Librarians in gaming

I’ve seen some posts lately about “Read an RPG book in public” days.  Gamers have had some serious image, and self-image, problems since back in the 1980s.   Heck, the wonderful site The Escapist is devoted to bettering the image of RPGs.  (I’m sure I hit it with my axe will help!)

Librarians as a profession have serious self-image problem too (and a bit of a real image problem, I suppose). We are always trying to convince ourselves that we are not the stereotypes we see in popular culture.

The American Library Association actually has had a number of events and committees promoting gaming in libraries, too, but unfortunately that has mainly focused on video games.

That’s too bad, because a lot of anecdotes around the blogosphere mention libraries as a gateway to RPGs back in the day. I still check every new library I go to for wargames and FRP rules (GV1469.6 in LC, and 794 in Dewey!), and I’ve had many nice scores at library book sales.

Hmm, and this is as good a place as any to point out some digital libraries that could be of interest to gamers:

But getting back to librarians rather than libraries.

I could console myself with the fact that one of my favorite writes of fantastic fiction (Jorge Luis Borges) was a librarian, as was the more recognizably “sci-fi & fantasy” author Andre Norton.

But something that really surprised me was the both Ken St. Andre (Tunnels & Trolls) and Ed Greenwood (Forgotten Realms) were, or are, librarians, and the Moldvay D&D basic set had an inspirational reading list compiled by a librarian who was not, as far as I know, a gamer.

In the days before the internet, DMs were commonly going to a library to find information to use in their campaigns, and I can remember at least reading about D&D clubs that met in libraries, back in the day.  Kids who use libraries are more likely to become interested in them, I guess, and certainly fantasy/sci-fi fans are readers.  Certainly the old school blogosphere has a lot of folks with librarian instincts.  Compiling lists of links, and using tags & categories are the amateur cousins of bibliography and cataloging, after all.  I wonder how many other people in the gaming industry are or were librarians? And what, if any, connection there is between the two pursuits.

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Published in: on February 27, 2010 at 4:33 pm  Comments (8)  
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  1. Don’t you think that using a work like dorkery in your blog is part of that image problem you’re talking about? I never thought of myself as a dork. Dorks were those guys who were so much more anal retentive than I was. Dorks never kissed a girl, but I did. Dorks didn’t understand sports, but I did. So many other facets of dorkery that neither Ed nor I would have embraced.
    Librarians get into the job not because of their anal retentive qualities, but because (1) we like librariers, and (2) we like to help people, and (3) working in libraries is a really good job. The pay is decent; the benefits are really good; it’s sheltered from the elements; and you’re at the information center of the universe. People who equate librarians with dorks are missing the boat–misperceiving the whole situation, and missing out on a good thing. Libraries are cool. Librarians are cool. And if we overlap with gaming and or writing, that’s because gaming and writing are also both cool. Swords and Dorkery indeed! Snort!
    –Ken St. Andre

    • I don’t really consider myself a dork but I do understand my hobbies are regarded (if only by the ignorant) as dorky. I suppose part of the dork image is old-fashioned American anti-intellectualism. The “Dorkery” in the blog title is partly ironic (I think this is the coolest web site in existence, since it is always about things I’m interested in). Maybe there is some defensiveness in it, too (you can call me a dork, but why bother, I already said I am). And I can’t resist a pun. “Swords & Dorkery” sort of rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?

      But Ken, I am a librarian too & I don’t think all librarians are necessarily dorks or whatever, and certainly didn’t mean to suggest they are. I know full well why I became a librarian but I do find the overlap between gamers and librarians interesting.

      Anyway thanks for the comment! You are one of the giants of the hobby.

  2. Ooh, Borges and me in the same post! excellent.

    anyway–i feel like the wider subject is universities and academia in general, and how much the hobby is or isn;t connected to that.

    and then there’s libraries IN games which is a whole other subject. a whole other extremely cool subject.

    • Thanks, Zak.
      I hope you don’t think I’m giving you & your blog any attitude, I actually think it is one of the best, up there with Grognardia, Destination Unknown, and Chgowiz’s blog. I pretty much find every post compelling even when it’s not on a topic I’m all that into, if that makes any sense.
      Please do post about libraries in games!

  3. I missed the pun the first time through. Good one, Mike! Still, if we’re gonna make a librarianish pun, how about Swords and Sourcery? Nah, it misses your point. Rock on! Great blog! I enjoyed it.
    –Ken St. Andre

  4. A couple libraries here in Vermont regularly host role-playing groups, according to their calendars. It’s typically a youth activity, but that’s as it should be. Getting new players into the hobby is a beneficial thing.

  5. […] Monaco now meets the official Old School Quota of Sword Images, and shows Librarians some serious respect with some excellently useful links. Much respect to you link-fu, Mr. […]

  6. As a librarian and a dork (and a frequenter of AUTOCAT *wink*) I’ve tried to get people interested in hosting/running/playing an RPG out of the library with little success. The local gaming store has sort of an unspoken monopoly on gaming, though they do board game nights in conjunction with the library sometimes.

    As a storyteller and DM, I admit I use (and abuse) my ILL privileges to obtain new source material. I had a big pirate phase for a while and I researched several RPG systems as well as diaries, maps, blueprints, etc. that I wouldn’t have seen without my trusty library card. I’ve also been down in the local history rooms of various local libraries digging up the area’s shady sides for an upcoming WoD campaign. Fun times.

    I also think a library hosts not only what its constituents want but what its staff can reasonably support. I’m not the sole provider of the geek-fu, but the geeks are all training the new YA librarian in geek-fu, so we’re all working together for the benefit of our long-neglected teens.


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