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Subject: Maintaining a Game Library in School rss

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K S
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Hello Fellow Geeks,

I am a teacher at a middle school. This summer I have decided to put together a game library to start the new school year. The librarian has graciously agreed to give me space in the library so the games can be checked out like books. This is a geeky teacher's dream come true.

Without sounding too political (something I will fail at) our sociopath, idiot (those are the nicest words I could use) governor has decided to cut $800 million from public schools - the largest cut to public schools in our state's history ever. Needless to say, there is no money to create a game library. Not to be dissuaded, I did the next best thing and purchased over 90 games from thrift stores. Some games are unpunched, still in shrink. I never paid more than $6 for a game. Most games cost me $3.

I've taught middle school for a few years now, and I know middle school students are still learning to be responsible human beings. It can be a very slow and painful process. That being said, I'd prefer if the game library wasn't trashed its first year on the shelves. Not saying all middle school students would do that, but there are enough who need some more lessons on maintaining something beyond their iPod and favorite pair of shoes.

Does anyone have any suggestions on how to create a really anal game inventory. I was thinking about doing a print out to paste on each box stating all the bits and pieces. On the print out I'd put a little message that says - "Please check for all these pieces before you return the game." Maybe I won't paste this message on the front of the box since it makes the game geek in me wants throw up a little at the thought of deliberately damaging a game. Maybe put the print out in the box...

Any other suggestions are much appreciated.
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Robert Wesley
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Did you mean like mine? That is, you travel about and obtain these 'cheaply' from WHERE you found anything! Either that, or solicit for 'donations' from amongst everybody. HOLD an 'auction' even, in order to SELF-FUND this behind only YOUR controls. I could even "draw a map" for you, at standard 'rates', of course. Yes, I'd also like to make muy $$$$ to FUND my 'fantasies' as well, except they'd "B" way-more 'charitable'
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Celina
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Grogs is right, you should be able to sell a few of your finds to create a fund to finance more. You've done Very Well these past few weeks.

Now, when you say "check out" do you mean "remove from the school" or "hang out in the library playing the game"?
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J Sinnett
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I think when you're dealing with a lending library, you may just need to bite the bullet and do some minor damage to the exterior of the box. At the very least, 'Property of (insert school name here) Library' would be necessary. A small label reminding students to check for completeness of parts before returning the game, along with an obsessively-itemized list affixed to the inside of the box lid where it won't be lost (though this obviously won't work for something like Niagara where the box lid is part of the gameplay area, or for older MB games and the like where the rules are on the box lid interior) would probably be your best option.

Also, and I know exactly how this is going to sound, using a -reasonable- amount of some kind of sturdy transparent tape (I've used packing tape for similar repairs on a couple of my games, but I expect a library would have their own type of tape for book repair, as well) to reinforce the box corners is likely a *very* good preventative measure, despite what you may think about the tape monkeys at your local thrift store. If it's done carefully, it doesn't really look that bad.
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Ian Toltz
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Good on you for stepping up. It's a travesty that teachers so often have to pay out of their own pocket to provide for their students, and I salute you for your dedication to helping the next generation.

A bit closer to being on topic, you might consider looking around for a local game store to sponsor the club. Maybe something like they donate some games, and you might even be able to arrange something where the students get a small discount (5-10%) to purchase games at the store.

Good publicity for the store, and potentially a nice boost to their sales and clientele as well. Win win.

As far as actually maintaining a semi-public game library... Yeesh. Good luck. Not a challenge I'd be willing to take on. I doubt you'd have the manpower to manually audit each game when it's turned in, and without that there's not really any way to ensure that the students return the games in playable and complete condition.

The best thing I can think of is to have a policy where when the kids check out a game, they are instructed to inspect it immediately, before they start playing, and let the librarian know if something is missing. If a game is incomplete, it's on the previous lendee to account for the missing/damaged parts.

This incentivizes the kids to 1: put the game away carefully and 2: audit the game carefully, since even if they aren't the ones to lose it, if they check out a game without realizing something's missing and then turn it in later, it becomes their responsibility.

