Board Games Harris County Public Library

Published on April 22nd, 2015 | by Carli Spina

Bring Board Games To Your Library: To Circulate or Not To Circulate

In the previous post in this series, I offered some suggestions for starting a collection of games for your library, but there is more to bringing games to your library than simply purchasing them. Once you have acquired games for your library, you will need to decide what you want to do with them.

In-Library Use

The first decision to make is whether you plan to allow the games to circulate or will limit them to in-library use. There are pros and cons to both approaches. If you decide to limit the use of the games to within your library, you should decide whether users will check them out or the games will simply be on a shelf for users to take at any time. Asking users to check the games out for in-library use may deter some users who either don’t realize that the games are available or don’t want to check them out. However, requiring users to check the games out makes it easier to keep track of the pieces and make sure that they don’t end up in the wrong boxes. In addition, requiring users to borrow the games will give you statistics about their use within the library, which can be helpful when deciding whether to continue the program and which games to purchase in the future.

Another element of offering board and tabletop games for in-library use is to ensure that the library’s policies work with this decision. This means ensuring that you have ample tables and chairs for gamers to get set up. Ideally, this area should be located somewhere that other patrons won’t take issue with gamers staying at the tables for long periods of time. It is also very important that the library’s noise and activity policies will allow for this type of use of the space. If your library has an area that allows people to talk and have drinks (or even food), that would be the ideal location for gamers to set up. You can either direct patrons to this area when they check games out or simply put the games out on a shelf near this area of the library. If you have an outdoor space or courtyard, you might also want to encourage game use in this space during good weather.

A Circulating Collection

If you instead decide to circulate games, you will need to decide on a loan period for the games. Generally, games won’t need to circulate for as long as books, and, in fact, might be more likely to be returned intact if you offer them for a shorter loan period. If you work in an academic library, you might consider offering the games for 3 day loans so that students can take them home for weekends. All types of libraries might also consider extending loan periods over holidays and school breaks to encourage their use.

One of the largest potential issues with circulating games is that pieces might be lost along the way. While this is an impediment for some libraries, it doesn’t need to be. One approach to limiting loss is to write up a list of all of the pieces included with the game that can be put in the box. This gives borrowers a list to work from when packing up the game and can also be used by library staff when verifying whether all of the pieces are still with the game. If pieces are lost, never fear! Many game manufacturers sell replacement pieces for their games for significantly less than the price of purchasing an entire new game. Even if the particular game that has lost pieces isn’t one of these, you can often find pieces that are similar enough that you can purchase. Some games also come with extra pieces and, if that is the case, it is best to put these aside in a designated location so that they don’t circulate with the game initially. It is also worthwhile to decide whether you plan to charge patrons who lose games or game pieces and determine the loss fee before you start circulating games.

Regardless of whether you decide to circulate the games in your library or not, they are sure to excite your existing patrons and attract new patrons to your library.

About the Author

Carli Spina is an emerging technologies and research librarian at an academic library. She is a big fan of graphic novels, young adult and children's literature, and popular culture and writes about these topics for several blogs including the Horn Book's Lolly's Classroom blog and YALSA's The Hub blog. You can find her on Twitter as @CarliSpina or on her website at

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