April 15, 2014

A Minecraft Library Scores Big: Mattituck, NY, Branch Is a Hit with Kids

From

“Nothing’s impossible in Minecraft,” says Elizabeth Grohoski. She would know. Grohoski recently spent three months using the online game to create a virtual replica of the Mattituck-Laurel Library in Mattituck, NY, complete with a model of the working piano in the library basement (http://ow.ly/nQwCN).

Why? Because Karen Letteriello, comanager of the parents’ and children’s department at Mattituck-Laurel, where Grohoski works as a technical processor, thought the virtual Minecraft library would help attract young patrons. It has.

The project started when Letteriello read a School Library Journal feature story by librarian Sarah Ludwig about a highly successful Minecraft library club at the Connecticut school where she worked. Letteriello wanted a similar program in her library and asked Grohoski, a gamer since the age of six, to create it.

An immensely popular game launched widely in 2011, Minecraft allows users to build in a 3-D virtual world with cubes similar to Legos—but without any of the proscriptive kits and manuals. There are few limits to what a user can create in Minecraft. It’s all about gamers using their imaginations.

After creating a beta version of the project, Letteriello launched the finished site on June 20. The reaction has been a “tornado,” she says, with children clamoring to sign up and play.

Letteriello and Grohoski’s vision of the game features an appealing library-centric scavenger hunt. Each room of the Minecraft library offers a clue inside treasure chests tucked into the virtual shelves. Clues provide students with a summary of the plot, title, author, and call letters—so children can locate the books inside the physical library.

There are other activities as well—a maze, mini-games in which children can locate objects like sheep wool in multiple colors, and eventually a racetrack, which Grohoski hopes to build. Children can play a few notes on the virtual piano or ride up and down the virtual elevator—just like the one inside the real branch. And for those looking to explore outside the building, Grohoski shifted existing Minecraft destinations closer to the virtual library. These include a desert temple, village, ravine, and stronghold.

Students with their own Minecraft accounts can log on from home, or they can play at the library free of charge. The library offers five laptops with video cards, which play the full version of the online game, plus six iPads loaded with Minecraft’s pocket edition.

Letteriello is planning future educational projects using Minecraft and other digital tools. One possibility: a virtual opportunity to explore Ancient Greece and Rome. Her goal is that students will find their library experience as seamless as exercising their curiosity.

“I want them to use [the library presence in Minecraft] the same as they would the actual library, take a book home and teleport into another world,” she says. “I want them to feel the gaming world is just another part of the library.”

Mattituck resident Pam Kaminsky’s 13-year-old son, Collin, is “obsessed” with the Minecraft library, she says. He and his 16-year-old brother, Owen, are also impressed with Grohoski’s expertise with the game. “[Collin] says, ‘The librarian is talking to me about my program? Wow,’” says Kaminsky. “It’s like he has a new connection with the librarians.”

“Now the kids walk in and ask if Elizabeth is here,” says Letteriello. “She has a cult following.”

Children sign up to play on Fridays, when they can interact with others in the virtual branch. “We have waiting lists that you can’t imagine,” says Letteriello. “And Elizabeth continues to build. It’s taking on a life of its own.”

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Lauren Barack About Lauren Barack

Lauren Barack writes about the connection between media and education, business and technology, and is the recipient of the Loeb Award for online journalism. She can be found at www.laurenbarack.com.

Comments

  1. Lynn Maaiki says:

    What a great meeting of the minds! The wheels in the Children’s Department never stop spinning.

  2. An excellent idea! Minecraft books can also hold text, so perhaps seeding a few copies of The Secret Garden, Tom Sawyer, and Alice Through the Looking Glass inside the Minecraft library is next?

  3. And she got paid to spend the time doing this? If she did it on her own time, this is not a library success story but a library exploitation story. These kinds of programs take expertise and time. Waving them about in the media without giving due attention to those aspects does a disservice to the public. Libraries are not run by elves or volunteers. They require and should pay appropriately the professionals they need.

    • Maybe you missed the part that said ” (Elizabeth) Grohoski works as a technical processor.” Elizabeth has the expertise to do these programs, is given the time she needs to accomplish these programs. and yes, Elizabeth is paid to do this, as she is paid for everything she does for the Mattituck-Laurel Library since she works there.

    • DEBinVA, I am somewhat surprised by your comment. Our library website is available and you could certainly have contacted us to ask questions. Yes the Minecraft world was built on library time by a library employee. If you notice, Elizabeth is given credit throughout the article. Furthermore, Elizabeth has been recognized at library functions and within the community. Keep in mind the library of today is not yesterday’s library. Librarians have many responsibilities including reviewing books, preparing and providing programs, participating in seminars, etc. The most important of which is listening to the patrons so that we can meet the public’s needs whatever they may be,. Having a pool of people of various skills and interests allows a library to not only meet but exceed public expectations. Since our launch the interest in the Minecraft programs has been most positively received. Tweens who have not been regular library users are lining up to participate. Today’s library needs to constantly respond to the needs while engaging people to become lifelong library patrons. I encourage you to call me and discuss this program should you have any further questions or concerns at 631-298-4134 ext 4. Karen Letteriello

  4. Awesome story. As an adult services librarian who is also a gamer I’m totally jealous of Elizabeth.

  5. Sarah Ludwig says:

    Yay! I just read this and have to say–I’m so excited that my article led to this because it is AWESOME. I love the idea and basically just think it’s brilliant. Bravo to everyone involved.

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