What Can Librarians Learn from Gamers?
George Needham is the VP for member services at OCLC.
Focus on the concept of gamers as metaphors. Developing, sharing, and extending knowledge.
Why should someone from OCLC speak on gaming? “It all started with…” the OCLC 2003 Environmental Scan.
It found 3 major trends:
-Disaggregation (bite sized pieces of information)
Gamers show all 3 of these trends in action.
Question he thinks we are asking ourselves right now: “Why is an old poop like you talking to us about gaming?”
“When I see a line of historical continuity, I nearly wet myself.”
Flashback to 1889, giving us a slice of life of Needham’s grandfather. He was 14 when the Wright brothers flew.
Joe Duffy had a lifelong love of gadgets. He was 59 when TV debuted. 80 when Armstrong and Aldrin landed on the moon, watching it on TV. This was a life during an unprecended time of turmoil and technological advancement.
It was change or die. Today is much the same.
“According to Wikipedia”, the first video game was Tennis for Two in 1958. Games were originally designed to teach people how to use a computer. Then, Pong came along in 1975. Nintendo put gaming on the map for the general public in 1985. Air Warrior was the first multiplayer online game, in 1987. It cost $10 an hour to play!
There is a long tradition here, and libraries have not picked up on it. “It’s very easy to be a library futurist – look at what is happening in the rest of the world, and tell libraries they’ll get it in five years.” – Joan Frye Williams
New study from last week – the BBC determined that from age 6-65, the UK population has over 60% who have played video games.
What makes these folks so special?
Those who have grown up with the games see the world fundamentally differently. There is some evidence that the basic function pattern of the brain has changed.
Digital Immigrants – In the last 20 years, libraries have been helping to acculturate the older generations to new technology. But, it still still never be deeply ingrained as it is for the younger generations. There will always be a ‘digital accent’.
Digital Natives – The world has never been otherwise. Parallel processing instead of linear, graphical instead of text, payoff instead of process, fantasy instead of reality, “twitch” speed, etc. See Prensky for more information.
“Born with the Chip”: Format-agnostic, Nomadic, Multitasking, Collaborative, etc.
According to John Beck, gamers are always the hero of their own games. The world really does revolve around them. The world is a logical, friendly place. It is natural to move between tasks. There are many paths to victory. Victory is always possible, and the cost of failure is low. Leaders cannot be trusted. Lastly, life should be fun.
But, this is not the end of the world as we know it! Gaming has proven to help surgeons perform better.
Librarians should learn:
Rethink how we offer our services
-Many formats, platforms
-Consider the non-print learner
-Librarian as “information priest” as is dead as Elvis
-What can the user contribute?
“Yes, there really were wars about videos in libraries.”
Library mash-ups: example – ‘mash up’ everything Harry Potter related. Games, books, movies, etc. Or, tie in World War II games like Call of Duty to studies of the historical setting.
Rethink where we offer services
-Physical library layout
-Online library services are journeys and markers, not destinations. For example, spend some time getting library web sites mentioned and linked to from others.
-24/7/365 is barely enough
New OCLC study “Perceptions of Libraries and Information Services” – Libraries rank high on reliability with the public, but not on speed/flexibility/variety. Search engines rank just as reliable as librarians in their eyes.
(Study is available on OCLC web site)
Rethink privacy in this new context. Not being completely open with patron information, but thinking about what we do. In an Information Week experiment last May, 85% of people on the street gave up their passwords for a Starbucks $5 gift card. We think about privacy fundamentally differently than they do. Why not exploit the data we have lying on our hard drives to make user lives easier? Why not figure out what the 80% that doesn’t move on the shelves is, not buy so much of it, and let users point out when they would like specific items bought?
-Short cuts, not training. Repackage what we do as short cuts! We have better information than what is on the web. As shortcuts, not long step by step processes, it becomes more appitizing.
-Risk-taking and trial and error are OK! Don’t be afraid of an occasional failure. It happens, and isn’t the end of the world. “Nobody ever died of bad cataloging.” – Gary Houk, OCLC VP
-Expertise is more important than title or credentials. In public libraries, why not draw on high school students’ expertise?
-Can LIS learn from gaming academic programs? Electronic Arts, which makes video games, notes that in the last three or four years, students now come out of school with the ability to contribute to real projects, with less on the job training.
Why can’t library schools be focused similarly?
How do we apply this now?
-Play an online game once in a while
-Stock cheat books for video games in your library (or ‘strategy guides’ if you prefer)
-Offer services on IM, use text messaging – “This is a cultural hangup we need to get over.”
-Throw a LAN party in your library
-Bring digital natives into your planning process (even if they DON’T have an MLS)
-Respect non-print learning
There are a million ways to kill a new idea.
Now, a focus on his granson. Born in 1999. He was 5 when podcasting was added to iTunes. He had his first digital camera when he was 3, and does not understand the concept of film. “dialing a phone” has no innate meaning. When he asked his mom to “Google Spongebob” at age 3, his mom thought he had regressed to babytalk.
We are the only people who can change the ends toward which we are headed.
To sum up:
Nothing is built on stone;
all is build on sand,
but we must build
as if the sand were stone
-Jorge Luis Borges
Summed up in 3 words: “We Must Build.”
Info from the questions and comments: Use IM for staff communication. Needham’s ideal web page would work like Google (federated search?). The library at UC Merced (sp?) is the campus center – small collection, lots of public space.
“Libraries never have been the first place people go for information. We need to get over that.”
“There have been videos in libraries for 30 years. When does it become traditional?”
How do we make the jump from a ‘box of books’ to where we need to be? As we expand, bring people along slowly.
Don’t alienate the traditional user base as you bring in the new generation. A slow, slogging process.
According to the public, everybody who works in a library is a librarian. Anywhere else in the world, this situation doesn’t happen. Doctors do not staff the front desks. We are much more open and upfront.
A questioner brings up an example of his library’s selection process for a coffee provider: nobody making the choice was a coffee drinker! The result is horrible coffee. Bring in a diversity of people who are genuine stakeholders in a result.