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Video games in libraries improve circulation, create safe spaces

Libraries that provide video games for cardholders to check out, as well as venues for members to play games within the library, increase the circulation of literature and create havens for younger patrons, according to a report from NPR.

The report surveys a handful of library systems that offer video games to its members. The Houston Public Library, which houses more than a dozen consoles and handheld systems for members to use — including seven PlayStation 3 and four Xbox 360 consoles hooked up to large screen TVs — says people who come in to play games often check out more books as well.

"It's a primary part of our service that we offer, and it results in a 15 to 20 percent increase in the circulation of books," Sandy Farmer, manager of Central Youth Services for the library, told NPR. "The kids and the teens spend more time here. Families come — their parents have things to do on the computers, because a lot of the families don't have computer access at home, so the kids have some things to do and while they're here. They find out, 'There's Superman. I can read Superman.'"

The New York Public Library's NYPLarcade program is similar to a book club, encouraging members who play the library's games to gather and discuss them.

"Gamers can come in, they can play games and they can also talk about them and engage in an analytical discussion: talk about strategic methods for winning and really sharing ideas and thoughts about how the games work, their structure and so forth," said Kevin Winkler, director of Library Sites and Services.

Hackensack, New Jersey's Johnson Public Library uses video games to create a safe space for teenagers, although with a few rules: no games rated M or above are allowed.

"[Video games are] fun, and I think there's a value to kids coming to the library and having fun and having a place where they can hang out with each other," said librarian Keri Adams. "There aren't a lot of safe places teenagers can go, so it's important to give them that, even if it isn't the most educational experience."

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