EXETER — You got game?
Pose that question to any member of the staff at the Exeter Public Library and chances are you will get a resounding “Yes!” in return.
The library recently announced that it has been awarded a $22,613 grant to create a New Hampshire Gaming Library. The grant is part of the American Rescue Plan of 2021 and is being facilitated by the N.H. State Library. The underlying goal of the new gaming library is to draw more teens not only into the newly renovated library off Chestnut Street in downtown Exeter, but into libraries across the state as well.
“We feel that teens are an important group that oftentimes, not just in libraries, but across our society, gets pushed out of places rather than invited in,” noted Julia Anne Lanter, assistant director at the library.
Lanter cited a study through the Literacy Fund in the United Kingdom that found a connection in teens’ love of reading and video games as the impetus for the grant.
“It found that people who play video games read more and that they would enjoy groups together where they talked about gaming,” Lanter noted. “That was the genesis of the idea and that maybe we could draw people into the library by using video games.”
The grant will be used to purchase four consoles each for PlayStation, Xbox and Nintendo Switch and a large collection of video games which will be housed at the library. Through the state’s interlibrary loan system, however, anyone across the state will be able to sign out the games and consoles. Preference will be given to libraries that are planning events and contests that will attract teens into their libraries.
Exeter Public Library is partnering with the Young Adult Services Association of New Hampshire (YALS) to promote the newly created library and YALS will be training New Hampshire teen librarians on gaming programming throughout 2022.
Lanter says the bulk of the grant will be used toward the purchase of a large library of games. To get a clearer picture of what would be the most popular game titles to purchase for the new collection, the library is relying heavily on two of its resident “gamers” in teen librarian Chandra Boudreau as well as Children’s Room librarian Will Gleed. In addition, there are plans to circulate a survey to both Exeter High School and the Cooperative Middle School to gain further input from local youth.
“It was very exciting to be able to provide this service to not just our community, but the entire state,” said Boudreau. “It’s an exciting opportunity for Exeter, which is a gaming community with gaming clubs in the middle and high schools, but for the state of New Hampshire as well.”
The hope is to have the new consoles and games purchased and ready for use by February vacation (Feb. 28- March 4) and the library plans to have finished all the training and to celebrate state-wide the completion of the project on National Video Gaming Day, July 8.
Gleed envisions a robust slate of gaming events.
“We’re planning a lot of programming in the future,” said Gleed. “There will probably be a lot of free play events and maybe even some tournament-type things. On top of circulating the games, I see them getting used here in the library as well.”
The grant is just the latest improvement to the library which just recently completed a sweeping $4 million renovation. Ultimately, Lanter is hopeful that the new gaming collection will be yet another tool to get teens and adults to check out the new upgrades and see all that the library has to offer on a daily basis.
“It’s a two-fold approach,” said Lanter. “First, get them into the library any way we can, and once people come into a library, they realize how much there is to a library – we’re not just books. We’re services and programming. We’re community events. We’re cooking classes, gardening how-tos, and book clubs. It’s not your momma’s library. We’re definitely the library 2.0.”
This article originally appeared on Portsmouth Herald: Exeter NH Library scores grant to start video game lending