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Library Starter Deck: a 21st-century game engine and design studio for libraries

We devise an awesomely practical “game that makes games” to make it easy for libraries to teach 21st-century info skills with good games.

Photo of Ken Eklund
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Describe your project.

For people to fully grasp how 21st-century information can augment their lives, they should *experience* it. Games have long been a successful way for libraries to put their communities hands-on with the enriching power of knowledge, but there’s been no focus on creating a “game engine” that any library could use.

We’re a librarian/game designer team with deep relevant experience, and we’re passionate about innovating a Library Starter Deck – a flexible game system that libraries can easily adapt to connect communities with info-power in fun ways. A “game that makes games,” the Deck creates games with ready-made growth paths that libraries can use to expand a game’s richness, scale, and impact.

How does this project advance the library field?

Many libraries already offer games as well as space for their communities to come together and play. Our starter deck helps libraries advance to the next level with our scaffold for educational game design. Librarians and staff learn how to choose from appropriate technologies and implement rich experiences for library visitors that encourage information discovery in their communities. The Deck focuses on games that teach proficiency at 21st century skills (IMLS: http://tiny.cc/21cskills); the games take place both within and outside the library walls.

Who is the audience and what are their information needs?

People’s information needs vary widely within a community and from community to community; one size does not fit all. Libraries are perfectly positioned to assess these needs, and games are a proven way to motivate people to improve them. The Library Starter Deck steers libraries to games that suit their communities best: some specific to an age group and others intergenerational; some engaging citizen science and others introducing local culture. Games built around ’invisible history’, ‘codes and cryptography’ and other themes teach systems thinking, communication and collaboration, data navigation and many other skills – and they’re fun!

Please list your team members and their qualifications.

Cofounders:
Mita Williams – User Experience Librarian, Univ of Windsor; Director, Hackforge. Mita authors the long-running libraries-games-engagement blog New Jack Librarian.

Ken Eklund – Game designer. Ken designs immersive play engines for socially relevant outcomes, for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Science Foundation, Columbia University, arts groups, and more.

Assisting/Advising Libraries:
Corvallis-Benton County Public Library; Carolyn Rawles, Director.
Ann Arbor District Library; Eli Neiburger, Deputy Director.

Organization name and location (City, State).

Writerguy LLC
Ken Eklund, principal
Corvallis, Oregon
starterdeck@writerguy.com

Mita Williams, librarian
Windsor, Canada
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Attachments (3)

library-starter-deck-definition.pdf

"Starter deck" – what even IS that?

Library-Starter-Deck-Info.pdf

The Library Starter Deck benefits from a rich history of games and meaningful play experiences. We've summarized a few relevant ones and provided links.

library-starter-deck-outline.pdf

We've outlined a possible workplan for Library Starter Deck.

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Photo of Ken

Good news (and we're excited!): Library Starter Deck has been shortlisted for the Knight Prototype Fund. Many of the projects proposed for the Knight Challenge could benefit from a collaboration with the Library Starter Deck: a good game could help libraries promote these projects in their communities, for example. Games are great ways to create positive, fun situations where your community members get hands-on with your project. If this interests you and you'd like to learn more, contact us!

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