There are two big problems with this situation that I see, though, both related to the audience. First, kids are assholes, and will totally swipe something just for the sake of blaming it on the last guy to check it out. And second, I don't really see the kids accepting the responsibility of they do a sloppy audit job and miss something, and I'm sure the parents would take their little snowflake's side.

Kids suck. All the more reason I respect you for being willing to deal with them.
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Brian Zollinhofer
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I'm a middle school teacher as well and I've come to realize that if you let students borrow games, they are going to get beat up (and beat up badly).

I work in a very well off private school and I wouldn't do what you are about to do, let alone a public school where many of the kids are on free/reduced lunch (I'm just assuming this is the situation you are in).

The only way I would let kids play with games I have bought with my own money is to play the games with them and teach them how I expect them to treat my games (and more importantly put them away). I worked at a summer camp this summer and was the board game counselor and did a pretty good job of showing the kids what I expected. The MS students got the hang of it pretty well, and I was able to trust them with my own games (2 boards of Crokinole, Incan Gold, Mr. Jack, Stratego and Forbidden Island). I had to leave for a conference for 3 days, and in that time, 2 discs for Crokinole went missing and plenty of other board games and boxes got ripped or many of the parts were missing. So even though I trained them pretty well, when the cat's away...

I don't think there is any sort of system you can come up with that will work (my pessimistic side). I think the better idea would be to start a game club and have kids come into your room (or the library) and play them with you until you trust a few of them to let those select few take them home.

I'd love to hear what you come up with. Good luck!
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K S
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So far the game library is 100% mine. All my own funds. No auctions, no donations, no patronage. All except two games, the rest were purchased from thrift stores. The two games I did not purchase from thrift stores were on clearance for 75% off.

As for finding a sponsor, I am looking at Out of the Box, since they are located very close to my school. In fact, one of the owners/designers used to live so close to my school his children would have gone to it, but then he up and moved. Bummer!

I am also looking at Out of the Box because they make some great educational games. For the last couple years I've used Out of the Box games to teach in my classroom (and for emergency sub jobs).
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K S
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I am bringing back the game club next year. Already have permission (and even a little grant money funding) to do so. Unfortunately the money can only be used to pay me to run the game club, but not to pay for any supplies. Rather have the money pay for more games.

Also, I am planning on having teacher only games. For example I picked up Baffle Gab, which is a great educational game, but I can't see students wanting to play it on their own.

Some games, esp the Cranium series, are a dime a dozen. I pick up two copies. The less nice copy is going to be the parts copy. Card games are also pretty cheap too, so if I can, I pick up two copies.
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Elizabeth Kate
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GameFaery, I LOVE this idea! And I have some thoughts that may be of help. (I'm new to board games, but I'm a K-8 teacher-librarian, so my suggestions are based on the trials and tribulations of keeping up with library resources.)

1. I think your idea of printing out a game inventory is a good one. (Just don't expect it to be religiously followed -- as a middle school teacher, I know you know this already!)

2. If you don't want to tape the inventories to the outside of the box, you might consider getting some of those heavy-duty jumbo zip-lock bags. (I think you can get them at Sam's or Costco, although I've found better quality bags sold through the warehouse that my school board maintains.) Then you can put the entire box into a bag which has the inventory taped to the outside of it.

3. Consider laminating the inventories, too. That way you don't have to make them over and over again.

4. If you have the student interest, create a club (out of 8th graders?) of students who will be game-masters. (Give 'em a fancy title and make ID cards with their pictures on them.) These students can not only learn how to demo games, but they can also demonstrate how to set up and put away games. And *bonus* they can be the folks who provide the manpower to inventory returned games to make sure all the pieces are there.

5. I'd strongly suggest that, when you have the grand opening of your game library, you already have in place routines for how to check out games, as well as clearly laid out expectations for how the games are to be treated. You might even ask that anyone who wants to be a game borrower go through a training session with you (or one of your game-masters) before they are permitted to do so.

6. I'd also suggest having routines for what to do when a game ISN'T complete upon return. Do students have to pay for replacement parts? Is a letter sent home? Are borrowing privileges revoked? Is it linked, in some way, to what happens when library books or text books are damaged or are not returned?

