Games and adolescence: how to build a living environment

If you are interested in the future of libraries, you certainly know the concept of third place library so well explained in a series of notes by my colleague Marie D. Martel . This is a most interesting model that revitalizes and redefines the function of the library in the public space. Many of the concepts of the third place library are found in La Parenthèse , a living space for teenagers in the Émile-Nelligan library in Laval.

Isolated in a basement, La Parenthèse covers the majority of its floor, spanning approximately 1,740 square feet (20% of the library). In this cultural and social space, we find books, comics, a television for watching movies, six computers dedicated to the Internet and six other dedicated games and five consoles of video games. With removable equipment, young people can change the space and play board games, video games in “Motion Gaming” like Kinect and organize improvisational games.

First step: human resources

According to Jean-François Gravel, in charge of the Parenthesis, it is mainly the addition of a human resource, solely dedicated to space, that brought vitality to the place. Indeed, as soon as a facilitator arrives, the number of teenagers has multiplied. He quickly issued regulations, helped develop the collections and acted as supervisor for all of La Parenthèse’s activities.

Upon arrival, a small nucleus of about fifty young people had appropriated the room and used the consoles for several consecutive hours. The host then imposed a maximum of thirty minutes per player per console. This has the dual effect of allowing console rotation among youth and making the use of video games similar to a reward.

Second step: adequate material resources

In a library “third place”, the material plays a role of atmosphere which facilitates the users likely to make experiments, unannounced documentary meetings. Thus, in addition to the expected success of video games, young people adopt the other documents available to them. According to the animator, young people play and read at the same time, creating their own library experience by mixing video games, comics, manga and novels.

In terms of video games, the immediate success forced the library to buy three new consoles from the first year of opening. Purchased video games are all E (Everyone) or T (Teen, 13+) and exclude M games (Mature, 17+). This selection is due, among other things, to the host who noticed a rise in tension when using violent games, such as the first-person shooter Halo 3 (2007, Microsoft, 17+). Each year, La Parenthèse acquires between $ 1,000 and $ 2,000 worth of video games and, as is the case in many libraries, free games are much more popular than games tournaments.

Other activities are also very popular at La Parenthèse: improvisation workshops, theater and film, homework area, music evening (hip hop, DJ), workshops and graffiti, manga workshops, etc.

Third step: a suitable place and opening hours

To work well, a space like The Parenthesis requires time and space. The architecture of the Émile-Nelligan library included all the ingredients that could make it a success. The library is separated on two large floors, each isolated from each other. The managers were able to repatriate the space previously reserved for the youth collection and restore it to the second floor.

To ensure accessibility, La Parenthèse is open about thirty hours a week, six hours from Wednesday to Friday and the afternoons of Saturday and Sunday. A budget of a subsidy pays the facilitator during these thirty hours.

Results: a guarantee of the success of the living environment

The results of La Parenthèse are remarkable:

The Parenthesis has 1,449 youth enrolled and attendance of more than 18,000 adolescents per year, or about 11 youth / hour.
Representation is fair between 12 to 17 years old and between boys (55%) and girls (45%). It should be noted that the activities that young people do are independent of their gender.
The majority of young people (87%) come from the three arrondissements surrounding La Parenthèse.

PS: A source of this success: According to Mr. Gravel, 100% a large majority of librarians in the Public Libraries of Laval network support the idea of ​​having video games in libraries.