One-Question Survey
How Do You Use Gaming in Your Library?

"Game design isn't just a technological craft. It's a twenty-first-century way of thinking and leading. And gameplay isn't just a pastime. It's a twenty-first-century way of working together to accomplish real change" (McGonigal 2012).

More school librarians than we think may be supporting gaming and gamification in their libraries and classrooms. Some forms are traditional, like battle of the books competitions, electronic book comprehension tests for points, or even rewarding students for their reading with bookmarks and other prizes. However, these traditional promotion activities aren't exactly what we were thinking of in the One-Question Survey (1QS) this month. Determining the exact definition of gaming and/or gamification is beyond the scope of this article, but I do believe there is a continuing shift towards the incorporation of gaming into our everyday lives, including education. Looking back at Dr. Maria Cahill's 1QS article from January 2016, she reported that 60% of respondents did not make use of any gaming in their libraries. In our recent survey we asked "How does your library make use of gaming?" Only 16.7% of the 304 respondents reported that they did not see any way to incorporate gaming into a school library program. Obviously these were likely different individuals answering the questions this time around, but this wide swing in results seems to point towards a reconsideration of the place games have in our schools and libraries.

I know many teachers and other adults who have a relatively low opinion of gaming, or play in general, as a serious vehicle for learning. The idea that all learning must be dull and laborious is something that we should seriously question. Although the results of the survey point to the idea that our perspectives are changing, I think it is important that we think about why we should reconsider games and gaming. In her book Reality Is Broken, Jane McGonigal comments on those who do not understand why so many of us, both kids and adults, are drawn to gaming.

Amazingly, some people have no interest in understanding why this is happening or figuring out what we could do with it. They will never pick up a book about games, because they know exactly what games are good for—wasting time, tuning out, and losing out on real life. The people who continue to write off games will be at a major disadvantage in the coming years. Those who deem them unworthy of their time and attention won't know how to leverage the power of games in their communities, in their businesses, in their own lives. They will be less prepared to shape the future. And therefore they will miss some of the most promising opportunities we have to solve problems, create new experiences, and fix what's wrong with reality (2012).

Now, let's take a look at how our respondents are currently incorporating gaming in their school libraries.

How does your library make use of gaming? (check all that apply) Responses Percentage
I use breakout or escape room style activities, such as Breakout EDU 100 32.9%
My library supports game designing/coding 94 30.9%
Students use the library for gaming during lunch/recess 91 29.9%
I would like to incorporate gaming, but I'm not sure where to start 86 28.3%
I integrate gaming into instruction for curriculum topics and projects 43 14.1%
I sponsor a gaming club 27 8.9%
I use video game creation tools, such as Bloxels EDU 25 8.2%
I use gamification or badges for instructional purposes 14 4.6%
I use sandbox-type games, such as Minecraft EDU 10 3.3%

I found it interesting that although there were 86 respondents who indicated they were not sure where to start, 38 of those also indicated they were incorporating some type of gaming already. It seems many librarians are ready for more ideas! Jen Gilbert's companion on this topic and the articles in this issue of School Library Connection will give you a ton of ideas for making gaming a part of your library. Challenge yourself to try some of these and keep an open mind when it comes to games in education.

Work Cited

McGonigal, Jane. Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World. Vintage, 2012.

More gaming and gamification resources for SLC subscribers:

Video Games for Learning workshop by Matthew Winner

"Educational Escape Rooms 101" by Stephanie Frey

"Play Along: Gaming in Education" by Kathy Fredrick

"Classroom Connections. We'll Take Learning for $500" by Heather Moorefield-Lang

"Strategic Resources. Coding and Gaming" by Marge Cox

"Professional Learners. Infusing Technology for Experiential, Engaged, and Effective Learning" by Melissa Jacobs and Melissa P. Johnston

"Finish Your Games So You Can Start Your Schoolwork: A Look at Gaming in School Libraries" by Scott Nicholson

About the Author

James Allen is Statewide School Library Lead and a digital learning coach for the Kentucky Department of Education. Previously, he was teacher librarian and EDhub Director at Eminence Independent, a K–12 public school in Kentucky. He is an organizer and regular moderator of #KyLChat, which gives librarians across Kentucky a place to share and explore new ideas. He is also a co-founder of the #KyGoPlay movement, which is changing the way people think about libraries, makerspaces, and play in school. James is a Google for Education Certified Innovator. He is also a past president of the Kentucky Association of School Librarians.

MLA Citation Allen, James. "How Do You Use Gaming in Your Library?" School Library Connection, December 2018,

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Entry ID: 2182475

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