Thursday, January 21, 2016

Libraries Have Reference Books, So Where's The D&D?

In theory, Dungeons & Dragons and local libraries are a perfect fit. Both libraries and D&D attract people who love reading, imagining new vistas, poring through books, reading and creating stories, and looking up lore. In fact, the earliest D&D game books directed readers to libraries for research and recommended reading. Many libraries even have extensive graphic novel sections, comic book clubs, or provide meeting space for tabletop gaming groups. In practice, finding D&D rulebooks-- or any sort of tabletop gaming resource is well-nigh impossible, even though Dungeons and Dragons have influenced an entire generation of today's writers. Why is that?

Edward Schneider is a professor who studies how media and information is used and how it's organized. Brian Hutchison is not only a lifelong Dungeons & Dragons player, but also an librarian and information specialist. They were fascinated by the disconnect between the potential fit between D&D in libraries and how thin on the ground the availability was, and decided to conduct a study tracking role playing gamebooks in libraries around the country. The study, entitled "Referencing the Imaginary: An Analysis of Library Collection of Role-Playing Game Materials" was recently published in the journal The Reference Librarian and Schneider explained a little bit about the study in an article for Gizmodo:
The most commonly held book was the 2008 edition of the Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook, with 327 copies worldwide — almost 50 fewer copies than the sequel to Snooki’s opus! If you like irony, there are 70 copies of the world’s most depressing cookbook,Microwave Cooking for One, on library shelves, and 21 copies of Heroes of Horror.Heroes of Horror is the Dungeons & Dragons book that allows you to play as an Archivist — a magical librarian. 
...There is no sign that popular interest in fantasy and science fiction is subsiding. Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings, HP Lovecraft, and Star Wars all have direct links to the role playing game genre. An increasing number of universities offer video game design and development programs, and Dungeons & Dragons has been extremely influential in the history of video games, especially in Japanese RPG’s. D&D games are natural tools for libraries to use in community building in public libraries, but they also belong in academic libraries; the academic study of games has steadily increased.

We heard many different reasons why libraries might not stock these materials widely, but none of them made much sense.
The materials were not more prone to theft, not more or less checked out or circulated then comparable volumes, and had plenty of positive reviews from a variety of sources. So why the scarcity? The author theorized anti-D&D hysteria from the 80s and 90s, as a possible idea that has taken hold. What does this mean for the future of these resources and local libraries, though? Schneider is hopeful, concluding that there was
...a huge opportunity for librarians to connect with a different part of their community. Librarians seek to serve their patron communities, and it is time they considered adding more from the RPG genre to collections... I encourage genre fans to talk to their local librarians. A few vocal patrons can make a big difference, give your local library an excuse to collect and display these materials. Give them some friendly guidance, and make sure to speak up for your favorite publishers!

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