This article is from the original batch of Video Game Librarian articles I wrote for Gaming Target between 2005 and 2007. It was originally written on June 24, 2005.
It has been six months since PlayStation 2 games were added to the collection of the library I work at. In those six months the collection has grown from the meager six titles originally offered on that first day to a healthy collection of 40. Best of all, not a single game has been lost or damaged (although several are on the extended overdue list). Not that I don’t cringe everytime someone brings back a disc that looks like they used it as a dinner plate.
Circulation numbers have been brisk. With two week loan periods and late charges of only 25 cents a day, people are jumping at the chance to check out games, any game. I don’t know why it’s surprising, but people (adults and children, but mostly children) will pull stuff off the shelf and check it out without even looking at what game it is they’re getting out. I asked one frequent game borrower (an adult) about this and he replied “Well I wouldn’t check out Harry Potter, but pretty much anything else, yeah.” Almost every game also has a reserve list of some size, WWE Smackdown VS Raw has been on hold since it was added. And not surprisingly for a library, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is the most popular game in the collection. Even the processing department downtown has begun adding games to the county database quicker than ever. However, that’s not to say there still aren’t speedbumps.
As you’ll recall, Ampltiude arrived (or didn’t arrive) in an empty DVD case and then was unavailable to replace it. It’s still unavailable. Elsewhere, I thought ESPN NHL 2K5 had been ordered, but two copies of ESPN NBA 2K5 appeared instead. I’m not quite sure what happened, but both copies of NBA 2K5 have been extremely popular, so it wasn’t exactly corrected. To all hockey fans, I’m sorry. A more personal problem for me is that only one game among my original purchase order is still missing from the county database. Most people would say that’s a pretty good ratio, and they’d be right. But that one game is Culdcept, a criminally underappreciated game that I really wanted to help others discover.
Aside from these minor problems, we are adding games at an incredible rate. My manager, who is also the Teen Services Librarian, has taken a more active role in purchasing the games. My role is now to provide her with lists of titles that I believe the library should have and keep her apprised of important new releases. But the final decision now lies with her. While it’s a little sad that I can no longer build the collection as I see fit, many of the holes of the collection are starting to be filled in after only 40 titles.
Some of the core titles that I lamented being unable to purchase have now become available. Beyond Good & Evil, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Viewtiful Joe and Jak II have all been purchased and added to the collection. Ico and Rez are still not available, but La Pucelle: Tactics has been purchased, but it is still sitting in the processing room along with many others.
Most of the titles living in the “No Man’s Land” of processing are children’s and family titles that have been a big hit with the kids and their parent’s wallets. The Polar Express, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (2 copies), Treasure Planet, The Hobbit, Ape Escape: Pumped & Primed and Rayman 3. A handful have even made it onto the shelf including Shrek 2, Rayman Arena, Tak 2: The Staff of Dreams and Sonic Heroes.
I believe one of the best pieces of information I passed on to my manager was the list of Greatest Hits titles Sony maintains on their website. Certain popular and good titles were marked on this list and many have been purchased to grow the collection faster with fewer funds used. Titles like James Bond 007: Nightfire, The Sims, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Enter the Matrix, Men in Black II: Alien Escape and NBA Street Volume 2 are proving just as popular with library patrons as they were on store shelves. The Simpsons game ban was also lifted and the Greatest Hits version of The Simpsons: Road Rage is also on the shelf.
Like the rest, some Greatest Hits titles are also just sitting around waiting for their moment to be processed. Two of my personal favorites, Maximo: Ghosts to Glory and the Mega Man Anniversary Collection are in that pile. I’m trying to push compilations as much as I can so that a collection of 40 can seem much, much larger. But besides that, MMAC is just awesome. Another compilation that I actually wanted to take a look at was the Sega Classics Collection; it has since been ordered. Other non-compilations in the Greatest Hits shelf waiting to be processed are Def Jam Vendetta, Alter Echo, Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness, Second Sight and Major League Baseball 2K5.
We’re also not above using a little luck to add to the collection either. Shortly after its release, a copy of Gran Turismo 4 was found abandoned in one of the study carrels. For six weeks it sat in the lost and found with no one to claim it. After that it was processed and placed in the collection and gone out steadily ever since.
We’ve even gotten our first patron request. The Hulk game from 2003 was requested by an eight-year old boy who visits the library with his mother and little sister at least once a week. How can you say no to that?
Baker and Taylor, one of the largest suppliers of library materials, has started to offer video games. As I write this the first title purchased from them, Batman Begins, has just arrived, just in time for the game’s “official” release date of June 15. But a part of me is pretty sure it won’t be processed as quickly as it was shipped. The processing room claims another one.
While librarian gamers were happy to hear games were making any kind of inroads at the library, other gamers were pretty critical of some of the choices. I don’t mean to call anybody out, but Slashdot users were particularly harsh. And I’m sure this new batch of games will get the “hardcore” subset of gamers howling even more, but the public seems to really like the choices so far.
I’m still trying to follow my original idea of what a game collection should look like. Balancing games the public wants, games that are critically acclaimed and family-friendly titles has actually proven to be fairly easy. Yes the list of new purchases and games waiting to be processed looks a little heavy on licensed game fare, but that’s what people want. And my manager is naturally drawn to familiar names. Men in Black is familiar, Ico is not. The trick is to mix in the La Pucelles and the Beyond Good and Evils and the Maximos to give patrons the choice when what they thought they wanted is checked out. Who knows, this way they might discover something they didn’t know they wanted. That is the mark of a good and attentive library.
I guess the question “Where do we go from here?” is kind of pointless now. Six months into the PlayStation 2 Era has featured patrons only gushing praise and very few detractors. In fact, the only comments that I personally have received are from elderly people who think it just seems wrong for video games of any kind to be in a library. But the same things were originally said about music and movies and nowadays no one would think of a library not carrying music and movies. At this point I just have to work on building a quality collection, educating those that need education and playing some good games I might never have given a chance.
As the collection grows I’m sure we’ll run into some more little speedbumps. Currently, the PlayStation 2 games call home a small shelf that was taken away from the new video rack. This is fine for now when only one or two games are on the shelf at a time and the average game is checked out thirty minutes after it’s returned. But it will eventually get crowded up there. And I’m aware that we’ve been very lucky with no games coming back damaged, but it will happen, and our only plan right now is for me to take them home and test them on my home PS2. The days of game systems in a library is probably still a ways away yet.
The great PlayStation 2 experiment has proved to be a huge success. In fact, my manager has been so impressed with the circulation numbers that when I informed her of the PlayStation 3’s tentative Spring 2006 release date she told me the library would support the PS3 from its launch. In the more immediate future, the budget allotted for PS2 games might be raised after looking over the sorry state of new releases on VHS video. Every month, more and more titles are being offered for sale on DVD only. Or they are being released on video, but at a ridiculous price point (often $30 or more per video). If this trend continues, I have been told that some money will be taken out of the video budget and used for a huge year-end PS2 purchasing push. My goal for the end of the year is a collection of a hundred different titles.
It looks like video games are here to stay in libraries. Other libraries in the county have begun to follow our lead and are starting their own PS2 collections (no GameCube or Xbox yet). The future should be interesting and it’s my belief that a full blown video game research and historical library is just a grant request away. The response to the first Video Game Librarian article was great, so keep those emails coming, a Video Game Librarian Mailbag might not be far off.