Board Games and Public Libraries

This week, I propose a real headache: what is the place of board games in public libraries?

Since the inauguration of the first Canadian libraries in the early eighteenth century, board games have been present in clubs attached to libraries or offering some copies of games. These “collections” relied mainly on abstract games: puzzle, failure, bridge, Scrabble, etc.

Let’s go 150 years in time …

” In the early 1990s, board games are undergoing a revolution … ”

In the early 1990s, board games were undergoing a revolution from Germany (like Protestantism … but I do not think there is a link). From now on, the interaction between the players is based on indirect competition : the players compete for limited resources without being able to tackle directly.

A kind of solitary game, but in a group …

In libraries, board games have a hard time: abused for a long time as a toy, their budget is increasingly competing with their little brother much more popular: video games. At the moment, most libraries are wondering about the integration of video game collections which relegates to the background the use of the more simplified and accessible form of the game.

” Nowadays, few libraries invest large amounts in board games … ”

Some make the loan , others allow to consult them on the spot and some offer clubs of board games in animation . In any case, few libraries invest large sums in board games, and often the remaining money is used to replace games that are too damaged.

On the other hand, young adults are more and more interested in these new games of society … and in the public space, these new games extend beyond the gaming shops to take an increasingly important place in bookstores .

Create a collection with a goal

If the revival of board games fits perfectly in a young adult’s evening at home over a glass of wine, how can we incorporate this revolution into a place like a library ( or if you did not know it? is not welcome to consume wine … in any case, it may be welcome, but not legal ).

Like other library collections, clear objectives must be met. Why and especially for whom should we develop a collection of board games in a library?

To help make recommendations, I add the Prix ​​des Trois Lys , the Quebec award that rewards the best games of the year, on my menu on the right in addition to the more well-known sites like Boardgamegeek .

Here is a brief overview of the type of experience you can try to infuse players:

Social – Games accessible to all

Objective: To create interaction between all users of the library with a simple and very accessible game. Everyone can play these games, but they are usually played by young people (6-12 years old). These are games that last for a very short time, with simple rules and few coins.


Social games
Dobble Tsuro Apples to Apples
(English only)

Special mention to the nominees for the bad social games: ” The circle ” and ” The class of 5 e “.

Strategy – For the discerning players

Objective: To attract a clientele of experienced players in the library, often young adults (25-35 years old). Games that are more complex and will appeal to a discerning clientele. These are games that last between 60 and 180 minutes, with instruction manuals of twenty pages and hundreds of pieces.


Strategy Games
Puerto Rico Agricola Dominion Power Grid

On the “Boardgamegeek” website, the best games in any category are usually strategy games.

Traditional – The good old classics

Objective: Can be used as spare parts for other games and / or fuels to make nice house fires . Pleasing to an audience who already knows the rules of a game and who wants to be in known territory. This type of game will be of interest to adults (36-60 years old) and seniors.


Traditional games
Clue Scattergories Scrabble Go

This category also contains the worst games that still exist on the market in multiple versions: Monopoly, Risk and Destin come first.

Springboards – An Entry into the World of Strategy Games

Objective: To provide a gateway to the world of modern and more complex games. They will appeal more to families, teens and intergenerational activities. It is often games that will take the place of traditional games in game collections.


Springboard Games
The adventurers of the rails Carcassonne The settlers of Catania Blokus

I have already discussed jumping games in another article .

Informative – For the educational mission

Objective: To help give a taste for reading to the youngest and fulfill the mission of both educational and fun libraries. Less playful than other games for young people, they can be more easily integrated into school activities.


I must admit that this is not the area I know best, I would like to hear your opinion on this topic .

By cons, I know the game Recreation for having met its creator, Pierre Renaud. An article in  the pressappeared this week to extol the merits of this game.

Library games activities

Without wanting to start a sterile debate, one must question the notion of document to better understand the place of the board games in the library. It is not for nothing that they are not allowed to legal deposit (although this is an error in my opinion). The problem with board games is that many librarians view them more as an object than as a medium.

” Many librarians view board games more as an object than as a support ”

And that’s where the crux of the war is: Are board games an object of entertainment pleasure a bit like a painting, television, couch or bulletin board? in a library? Do libraries that offer chess games or puzzles really have a collection of board games? Can they be more than an added value for those who visit the libraries.

I do not know if that’s the case, but it’s hard to believe otherwise.

Because, in my opinion, it is difficult to justify the loan of board games in libraries. The reason is multiple, but the most obvious is the composition of games that sometimes have hundreds of pieces. Some libraries ask library assistants to count down when users return: heavy and expensive work. Others override this rule when returning, but be aware that for a strategy game, a single lost card and the game has no more the same value.

As for the on-site consultation, it is difficult to have space to play. If so, people who want to play will need library staff who know the rules. It is also possible to let the players read the rules themselves, but for slightly complex games, it is often one or two hours of reading …

Not so pleasant before starting a game …

” Would not it be easier to just have board games in animation as in boardgame clubs? ”

Would not it be simpler to have only board games in animation as in boardgame clubs? These projects are beginning to prove themselves in some Montreal libraries and especially at the Récréation .

Another possibility I have not heard much about would be to partner with gaming stores in the area to provide space for games and tournaments.