Kids in the Library

March 7, 2023

My son excitedly told me about a friend of his (I will call him Alex) who built a game website. He uses the site to host a couple of games he designed and some other games he found online. I know Alex; he used to come into the library to play Roblox with his brother. The two would spend hours giggling and chatting with each other and playing games on the computer. They don’t come in very often any more, and I miss them.

Kids go through stages at the library. They often start off by attending storytime on Wednesday mornings with a caregiver. They learn about the different topics that are covered in storytime but also how to interact with people who aren’t their family and how to share toys. This is besides the many other benefits of storytime including, but not limited to, an awareness of words and rhythm and colors and music. Miss Kira rotates a variety of toys in the play area which parents are welcome to use for play dates or just a different (and free) place to take the kids on a cold Saturday morning.

Each spring every second grade class in Gering comes to the library on a field trip. We call it the See Me In the Library Event or SMILE. We give the kids a tour of the library and their first library card. Then comes the chaotic part, where we help them each find two books to check out. Some of them are overwhelmed with finding exactly the right book while others are familiar with the library and they head right to their favorite section. Second graders are all over the place with their reading. Some look for a short book with lots of pictures while others are reaching for fat books like Harry Potter. If you want to see the future of our community, this is a great time to come to the library, unless you want to read, because it isn’t very quiet.

The next stage is Lego Club. This crowd is usually aged 8-12 (give or take a year or two). They rush in after early-out Wednesdays and mill around the desk asking “is it 3:00 yet?” -when Myra lets them into the community room where they scramble to build everything from swords to space ships. This is another opportunity to learn about sharing and how to behave in public, because this is often the first time kids are in the library without a parent or teacher supervising them. 

Then comes the Roblox stage. These kids range from grade school into middle school. Roblox is an online computer game hosting site. The site uses a simple programming language so it is easy for a beginner to code their own game and upload it so other Roblox users can play it. You can find role playing games, fun games like “Work at a Pizza Place,” tycoon games where the goal is to keep increasing your wealth. Roblox hosts thousands of kinds of games and just as wide of a variety of quality, since some are designed by beginners and others are made by professionals.

Once kids hit middle school they often come to the library to socialize after school. Our new teen area (sponsored by our local McDonald’s) has comfy seating and places to charge phones. After years of not having anywhere to hang out in the library, teens are finding their way to the new space.

High school students sometimes come in to research papers, apply for jobs on the computers and often just to check for new manga comics in their favorite series.

Each stage of library users include readers and gamers and kids who just want somewhere safe and warm to hang out while waiting for their parents to get them after work. 

Back to the Roblox gamers, Alex’s website gets 34,000 hits a day. Yes, that comma is in the right place. This kid has a future in game design, if he can make the technology part of it work. Apparently Alex’s family doesn’t own a computer, but his parents have unlimited cell data and he uses a hotspot to run the gaming site on his school-issued Chromebook. Not having access to technology can severely limit people’s opportunities, but libraries can level the playing field. I suspect I will be seeing more of Alex this summer after school gets out and he has to turn his Chromebook back in. 

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