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Elsa avatar 4:12 PM on 05.01.2012  (server time)
Free Video Games!

Seriously... free video games. It seems a lot of people aren't aware that many public libraries now carry video games and lend them out just like books. This is a fairly new phenomenon but is gradually spreading. With the introduction of digital books, many libraries were worried about staying current and viable. Most libraries now carry downloadable digital and audio books and the process is easy... reserve the book, wait for the email saying it's available, download the book and then read the book. There's no need to return the book as it returns automatically once the time limit is up, or if you finish the book early, you can digitally "return" and delete the book from your reading device. It's wonderful, and it means I now read many more books than I used to, but it also means that there is no need to make a trip to the library. Additionally, students now tend to do their research on the internet from the comfort of their homes, so libraries were becoming a little dusty and vacant.

The answer to drawing people back to libraries was to expand their offerings. Many libraries now offer cafe type environments with food and drink, and they encourage community based activities. Toronto's library even has a bar! Increasingly they are also offering video games and DVD/blu ray movies. This draws people physically into the library and maintains the viability of a brick and mortar location as well as maintaining staff jobs. Some libraries even hold gaming events and friendly competitions or weekly "gaming days" at the library.

Today I picked up Infamous 2 at my local library, but I noticed that they had Skyrim and even Modern Warfare 3 available in their collection. The movie collections also seem fairly current with War Horse and The Iron Lady being on the list in addition to many other newer movies. Movies are in both Blu-ray and DVD format and have a 7 day lending period... plenty of time to watch a few movies! Video games are also on a 7 day loan period which is a little restrictive - but I did manage to play most of Assassin's Creed: Revelations within a week and provided no one else is on the waiting list, the game can be renewed. I noticed that other libraries seem to have a 3 week lending period for games... which I hope my own library might eventually consider - especially for games like Skyrim! I will certainly reserve and play the next Call of Duty game through the library rather than buying it though. I enjoy the single player campaigns, but don't as often play the multiplayer. The campaigns tend to be short - usually only around 8 hours or so - perfect for a library game!

The procedure for games was easy and painless. I looked through the catalog online, and used my library card to reserve Infamous 2 a few days ago. Today I got an email saying it was available for pickup so I simply walked down to my local library, looked on the "holds" shelf, found it, and checked it out. I looked on the shelves and saw many more games than they seem to have in the actual online catalog - though there was a heavy concentration on Wii games. I also checked out a DVD copy of "Due Date" - a movie I haven't seen as yet, but it was there on the shelves.

If you have games that you can't trade in or will only get a few dollars for them, consider donating them to your local library! My local library gratefully accepts donations and the pleasure of that game can then reach so many more people than it would for the few dollars you could get from a sale. If your local library doesn't have games available, then talk to them. Send an email and express an interest in the library if they carry games and point out that many other public libraries are starting to do so. Get involved in whatever way you can, even if it is adding gaming reviews or notes to the online database that most libraries now have for customer feedback about their content. Offer to help host a gaming event if you have the time. At the very least, check out your local libraries video game collection and borrow games, this helps to prove a need for this type of content in the public library system.

One of the problems with any lending library of games seems to be the range of consoles and the constant introduction of new consoles. A book purchase for a library lasts almost forever because people don't mind reading older books. My own local library still has an abundance of PS2 games in addition to Wii, PS3, PC and Xbox games. With the introduction of new consoles, many of these older games start to lose their value for a library. All the next generation consoles are coming out within the next couple of years, so game donations are doubly important in helping the library maintain a practical collection. With the increase of online passes, and the possibility that next gen consoles may not even allow for used games, the very idea of public libraries carrying video games is in danger. Do what you can to help support the concept.

Some may find it interesting that I support the public library lending video games for free, but don't support piracy. I should note that there is a huge difference. While both options allow gamers to play games for free, the library option only allows 1 person to play per copy of the game. The library pays for the game and successive people can play the game. With piracy, one person buys the game, but then hundreds or thousands of people can all play that one game simultaneously. The library has a time constraint and people have to give the game back to the library for the next patron to play the game. With piracy, everybody gets to keep their copy of the game and there are no time constraints. Borrowing a video game from the library is nothing even remotely close to piracy... and it's also entirely legal!

Video games in the public library system allow many more people to enjoy games that they might not otherwise be able to afford. Games do often have stories, they do have lessons to learn. Many video games also have books based in those gaming worlds, which might encourage more people to read. There are books available for the Halo universe, for Assassin's Creed, Dead Space, Gears of War, Mass Effect, Elder Scrolls, The Legend of Zelda and many, many others. We live in a digital age and it's nice to see that some libraries are trying to stay current... and now that I've found out my local library carries games, I'll certainly be a more regular customer.

Free books and audio books... downloaded to your device. Free Video games. Free DVD and blu-ray movies. Free music CD's. Yeah, it all might be at your local library too!

... and now I'm gonna go play Infamous 2!

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