Imprinting Nostalgia with Library Gaming

1 06 2007

I was winding my way through the links on The Shifted Librarian’s post about Library Gaming, something I’ve wanted to learn more about. A long time ago (8 months is a long time in the course of library education) I had been adamantly against gaming in libraries. I knew there were some benefits, like getting kids and teens into the library again, but I just didn’t see it as something librarians should “waste” resources on. By my blatant use of rabbit-ears, you can probably guess that I’m a convert to the Library Gaming theory (follow through the links in the article, including the videos, and see what you think).

Shortly afterwards, I was reading this article from the Marketing Professor’s Daily Fix. This quote in particular caught my eye:

Marketers have been using nostalgia as a way of pitching their products for as long as people have been talking about “the good old days.” Look at how things like fashion and music keep coming around in cycles, fueled by generations buying the things they loved for their own children…

Emotions imprinted during childhood and the teenage years are especially powerful, and by associating our products with those nostalgic memories, we can piggyback on them. First you need to know who your target audience is — 20-year-olds will be nostalgic about very different things than 40-year-olds, and regional, ethnic and social class differences may exist as well.

Although nearly every article I read on gaming in libraries touched on how essential it was to get teens in libraries now, because they would be the ones paying tax dollars to keep libraries going in the future, I didn’t see any mention of this. By bringing teens into libraries for gaming tournaments, we’re helping them participate in a socially engaging activity. This activity will create memories – these kids will grow up, and one day, when they’re too busy and overworked and stressed out, or have kids of their own, they’ll think back fondly at the library and bring their own children in to experience the fun they had. This is why parents bring their kids for storytime – why not for game time as well?

It’s not just about making sure libraries get the money in the future to keep operating, it’s also making sure we have patrons bringing their children in. In this sense, we operate on a very cyclical and generational basis. We need to reach kids and teens now so they’ll come back with their own children – the next generation – in the future.

Of course, this is not to imply that those generations we’ve “lost” are unrecoverable. The article suggests that we can determine what a particular generation is likely to find nostalgic and play to that fondness. I’m a Gen-Xer with older-than-typical parents who were teens in the 50s, so my experiences of nostalgia are somewhat different than those of a Gen-Xer who’s parents were teens in the 60s. I’m still having trouble connecting my nostalgia for Elvis, Billie Holiday, and Gene Kelly to what libraries could offer as services. I’ll have to think on this a bit more.

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2 responses

1 06 2007
Ann Handley

It’s an interesting debate.. how far do libraries go to create positive associations with them in a Web 2.0 world?

Thanks for picking up the link!

Ann

2 06 2007
librarynation

Fortunately, every library is different – they’ve grown up in response to the needs of the patrons in their particular community. Unfortunately, that also makes it very difficult to generalize about what libraries are “doing” as a whole. I know there is discussion about using the tools and technologies of Web 2.0 to bring libraries in closer touch with the needs and wants of their patrons – this discussion has extended in many libraries to actually implementing new programs.
I think there’s a general failure on the part of many libraries to market the services they have effectively, or to develop new programs based on patron feedback. On a national scale, it would be great to see the ALA develop some better tools for libraries (currently, they’ve got the @ Your Library set of marketing tools, but these are very traditional and, frankly, rather boring) as well as implementing a broader campaign to work on a regional or national shift in public perceptions of libraries. Most individual libraries would never be able to afford to hire a marketing team, that’s why it’s so important for the ALA to pick up the ball and help out.

Thank you for writing such an engaging article!

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