Sunday, November 4, 2007

It's only a game

The deprofessionalization of librarianship - part 1

You may have noticed recently that libraries have begun adding video games to their collections and hosting game nights, much like many libraries have film nights. While this is all well and good, some of the accompanying ideas in the library world are only serving to hasten the slide into deprofessionalism to which librarianship is destined.

There’s nothing wrong with libraries collecting video games and even having game nights, but please, stop pretending that this is an intellectual subject that we all need to study and is worthy of entire conferences. That is just embarrassing. It is embarrassing not because librarians are talking about video games – because we should be – but that some of us are trying to raise them to an intellectual level worthy of study. This may very well be justified in the education field, but not in libraries. You don’t need a library school class, a scholarly article, or a symposium to learn how to purchase video games and make them available to your patrons. How this bizarre intellectual leap occurred is beyond me, but it is a trend that is sure to make our already damaged image worse. Maybe these so-called gaming librarians think it makes us look cool and progressive, but in reality it makes us look foolish and desperate.

Lest you think I have something against video games, please bear a few things in mind:
-a Wii lives at my house and I know how to use it (and have scored pretty high on Big Brain Academy)
-I have borrowed a video game from a library
-I attended a PLA session on gaming with John Beck, author of Got Game and it was very interesting and I’m totally convinced that people can develop problem-solving skills from playing video games.

But as the Annoyed Librarian said, "This stuff doesn't require a master's degree, or even a college degree." This is the problem when librarians are already trying so hard to justify our existences, and failing miserably: when we try to prove the value of our skills and convince our institutions that they need us, and they see shit like this, what do you think that says about us? No matter how much fun they are to play, or how educational they can be, or how successfully a library gaming night fosters a sense of community, they are still just games. And when our colleagues talk about gaming as though it's a large, vital part of our highly-skilled field, and an important trend in libraries, we need to stop wondering why we are paid so poorly.

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