When I was still a part-time library assistant, I worked on finding projects within my department that I could work on in slower moments that not only gave me something to do but were also something that were beneficial in developing the skills needed in librarianship. One of the things I basically made myself in charge of was our board game collection. Since I was hired for my full-time position, I’ve officially taken over this collection and working with board games is one of my favorite things to do!
How I got started
We used to keep our board games on a cart behind the desk with a binder that patrons could flip through to see which games were available to check out. I started my work with this collection just making sure that the binder had all of our games in it (which at the time it did not). When it came time for a complete binder redesign, my supervisor turned to me because I’d already demonstrated interest in working with the games.
Instead of just images of the games, my boss wanted us to include the recommended age, number of players, and playing time for each game. I spent two weeks working on this project and utilized boardgamegeek.com to gather this information since publisher recommendations for games aren’t always what actually works best, especially in terms of playing time. Board Game Geek includes both publisher recommendations and information submitted by people who have played the game and I often chose the community submitted information over the publisher information.
I also made the move to separate our puzzles from our games so patrons would be able to see what puzzles we had available more easily if that’s what they were looking for. We have a much smaller collection of circulating floor puzzles, and this saves both staff and patrons time when trying to determine what is available.
I also created a few games lists to be of further assistance to both staff and patrons. I made complete lists of both the games and puzzles including indicating how many copies we have of a given game. I also made lists of games by age and games by number of players.
These lists are intended to help parents who may be trying to find a game for their child or family. Or they can help staff make recommendations to both children and adults. The master lists are also helpful for patrons who don’t want to spend a lot of time paging through the binder and to help staff know what may be available just by the fact that we have multiple copies of it. For example, we have five copies of UNO so it’s almost always in. These lists don’t get used often, but are a still a valuable tool.
Current Collection Development
Before I was hired full time as a children’s librarian, I had actually gotten permission to start suggesting games we should add to our collection, which was one of my main goals when I started doing more work with this collection. Now that I’m officially in charge of this collection, I’ve worked to add more games in a variety of ways.
We have games that used to be reserved for in-room use that we’re making circulating in order to be able to better track how often patrons are requesting these items in the room. We’ve also had several donations that have had games worth adding to the collection.
In terms of actually ordering new games, I’ve focused on expanding our collection of puzzles, choosing games to meet patron needs, and expanding the types of games that we have in our collection.
We have very few floor puzzles and they’re almost always out, so I’ve ordered new puzzles that will allow more patrons to check these items out and so we can withdraw some of our older (and grosser puzzles) when they’ve reached the end of their usability.
Our most popular circulating games are the classic kids board games that are either easy to learn or that kids already know. These games get checked out and played in the room more than they get taken home. In order to meet this demand, I’ve ordered duplicate copies of games like Mancala and added some standbys like Guess Who (the diverse version not the version that’s just creepy white people), Trouble, and Bananagrams that we were missing.
Another part of collection that people tend to check out and take home are strategy games like Catan Junior and Ticket to Ride. In order to bulk up this collection I’ve ordered some strategy games like Hoot Owl Hoot and Carcassonne Jr. that I expect people with check out and take home to learn something new without having to spend the money to buy a new game themselves.
A new part of the collection is board games based on books. I think this will be a really fun way to connect our circulating collection of games with our other children’s collections. We’ve got a Very Hungry Caterpillar Game for our youngest patrons, and then for older patrons games for My Weird School, the National Geographic Weird but True series, and Diary of a Wimpy Kid.
The games we’re adding to the collection are currently stuck in processing purgatory but I’m excited that soon they’ll be on our shelves. Next fiscal year I might even have a budget just for games instead of having to order them from a discretionary fund which would be the most exciting.
I spent late-September planning a virtual board game event where I would teach teens and tweens to play 7 Wonders on Board Game Arena. Unfortunately, no one signed up for my program, but I don’t blame them given the sheer amount of virtual events that have become commonplace during COVID-19 and also the fact that it was a beautiful afternoon on the day of the program itself
Now that I’m full time I’m excited to be able to offer a family-game night event in May for our patrons. Since games for kids tend to be simpler and have a quick playing time, I think this program format will work really well. Based on recent conversations, I think I’ll be able to debut some of our new board games at that event and then offer them to patrons for checkout that night if they’re interested
I have other ideas for game events that I hope to get a chance to work on, and I’d love to collaborate with our reference librarians who mange our adult game collection to collaborate on something for International Games Week. Tying the collection together with programs is something I’m really looking forward to as a space for potential future growth
If you’ve got any great board game recommendations for kids that I should consider for my library, drop them in the comments!