Libraries lure teens with games and fun

Finn, 13, left, high fives Brandon Penley, as Mark Grove, right looks over his cards while they play the game, Magic, at International Gaming Day at the Millhopper Branch Library on Sunday in Gainesville.

Lee Ferinden / Correspondent
Published: Sunday, November 4, 2012 at 6:37 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, November 4, 2012 at 6:37 p.m.

Sixteen-year-old Charnay Cromwell played Scrabble for the first time Sunday at the Millhopper branch library during International Games Day, a day for people all over the world to engage in gaming. Her family stood over her shoulder, helping her come up with creative ways to use the letters.

Teen librarian and organizer of the event, Bryan Kratish sat on the other side of the board, giving Cromwell helpful hints between moves.

It was Cromwell’s turn, and she was down to the last few letters.

After a few moments, Cromwell had a flash of insight.

“Fig!” she announced.

“Excellent. I know where you’re going to go next. I’m not going to take it from you, don’t worry,” Kratish said.

“Go ahead and do it,” Cromwell said confidently.

Cromwell came to International Games Day as a volunteer, working toward gathering enough hours of community service to qualify for a Bright Futures Scholarship.

After about an hour of playing, she finished the game with 183 points.

“I’m playing this game again because I am planning to beat you,” she told Kratish.

Kratish, who has organized the event for three years at the Millhopper branch, said bringing games to the library draws teens in and keeps them there.

“It really, absolutely works having games in your library to bring teens in,” Kratish said. “You get kids who would never come in and now they are participating in the library.”

Kratish said many who come for the library’s weekly teen game program end up checking out books or becoming involved in book clubs.

Around 30 participants, from college age to elementary, came to the Millhopper event on Sunday. Seven libraries in the district participated, with events on Saturday, Sunday and scheduled for today.

More than 1,000 libraries from all over the world registered for the event. Many of them hosted online gaming between players. A leader board was broadcasted in the Millhopper branch, showing participants what libraries were winning at which games.

Though gaming is about having a good time, educational components make teen involvement even more beneficial, Kratish said.

“There’s critical thinking skills, there’s logic skills, so games aren’t just fun. It increases your thinking ability, it really does. It’s like playing chess or Scrabble. Video games are the same way,” Kratish said.

Kratish also hoped to create an environment for teens to practice social skills.

“We’re happy for games. It’s a chance for teens to interact with each other,” he said.

“I think gaming is a good thing, and all these articles about how it’s bad and stuff doesn’t make sense,” a 13-year-old Westwood Middle School student nicknamed Finn said.

“Gaming is a good thing and it connects a lot of people around the world at the same time,” he added.

Finn comes to the library every Thursday to host the teen gaming program. His friends come to play games with him at the library every week.

“I have friends here that I hang out with and we have good games and it’s just peaceful here,” he said.

A group of college students who call themselves the Santa Fe Society for Nerds hosted Magic the Gathering, a fantasy role-playing card game, at the event for the first time this year. The group, which has about 20 active members, began last fall.

Emily Reinhardt, 19, the current president of the society, said the group’s goal is to bring people together for gaming. Though Reinhardt doesn’t play video games, she gets along with those who do.

“The people I know who play video games, they are witty people,” she said.

Reinhardt said she has gained many friends from joining the group and knows others have had the same experience.

“It’s definitely a good thing. We’re not on the street doing illegal things,” she said.

The Millhopper library hosts a range of teen activities throughout the year. For more information, visit

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