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Building blocks to better libraries: using Minecraft to engage young people in public libraries

Rachael Cilauro, Melbourne Library Service

Tuesday 16 September 2014 – Concurrent session 8, 3:30pm to 3:55pm


New media technologies are a ubiquitous part of the lives of young people and it is a dual challenge and opportunity for public libraries to digitally connect with and support young people in both virtual and real spaces. I will report on how the Melbourne Library Service employed the popular game of Minecraft to engage and collaborate with young people between the ages of 10-15 years. The Minecraft Gaming Day was a uniquely creative experience which linked traditional library service provision with socialisation, identity and the building of community within both digital and urban play spaces.

This presentation is based on ethnographic research I conducted for my Masters in Information Management at RMIT University. The research drew on empirical data including staff evaluations and a focus group conducted with five young people involved with the planning and implementation of the program.

The research demonstrates how the Minecraft Gaming Day engaged and supported the community while also addressing reader services, literacy building and social inclusion.  

"I'm still getting asked when the next Minecraft day will be …and that is months later.' (Library Staff Member)

‘‘I used to think that the only thing libraries were for is checking and checking out books but it’s not. It’s for hanging out …makes such a big difference if the librarian understands what we are doing – this library is cool because it’s not getting shushed all the time. Some libraries are all stiff – but this one is relaxed and you can hang out. (Case Study Participant)

These quotes are indicative and measure of the success of the Minecraft Gaming Day. By challenging the traditional programming approach for young people and creating a program with young people, we can build programs that engage young people’s ideas, creativity and interests. The gaming day illustrates how public libraries can facilitate community building activities, extend the traditional roles of libraries and engage with young people in a way that that transgresses multiple boundaries such as culture, socio-economics and generations.

This research outlines how a Minecraft Gaming Day gave the community a positive, educational and active way to participate in library programming. It demonstrates how young people and librarians can work together to creatively help public libraries support their communities and promote social inclusion, engagement and literacy building.

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