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Imagining Board Game Events in the Academic Library

March 10, 2021
A person thinking in front of a Scrabble board

Image: Pixabay

The past year has made it difficult to know when we might be fortunate enough to have in-person events again. Still, many of us are using the time to imagine what post-pandemic library events will look like. Students, faculty, and staff will likely be eager to enjoy as many social activities as they can in the future, and it makes sense for academic libraries to be prepared. 

Why Run a Board Game Event? 

Board games provide a special opportunity to meet social desires on a college campus while also offering the opportunity to develop skills that will help students in the workforce, no matter their field of study. Board games allow players to develop soft skills such as critical thinking, teamwork, risk assessment, literacy, and leadership. Companies all over the state and country use board games to facilitate team-building exercises for these very reasons. 

How to Run a Board Game Event in Academic Libraries 

It’s important to imagine the experience first. Many board game events fall flat because too much emphasis is given to the game selection rather than the presentation. Selection matters, but the experience makes the difference between students coming to the library for a game night or choosing to go elsewhere.  

To give a great board game experience, have students and staff alike facilitate the event. Students can teach games to attendees, and active student involvement in the event will encourage volunteers to invite their peers. Furthermore, having someone available to teach the games will encourage attendees to go beyond their previous experiences to learn something new. 

Selecting Board Games for the Academic Library 

Board games for the academic library should meet certain criteria. Library faculty and staff will want to keep games budget-friendly, but there are a few other thoughts to keep in mind, too. 

First, board games for an event should remain relatively short. Games should require no more than 30 minutes of gameplay time. Even if an event lasts for several hours, this will allow attendees to cycle through a few games while still having time to learn new ones. Unassisted learning time for a board game, on average, can take half of the suggested gameplay. For example, budget 15 minutes to learn a 30-minute game. 

Second, the best board game nights include a mixture of familiar and unfamiliar games. Some attendees will want to warm up with a familiar game and end with something new, while others will reverse this play. This is especially important if the library’s board game event is focused on developing soft skills.  

Finally, although the focus for selecting games might be for an event, many public libraries circulate board games. This is an option for academic libraries, too. Having a few select games in the collection can give students a small stress buster in between study sessions. Academic libraries will want to select games that offer relatively quiet play and components that are easy to replace if they’re lost. (Most board game publishers will replace missing components at no cost, especially to educational institutions.) 

With these points in mind, a few modern board games that would work well for any library include: 

  • Sushi Go
  • Set
  • Blokus
  • Onitama 
  • Love Letter 
  • Chickapig 
  • For Sale 
  • Codenames 
  • Just One

These pair well with classic board and card games like Scrabble, Scattegories, Chess, Checkers, and Clue. Alternatively, games can be selected by input from faculty members of different departments to support their curriculum.  

Hosting a Virtual Board Game Event  

If your library is eager to offer programming options now, there’s no need to wait, either. There are plenty of easy-to-use, engaging, and low-cost board game websites that allow for virtual board game events. Board Game Arena, Happy Meeple, and Jackbox Games all are great options. Virtual escape rooms also offer all the same benefits. The Hogwarts Digital Escape Room created by the Peters Township Public Library is a great example. Pair any of these options with a chat interface system like Teams, Discord, or even Zoom, and it’s possible to engage students in all these great social and professional benefits now.  

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