take off the training wheels, but lend a hand

Amen to this from Emily Clasper:

My husband and I picked up a new wii game last week. Did we:

A. Sit down with the manual and try to memorize all of the controller movements and their proper applications

B. Call Best Buy and ask that a member of their “Geek Squad” swing by the house to thoroughly train us in how to use the game

C. Refuse to play the game because it was unfamiliar to us

D. Pop the disc into the slot and start shooting away at bad guys until we figured it out

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I think a lot of librarians could learn a lot from playing more video games.

Clasper was writing in response to Dorothea Salo’s post on librariana’s ‘training wheels culture’ (a post which produced an entirely different response from me, a tangent about cataloging training which I haven’t written coherently yet). And I say Hallelujah and Amen and all those resounding affirmations, because heck, yeah, librarians could learn a lot from playing more video games, and I’ve seen librarians respond with the equivalent of A, B, and C when presented with new technology.


My resounding AMEN is sort of an absolutist stance, and I don’t want to stand too firmly on absolutes, however amusing they might be to me. Because just a few weeks ago, some of our friends came to spend the weekend with my husband and me (both of us librarians…), and J. wanted to try out Oblivion**, a game we’ve been playing a lot of. And it has a tutorial — and you can’t break anything — and it’s designed to have you sit down and just push buttons and make it work — and we still sat with J. as she figured it out, offering her tips and tricks that we’d learned as we played, that we thought would help her.

Did she need our hand on the back of her bike seat? Nope. Could she, and would she, have ridden off into Cyrodil without our help? You betcha. Was it nice for her to have our help, and for us to share the experience? Absolutely.

What I think we need is more librarians willing to ride without training wheels, and more librarians willing to hold the back of the seat for a little bit until we all get our balance.

**I met a librarian this summer whose son works as a developer at Bethesda Softworks, and did “statues and huts” for Oblivion. I’m so very tempted to come up with an elaborate scheme to get the librarian and gamer contingents together, somehow, using this tie… but I haven’t found a legitimate hook for it yet. 😉

Now playing: Counting Crows – Anna Begins
via FoxyTunes


  1. Mark, you’re welcome. As I wrote this one, I thought you might like it. 😉

    Matt, am totally addicted to Oblivion, but am playing on XBox360, as our home computers are a mac and an aging-yet-not-yet-dead Dell laptop. I have lost entire days of my life to the game, and its appeal isn’t wearing off yet. I got Drew hooked, too, so now we fight over the pretty little white controller…


  2. You’re absolutely right. I don’t mean to say that folks who really need help shouldn’t ask… but there are just some times when I have to say, “Oh, COME ON!”

    I changed the “Request Items” button in our OPAC from blue to red one day (at the request of the directors in our consortium). That was the ONLY change – just the color. I got calls from 4 different libraries that day, panicked. “What should we do????” Ummm… how about click on it?

    Doing training is a big part of my job, and I’d like to think that people feel like I’m approachable and they are comfortable asking me for help. But sometimes I’d like to see librarians act with the resourcefulness they always claim is a hallmark of the profession.

    BTW Oblivion looks cool… I wonder if my brother would dig that for Christmas this year…


  3. Knowing when to help someone when they aren’t asking for it is an art, not a science. Being there, looking friendly and concerned lets people know you are available to answer questions. I do the opposite by being glum, involved in my work, too busy to notice them. The desparate ones disturb me and ask anyway. If the answer is quick, I will tell them instead of sending them to the reference desk.


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