7. As much as you have to be careful of students borrowing games, you'll also have a problem with the teachers. I'm making an assumption that, as a teacher-geek, you'd like to bring board games to the educational masses. Having a game library will help you to do that, but -- take it from a librarian -- teachers make some of the WORST library patrons. (For some reason they're so focused on teaching their classes and making sure their students succeed that they neglect to return -- or even keep up with -- the things they borrow!)

Hope this helps! (And please keep us informed about how your experiment goes. This is something I'd love to do; I'll just let you get all the kinks worked out before I try it!)

In peace,
LizKat
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Gregory Cole
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GameFaery wrote:
I am bringing back the game club next year. Already have permission (and even a little grant money funding) to do so. Unfortunately the money can only be used to pay me to run the game club, but not to pay for any supplies. Rather have the money pay for more games.


I believe that is what you are already doing. The money you will be paid has already been spent on games. If you get paid more than you have spent to this point just go buy more games. (I ran the Chess club at my previous Middle School. I used the meager stipend to buy chess books.)
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Some kids and adults do not treat others possessions are carefully as their own. It's human nature.

* Stick to games that you can play even if you lose some components. Apples to Apples is a definite example of such a game, as is Munchkin.

* Look into public domain games or games that don't require specialized pieces. Cheapass, for example, published a "Chief Herman's Fun Pack" of games that used standard 52 card decks.

* Stick to cheap games, including PnP games.

* Ask parents to make donations or donate games to your library. Solicit game companies for donations. You might even have luck with BGG self-publishers.

* Run a games club instead of a library.

BTW, National Games Day will be held at your local library soon.

Good luck.
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K S
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Hi LizKat,

Thanks for all the advice. I am trying to implement a few of your ideas in slightly different ways.

For example, I want to make use of the game club I am starting. I would like to have the game club members rank the game (similar to what we do on BGG), and write up little reviews of each game (work on writing skills....muhahaha, evil teacher always educating). The librarian says she will put these reviews on the LMC's website along with the rankings. I really like this because parents can also see what games are available and read a bit about the games.

I'd also like the game club to help me do a yearly inventory of the games, and maybe even help write up an inventory list of things that belong in the box. With the librarian's permission, I'll even let the kids do it in color with funky, but easy to read fonts. I want to give the students a sense of ownership so they take more responsibility for the games.

As for penalizing students for not returning game pieces, the librarian just doesn't allow for that. She and I disagree on this point. But since our school has a very large and impoverished population of students, I can see where she is coming from. Certainly the typical things are done to remind students to return books - messages sent to homeroom, fines, but nothing is strictly enforced. School policy says if there is missing text books or library materials, then a student is not allowed to go on the end of the year field trip. My librarian never enforces this rule. I'd have a hard time enforcing this rule because a student lost one piece out of a game.

As for promoting the game library, I am using morning announcements. For whatever reason teachers are really good about reading them in our school, and lots of kids actually listen to them while eating their breakfast. Also, teachers are pretty good about scheduling times for students to go check out books in the LMC.

I also think that once the game club gets going, student word of mouth will also help promote the game library.

Finally, I have already accepted games will be damaged. It's sad but true. My husband and I have been collecting spare game parts to act as replacement parts. I have a tub of game parts sitting in my personal game/book library. If I need a replacement piece, I know where to go.

BTW - when is National Game Day. I'd like to promote that in my school.

Forgot who said teachers are the worst about returning stuff. I know it to be true. I'm guilty of it. I try not to be, but it just happens.
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Madame Mercury
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Please give my students' games a thumbs up--it means so much to them!
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wafflestomper wrote:
I'm a middle school teacher as well and I've come to realize that if you let students borrow games, they are going to get beat up (and beat up badly).


I am a middle school teacher too, and I teach a game design class. (You can check out my threads on past student work if you like.) I've lent games to students and I have never had any problems with games coming back in the same condition. That said, I only lend games to students in my class and they know that the games are mine, not the school's, and we build a relationship where they honor and respect the opportunity to borrow games.

