ALA Says Video Games Should be Welcome in Libraries

Gamers at NYPL

Gaming at the New York Public Library
(c) Suzanne DeChillo/The New York Times

Over the past several months, video games deemed violent have once again become a favored scapegoat of those looking for a simple explanation for mass shootings perpetrated by young males. But as we’ve noted time and time again, no reputable research has ever been able to conclusively link video games to real-life violence. Some of the culture wars over video games have unfortunately been played out in libraries, but a recent editorial by Barbara Jones, director of the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, urges librarians to embrace gaming rather than shutting it out.

Jones points out that video games are protected by the First Amendment just as surely as books are — a fact that was confirmed by the Supreme Court’s 2011 decision in Brown v. EMA (CBLDF’s amicus brief in the case was cited in the decision). She says OIF’s official recommendation is that “[i]nstead of considering bans…libraries [should] cultivate videogame creation, play, and contests.” This has the added benefit of attracting young people who might not otherwise consider visiting the library; Jones cites the Chicago Public Library’s innovative YOUmedia Center, where teens are free to play video games and create their own, as a positive influence and haven from the city’s epidemic of gun violence.

Rather than pretending that they can banish every reminder of real-world violence, Jones says, libraries should “create activities and programs that help solve the problem of gun violence.” As part of that effort, a panel composed of librarians, researchers, and community members who have been affected by violence will hold a public discussion in conjunction with ALA’s Annual Convention in Chicago later this month. More information on the program can be found here.

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Maren Williams is a reference librarian who enjoys free speech and rescue dogs.