Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Let's Pokemon GO to the Library!

Hey you, Pikachu!
So here we are, dear readers. Pokémon's basically real now, and we find ourselves in the presence of an actual new type of game. Game developers spend years trying to convince us that one expensive console or another costly VR headset is where the future of gaming lies, then someone goes and drops a free app and turns everything on its head. And libraries have made it into the game! I have had several conversations with friends discussing whether or not any of the cultural institutions featured in the game can expect to see an uptick in actual usage; one friend told of a local museum that usually sits empty, but now that it houses a PokéStop, is swarmed with people. But he couldn't say that he actually saw anyone going in. Luckily, we as librarians know how to harness the powers of outreach and programming to draw new audiences into the building, and the audience has just shown up on our lawns! So here are some ideas on how to get started.

First: if your library has come up with a successful way of engaging your local Pokémon trainers, please share it in the comments and we'll add it to this post!

Passive Engagement

SCLS is home to both a Pokéstop and a Gym,
and players were sitting on our
window ledges. Now there's a
picnic table in the shade! 
Summer's one of the busiest times of the year, rooms are booked up solid and staffing's tight, so passive engagement is a great option for time-strapped libraries. Start with simple outreach-- find the closest PokéStop and see if there's somewhere to post flyers and advertisements, library programs and services for teens and new adults in particular. Is your PokéStop in an awkward spot, and people are sitting on the grass or on window ledges? Put out a picnic table for trainers to sit at -- and now you have somewhere to put those signs. Just make sure that wherever you put your table, you can still access the Pokéstop or Gym.
While we're talking about people camping outside the library, summer's only getting hotter from here on out, and many libraries in New York state are mandated cooling centers. For those scorching days, consider creating a refreshment station -- if you're feeling bold, call it a Pokémon Center!
In the handheld games, Pokémon Centers
are where players go to heal up their
Pokémon and trade with other players.
And check out that bookshelf!
Make a seating area in a well-air conditioned area, put out some water, a charging station and a book display with fun summer reads and Pokémon books. (If you don't have Pokémon books in your collection, now's the time to grow it. There is a popular series of graphic novels based on the video games, numerous game guides, drawing how-tos, and Pokédex books for the 700s, and even a crop of easy readers for the Schoolkid trainers in your community.) 

Active Engagement

Pokémon trainers congregating spontaneously in Port Jeff
If you have the resources and want to take it further, schedule impromptu Pokémon GO meetups
or discussion groups. This is a community that's looking for opportunities to get together and talk; when I was in Port Jefferson over the weekend, trainers congregating near the waterfront were passing along by word of mouth that they had created Suffolk-specific Facebook groups to discuss the game, find friends and organize meetups. The Facebook pages would also be a great place to advertise said programs- check out the the team Valor group and team Mystic group. It looks like no one's made a Suffolk team Instinct group yet - maybe a librarian could start one? Pokémon programs for the school-aged set are sure to draw a crowd, but depending on your programming cycle that might have to wait for the fall - and that means now's the time to start planning! Pinterest is chock full of Pokémon crafts and ideas for Pokémon clubs and gaming programs. If you just want to bring people through the doors, consider offering a prize for engaging with the library in some way. You might give out a sticker to kids who visit the children's reference desk, or offer a Pokémon trinket to whoever can beat your library's Gym, or can show that they caught a Pokémon at your library. Oriental Trading has some cute favors like Yo-Yos, bracelets, pencils, and more. Party City has tattoos, bouncy balls, and a veritable ton of decorations if you want to dress up your trainer refreshment area (they also have a lot of the same favors as Oriental Trading, if you don't want to wait for them to ship). Over at Amazon, you can pick up sets of figurines at a really low cost. Some of the reviews say the paint jobs aren't great, but the prices are really low and nobody turns their nose up at a cute, free little 'mon! These look like they're probably choking hazards, so plan on awarding them to older trainers only.

There are already rumblings of new Pokémon GO features and accessories to come in addition to the new Pokémon games due out this fall, and while no one can predict what's to come, my guess is that this game is here to stay for a while. So let's rev up our creative juices and get this new community engaged! What are you planning for your library?

1 comment:

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