Board Games and Things!

There's something new for checkout at my library: board games! We recently launched a circulating collection of popular and classic games, a further step in exploring the national "Library of Things" trend by lending more nontraditional items. We've had board games available for in-house use for years now, but letting them leave the library is a brand new endeavor.

We've started with 45 games, including popular hits like Exploding Kittens and Cards Against Humanity as well as classics like Jenga and Uno. Patrons can checkout one at a time and have them for two weeks, with a renewal option if no one is waiting.


Why Board Games?
Last Fall, I organized a subcommittee to explore the "Library of Things" concept and brainstorm how we could get started at LPL. We chatted with Brendan at the Hillsboro Public Library who oversees their Library of Things. They lend everything from looms and ukuleles to bubble machines and popcorn makers, and Brendan mentioned that board games and cake pans were the first nontraditional items they lent. He shared a ton of helpful tips and information on funding, circulation periods, replacements, packaging and processing.

From there, we made a wish list of everything we thought would be great to lend at LPL: art prints, VHS to digital converters, video cameras, sewing machines, tools, bicycles, cotton candy makers and - you guessed it - board games. Through a process of elimination, board games became our pilot "Things" collection. With all the little parts and pieces, we thought they would be a great test for staff and patrons.

Counting the Pieces
A major concern in planning for the collection was materials handling. Were we going to expect our circulation staff to count the game pieces every time the games are returned? When we asked Brendan at Hillsboro about this, he said that they don't. Instead, they rely on patrons to let staff know when there are significant pieces missing, and don't try to track down who lost them.

We liked this hands-off approach and are implementing it too. When a patron lets our circulation staff know a game is missing pieces, it will be sent to our collection development librarian who's overseeing the games, and he'll attempt to track them down or request or order replacement parts from the manufacturers.

The Fine Details
In my current position, I've gotten a good understanding of the fine details of launching a new collection: planning, getting approval from the admin team, funding, ordering, cataloging, processing and setting up item types, home locations, loan rules, and mapping to our discovery layer.

Packaging the board games was something we didn't think too hard on. Some libraries re-package them in locking totes, but we thought we'd try to keep them in their original boxes. To help protect them, we added Velcro dots to hold them shut and some book tape on the corners and edges to reinforce the cardboard.

Then we had to figure out which department would be responsible for reshelving and pulling available holds. Since the games appeal to a broad range of ages, we planned to put them on a mobile Ikea shelving unit in the library's atrium between the children's and adult collections. This made deciding who's going to take care of the collection a bit tricky, but fortunately our Youth Service team was willing to take it on.

How's it going now?
For all the time and thought we put into it, I'm glad to say it's been going pretty well so far. Little to no complaints from staff, and patrons responded positively when we promoted the collection on social media. All but 7 of the games are currently checked out, and there's hold lists on some of the more popular games. Plus, we've already gotten several requests for additions!

So where do we go from here? We'll soon be launching a collection of Starling word counters, which I'm sure will bring its own challenges. And in the fall, I'll be reconvening our "Library of Things" subcommittee to explore more things!

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