Game On! Bring the Best of Board Gaming to Your Library

Liz Morris /

Last weekend, I destroyed some real estate belonging to my brother, then ruthlessly cajoled several million dollars from my father. My husband was appalled. I was elated. Those guys always win at Monopoly Deal!

I had a chance to reflect on this small yet exhilarating victory while listening to WebJunction's recent webinar on The Golden Age of Gaming: Board Games for Grown Ups.

John Pappas, Library Manager at Bucks County Library, and Marti Fuerst, Librarian at Large from Omaha, Nebraska, led an enthusiastic session about how to plan board gaming activities for your community that tap into the creativity, interactivity, and energy that patrons increasingly enjoy at their libraries.

So, what was the last game that you played? And, more importantly, do you remember how you felt while playing it?

Win or lose, board gaming is an excellent platform for learning and collaboration. As exemplified in the webinar archive and excellent Board in the Library series of articles, game play advances many outcomes that are congruous with library services, including social interaction, educational enrichment, and creativity.

The following includes a few key highlights from the webinar to help you bring the best of board gaming to your library.

Get Curious to Get Started

  • See if you have any local game stores in your area. If so, take yourself on a field trip! Explore the store, observe what others do there, ask about the store's goals and inventory, and join some open games if they've got them. Getting a sense of what your game store has can help you think about what you want to bring to your patrons.
  • You can also learn about new games and audiences online in a number of ways. YouTube sites such as StarlitCitadel or Board Games with Scott provide stellar reviews and demonstrations. Sites like allow you to search board games based on custom criteria, such as age, number of player, minimum or maximum playing time, etc.

Every Player their Game

Some games are cooperative, where everyone plays together at the same time in pursuit of a common objective. Others are much more competitive or strategic, or involve player elimination. (Check out the webinar archive page for a list of different types of games and related mechanics for play.)

Just as there are many types of games with different parameters for play, so too are there different engagement and learning styles.

If you are working to bring games to a target group for the first time, such as teens, or families, or seniors, don’t be afraid to ask them what kind of games they like to play, or start out by inviting them to bring their own.

Bring Your Best Hosting Game

As a library representative, you can ensure a successful gaming experience for everyone by moderating the game play. While in some instances, this may mean you don't actually play, there's a lot you can do to make it a blast for everyone.

  • Establish some ground rules up front. Help remind everyone about why they're there (to have fun) and what kind of experience your library is hoping to support (a collaborative and engaging one). Clarify that your role will be to help support that experience for everyone.
  • Encourage exploration! Game play is a great form of discovery, whether folks are new to a game or have played it a million times. Encourage players to try new games, consider new approaches, build new teams, etc. Reinforce this encouragement through leniency – everyone makes mistakes, and everyone has a different approach to playing and competition. Embrace this, and encourage others to do so, with good humor and good hosting.

For many more insights on how you can plan, promote, and select the best games for your next library event, be sure to watch the full archive and access related resources at the archive page. And special thanks to John and Marti for providing additional written responses to questions posted to chat. Game on!