Thursday 23 January 2014

Librarygame. Who's in?

Charlie Brooker's new year TV programme, How Video Games Changed the World, attempted to explain the appeal, history and culture of video games with a chronological view of the most influential video games ever made. And guess what was number one? Twitter!

The list contained Minecraft, Space Invaders, Tetris and all the usual suspects, but interestingly Brooker reserved the number one spot for Twitter and the all pervading game of social media. Collecting likes, friends and retweets, he asserts, is THE game of the 21st century.

Gamification isn't new. You can already study the theory in a free Coursera MOOC and plenty of libraries, shops, cafes and museums and even TV shows let visitors check in with Foursquare or GetGlue. Sainsburys, Boots, Costa, Subway and many more organisations offer rewards for purchases via their loyalty cards.

So the big question in my mind is why aren't libraries getting into gamification? Especially when there is a ready made, perfectly formed, beautifully designed product called Librarygame (created by a very library friendly company called Running in the Halls), just asking to be exploited by public libraries across the nation.

Librarygame lets library members receive points for certain actions (checking into the library, returning books, recommending things) and achievements are granted to active users for completing certain combinations of actions such as coming to the library five times, or borrowing every book in a series to reading all the works by one author.


There's also a social element to Librarygame. Players can show off on social media about their latest badges and achievements and every share on Facebook is a plug for your library. This showing off and sharing stuff is popular! More than 1 million people already publicly catalogue their books on sites like LibraryThing and Good Reads. If you know what your fellow library members are reading, you’re more likely to find out more about other stuff you could borrow. Same goes with ratings, allowing recommendations between users and so on.

So why can't I play the Librarygame now when I use my public library? Is it that library leaders don't understand the appeal of gamifying the library environment? Or are public libraries simply stuck in the past, complacently shelling out thousands of pounds for hard to find, little used databases and not prepared to take a risk on something new?

I can see a tonne of benefits for libraries and customers. Librarygame lasts all year round, unlike the Summer Reading Challenge. And it would encourage kids and adults to get involved who might be put off by the slightly sinister 'Reading Challenge', which always sounds like a bit of a threat to me, particularly if you're not a great reader.

Librarygame rewards library members. It makes library interactions entertaining and fun and something worth sharing. It's not just about fines and overdue notices. The game would help players feel connected to others in the community and to the library and its resources. Most library interfaces, catalogues and online resources are deeply clunky and unattractive. Librarygame isn't. It's design is sleek, modern and attractive. Librarygame might even encourage non-users to sign up to the library or lure back lapsed users. It will definitely give us library geeks a dash of cool ;)

Read more about how Librarygame works...

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