As the school of communication prepared to hit “play” on the Game Lab and its game design graduate program, which launched in 2014, an idea began circulating at AU’s Bender Library.
“If you’re a medical school, you’re going to have skeletons and anatomy books because you need to support that curriculum,” says communication librarian Derrick Jefferson. “We knew we were going to have to buy games.”
Jefferson, who came to AU in 2013, is not a gamer himself, but he was game to take a Risk on a new challenge. So he rolled the dice, piecing together a diverse collection of games—some video, mostly board—including new offerings like New York Slice, Hive, and Squirrels! along with classics such as Trivial Pursuit and Monopoly (the fourth-best-selling game of all-time, after chess, checkers, and backgammon). While a few games, like 2019’s popular, bird-themed Wingspan, are elusive—“That’s my white whale,” Jefferson says—the collection, built with purchases from Labyrinth near Eastern Market, now numbers nearly 300 titles.
Although SOC was the impetus for the Operation, the collection has proved a valuable tool across the board at AU. School of International Service and School of Public Affairs professors used Pandemic to reinforce theoretical concepts during the Ebola outbreak. A flight simulator helped an SIS instructor teach the Cold War. And pre-COVID, students would often Go Fish for games, checking them out from the library for a weekend of fun.
Amid the pandemic, board games and puzzles have grown even more popular, with sales jumping by 46 percent this year, according to Reuters. Whether a cure for boredom, stress, or both, games are comforting because they allow us “to disengage with technology and really be there with our fellow players,” Jefferson says.
Though unavailable this semester for safety reasons, the games remind Jefferson that a library’s reach extends beyond books—a lesson he first learned in 2010 as an LSU graduate student in New Orleans. There, he restored and worked at libraries damaged by Hurricane Katrina. With reduced access to physical collections, staff leaned on digital offerings to support academic research and provided internet access to community members.
“When we’re painted into a corner, we find ways to meet the needs of our users,” Jefferson says. “Libraries aren’t just buildings. They’re resources, people, and experiences.”
thanks to the library's collection of games, AU students are never board. Here are their 10 favorite not-so-trivial pursuits:
10. Exploding Kittens
8. The Game of Life
5. Apples to Apples
1. Secret Hitler