections. But their wider role in transforming libraries as public institutions remains unexplored.
In this book, the authors draw on ethnographic research to provide a rich portrait of the intersection between games, play, and public libraries. They look at how games and play are increasingly spilling out of designated zones within libraries and beyond their walls, as part of a broader reconfiguration and “reimagining” of libraries in the digital era.
The library’s association with play has historically been understood through its classification as a “third place”: somewhere to relax, socialise and experiment outside of the utilitarian demands of work and home. But far from just offering patrons an opportunity for detached leisure, this book illustrates how libraries are connecting games and play to policies agendas around their municipality’s economic and cultural development. Attending to the institutionalisation of play, the book sheds new light both on the contradictions at the heart of play as a theoretical concept, and what libraries are in contemporary public life.
Dale Leorke is an independent researcher. His research focuses on the intersection of games, play and public space. His research interests include mobile and location-based games, participatory planning and civic engagement, and the transformation of public libraries in the digital era. His books include Location-based Gaming: Play in Public Space (2018), Public Libraries in the Smart City (2018), Openness in Practice: Understanding Attitudes to Open Government Data (2021), and the edited collection Games and Play in the Creative, Smart and Ecological City (2020).
Danielle Wyatt is a cultural researcher at the School of Culture and Communication, University of Melbourne. She writes and researches about the public life of culture, particularly the intersection between cultural spaces, networked technologies, arts practice and cultural policy. Recent work has been published in the book, Public Libraries in the Smart City (co-authored with Dale Leorke), in the anthology, Communicative Cities and Urban Space edited by Scott McQuire and Sun Wei, and in the International Journal of Cultural Policy. Other research has been published in the journals New Media and Society, City, Culture and Society, and Field: A Journal of Socially-Engaged Art Criticism.
List of Figures
Chapter One: Play in Public Culture
Chapter Two: Collecting Play: The Early History of Games in Public Libraries
Chapter Three: The Well-Played Library: Games in Contemporary Libraries
Chapter Four: Pervasive Play: The Spatial and Temporal Transformation of Libraries
Chapter Five: Partners in Play: Libraries and Gamemaking Communities
Chapter Six: Revisiting the Library as Play
Appendix :List of Interviewees & Case Studies
About the Authors
Gaming in libraries is not a new concept, and several great books have already been published on how to promote activities ranging from board games to LARPs into modern public library programming. In their second book involving public libraries, Leorke and Wyatt aim not to reinvent the wheel but to understand the intersection of play, gaming, and public spaces in the broader context of society, urban planning, and public libraries…. Part history book and part philosophical and theoretical exploration, this book will be relevant as public libraries continue to evolve and reinvent spaces in the digital age. For lovers of gaming and libraries and those seeking to understand the intersection of play and public spaces.
Libraries support recreational needs of users, increasingly through games and play. As trusted, inclusive public spaces, libraries constitute a unique environment to study this aspect of culture. This book shares the transformation of libraries as playgrounds, drawing from the researched experiences of several countries, particularly Australia, Finland, and Singapore…. Each chapter includes numerous endnotes to back the authors’ stances. A few color photo examples are scattered throughout the book. The appendix lists interviewees and case studies, and an extensive bibliography and index conclude the book. This relatively short book provides a well-researched and clearly written examination of the public library’s role in game making and play, responding to and reflecting community needs.
Based on their impressive fieldwork and the most recent research, the authors have here produced a volume that is of high value to both game and library scientists, as well as for practical library work.
Leorke and Wyatt take the reader through their journey of discovery, investigating how libraries play an instrumental role in public culture through play. As games and play continue to serve as cultural battlegrounds, the library as a broker and advocate for playful spaces, places, and cultural nourishment deserves a careful social and historical treatment. This work is a welcome synthesis of the importance of play, institutions, and the possibilities for civic engagement.
Leorke and Wyatt use interviews, space analysis, and reviews of library and game studies literature to explore both the embrace of and resistance to concepts of “play” in library spaces. The authors examine how the terms “games” and “play” have different meanings and contexts, and reference precedents such as the work of Johan Huizinga and Roger Caillois. They build on concepts and perceptions of games and play to explore how the spaces, services, and influence of libraries intersect with these various interpretations. Positive impacts of engaging play and game spaces in libraries are well illustrated, with analyses and photographs of spaces within libraries and supporting interview excerpts. Criticisms of the effect on “serious” purposes and spaces of libraries are acknowledged and challenged, starting with an editorial comment that opens the volume. Although the authors focus on city-based libraries and renovated spaces, the global perspective and wide-ranging examples and interviews provide a refreshing perspective in both library and game studies research. This book can serve many purposes, including inspiration for library space design, activity or program creation, and supporting arguments for gaming programs and presences within libraries. This book is recommended for graduate students, researchers, faculty, professionals.
The Library as Playground opens a space for more discussion, debate, and strategic planning on both (a) how public libraries and public librarians contribute to and support play, and (b) how and why play becomes integrated into the daily work and spaces of librarianship.
6/9/22, Choice: This book was included in a roundup of forthcoming library and information science titles.
5/15/23, Booklist: This title is included in the Spring 2023 Professional Reading Roundup.