By Alex Saucedo, former La Crosse Public Library Gaming Assistant*
I didn’t know where I am until I leave. The day before New Year’s will be my last here due to the need for layoffs, and I realize I’ve been here since the beginning of the gaming program as a patron and as an employee. It’s given me some thoughts.
I realize this program has been a significant part of my life. My introduction to the gaming program was my first semester of homeschool. I came alone to the library for a quiet place to do my assignments, and I would avoid looking at the kids my age passing by my upstairs reading carrel into the room down the aisle; I was a homeschooler because of personal anxiety. I think it was Dave who passed by me and said, “Hey, like computer games?” And I was sold.
I quickly became a regular and learned to know all of the other kids that would go. The new program filled up quickly, and we’d learn to all know each other. I think some had few other places they could go on a Thursday afternoon. For them, it was an opportunity to keep off the streets and be with their peers in a safe environment, a lot like the Boys & Girls Club we have here. For me, it was something to keep me around my peers, while being very different from a school environment that could sometimes be a problem for me. Others have church or school or their jobs, and I had the gaming program.
Less than a year later, the program moved into the place it’s probably most often associated with, the basement room where the Friends of the Library keep their books, that we sometimes call “the dungeon”. I believe that caught on because it’s a den where we share our hobbies with others who understand them, and also because it can become quite demanding! Since the program’s expansion, adults and teenagers have places they can meet with others who share the same interests, for free. I would have gotten a driver’s license, a car, and a job to support said car if there was a school I could go to and feel secure saying I was a geek. I was very lucky that we have a place for geeks or geek-oriented people to meet and do their geek things, right here in our library, even if it is only once a week.
I’ve now been on both sides: a patron who partakes in the benefits of the program and an employee trusted to provide those things. Both are similar; on either side you want to support your people. As an employee you just have more technical work to contribute to, which I was doing already on an irregular basis. Now that I’m leaving and I’ve come full circle, I think I can say the best part of this program is the community aspect of it. Our different programs bring people together who might otherwise stay home. Considering how easy it is to live without human contact, the program has been a good thing.
*Editor’s note: Alex’s position was eliminated due to reduced funding in 2012 for the La Crosse Public Library. We thank him for the comments and insights on games and gaming he has shared through the WRLS Blog.