Quote:
The only way I would let kids play with games I have bought with my own money is to play the games with them and teach them how I expect them to treat my games (and more importantly put them away). I worked at a summer camp this summer and was the board game counselor and did a pretty good job of showing the kids what I expected. The MS students got the hang of it pretty well, and I was able to trust them with my own games (2 boards of Crokinole, Incan Gold, Mr. Jack, Stratego and Forbidden Island). I had to leave for a conference for 3 days, and in that time, 2 discs for Crokinole went missing and plenty of other board games and boxes got ripped or many of the parts were missing. So even though I trained them pretty well, when the cat's away...


What's challenging is to shift kids' thinking from how they play games in their basement (on the floor, bits strewn around, games piled up when they finish, if they clean it up within a week of playing it) to a gaming environment. Yes, you can expect split corners, the odd missing piece. What I do is discuss it with my students. I point out the missing piece, say how that affects game play, and then I limit or restrict those students' game usage for a while if the students were particularly sloppy or egregious. This is in my classroom, rather controlled, so I can do this. I think in a library you're going to have a much higher level of destruction and pieces missing because they aren't going to have anywhere near the level of ownership that you do. It's a library after all, free for the taking.

I do have three rules that work really well for playing games in class. These help create a gaming environment, less basement environment. I have also found that these rules work really well with my gaming friends when we get together.

1. No talking to the player on turn. Otherwise, they will try to tell that player what to do when they should be focused on their own goals. In addition, the player on turn can make whatever decision they want without pressure from other players who don't like what that player intends to do.

2. No talking during rules, wait with questions until the end. Same thing, otherwise, it takes 500 years to explain rules. I have students bring a notes sheet of key points they need to teach, this also helps them to know the game really well themselves, and their explanations tend to be faster and more comprehensive that way.

3. When you finish your turn, say "I'm done." That way, other players can move forward with your turn, rather than waiting for no reason. When classes are only 45 minutes long, this matters.
Quote:


I don't think there is any sort of system you can come up with that will work (my pessimistic side). I think the better idea would be to start a game club and have kids come into your room (or the library) and play them with you until you trust a few of them to let those select few take them home.

I'd love to hear what you come up with. Good luck!


You might want to start with a club, and make the games only available to club participants at first. Then they can play the games with others, but bring a sense of responsibility that you encourage. Plus, it's hard to learn games on your own sometimes, so a club would bypass that step.

Good luck. Sounds like fun, but then again, gaming always does.
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TS S. Fulk
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Have all the contents listed on the library card. Pain in the butt for the librarian, but oh well. Also invest in a laminator and sleeve the cards.
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Robert Wesley
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Better still, then HAVE an array of photographs that display the contents that every GAME shall comprise. Much simpler to "gaze or pore over" to determine completeness, and at a mere glance then, or when viewing both in comparisons.
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K S
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Our school just got new digital cameras last year as a donation. Taking a picture sounds pretty easy.
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Zack Boatman
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Hi,

I teach English and have had about 100 games in my classroom for 6 years or so. We play games on Fridays in my classroom.

My games are missing pieces; the students will actually break Blokus pieces so that they can use them during the game; the gems have been taken from Niagara several times; and I constantly find pieces on the floor after game day (even after the "floor check" portion at the end of the period).

However...

Friday Game Day is one of the most anticipated days in my classroom. After just a few weeks my students can't wait for Friday. Even with the loss of pieces, the experience is more than worth it. I wouldn't change a thing.

Also, Fun Again Games has a classroom grant so you can get $100 of games for your classroom, I've posted my grant template here on the geek so you can write a few of your own grants to get money for games.

Good luck and just let those kids have fun (a critical piece of education that is lacking in our current system)!

z
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Elizabeth Kate
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I love the idea of taking pictures; I'd include both text and images.
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K S
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Last year I invented my own game to teach about meteorology. It was lot of work, but also a lot of fun to do. I made all my friends play test it before I brought it to the classroom.

Part of my game consisted of buying hundreds of poker chips. I was hitting thrift stores for weeks to find poker chips in every color. Many a games were harvested for their unique colored chips to add to my game. The end result is I now have enough poker chips to go fill my bathtub.

I spent $400 designing this game and about 150 hours. The thought of students losing the bits drove me nuts. So I implemented the Finders Keepers Rule. If a student found a chip on the floor, his/her group got to have it. If the student found a goal card or any other type of card on the floor, the student's group got it. I had students who did regular floor checks to find all pieces. I played this game for four weeks and found less than five poker chips/goal cards on the floor in the entire time we played. It was the best rule of the game!

I was thinking of using my game club members to do the same thing. If anyone finds a game piece on the floor when they are cleaning up games or just in general around the school, I'll reward them with some kind of prize. If I just keep a bunch of fun pencils around, and use them as a reward, it might work. Plus students always need pencils.
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Charles Waterman
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Make one (1) archival copy of materials that would be hard to replace. (Cards with significant amounts of text on them for example.) You can either only use the archival copies and keep the originals as backup, or use the originals so the students learn it's not as much fun to have to play with mockups. If pieces get lost, you can also make one (1) more archival copy. Don't ever make more than one backup copy of anything, as we want our hobby to prosper.

Montebanc
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Robert Wesley
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You also could have this become a 'privilege' as regarded any 'cherished' kinds, in order to determine any's "being responsible" and HELD to such standards. You don't want to encourage 'bits tossers' or they may go BLIND!
/cool~was: "lossed to tossed bits!"
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Calavera Soñando
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I run the gaming club at the high school where I teach and maintain a collection of roughly ten games--many of them the pricier Euros and Ameritrash titles like Agricola and Game of Thrones.

In order to purchase them, the club itself collected membership dues (which were waived for any student who privately let me know they could not afford it) and did fundraising. Fundraising included Saturday game-a-thons which had a "door fee" - usually $5.00, and involved kids getting the chance to play many games from my own personal collection. (Note that we have also used this fundraising method for club fundraisers in which all proceeds went toward community charity donations.)

After we had around $400 saved up, I made arrangements with Boards & Bits - they were friendly and helpful and after I placed my order, they were able to invoice my school bookstore for payment out of our club account.

As to the upkeep of the games themselves? Well the kids bought them with money they themselves worked hard to earn or collect so they tend to be fairly careful. I bought penny sleeves out of my own pocket and had them sleeve everything, and I make them do a quick inventory check after playing as they are putting everything away. Even still, pieces get lost. I think you just accept that as the reality of gaming with kids and make do (we use pennies to replace the spare space ships in Cosmic Encounter, just as one of many examples.)

I hope that helps.
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K S
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Thanks for your advice. We aren't allowed to charge club dues because of a massive grant we received in order to run after school programming. The grant makes it easy for all students, regardless of economic status, to participate and start after school clubs. However, plenty of fundraising goes on in our school. I'll let the students decide if that's what they would like to do.
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Hi there fellow geeks in cyber world,

I wanted to give you a quick update on the game library. I brought in eight boxes full of games today. The librarian and I went through them, and she selected about four boxes worth of games. She chose games that she had the space for, which meant a lot of Gamewright games. I was pleasantly surprised to discover she knew quite a bit about Gamewright games, and was happy to have them.

The librarian also chose games for small groups of students to play. There are a lot of small groups (usually ELL students) who come into the library to work on their language skills. She picked a lot of word based games to help these students.

Some games obviously come with more bits and pieces than others. The librarian opted to give these games directly to me for my game club. She felt if I could monitor those games, then there would be a better chance of not losing all those bits and pieces. This made a lot of sense to me. She also refused to accept any of the Yu-Gi-Oh cards b/c she felt they would be stolen. I agreed with her on that.

Finally I sought her permission to hold the Game Club in the LMC so the students would have access to all the games. She thought that was a good idea and readily agreed.

Bringing the games in was a lot of fun. The librarian said a few times "This is just like Christmas." She was pretty excited to see all the games. She also liked my inventory list (in alphabetical order, of course) of all the games, maker, number of players, and style of game.

I am excited to see the students' reactions this coming school year.

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Scott Wheelock
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This is awesome, and I totally support more teachers doing this sort of thing. Keep us posted on how things go.
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