You've heard of checking out books — audio, digital or printed — at the library, along with DVDs and even museum passes. But video games?
The Oak Park Public Library recently bolstered its collection, adding 200 video game titles, compatible with a variety of systems, from the handheld Nintendo DS to the Xbox 360, and range in content from the bloody western "Red Dead Redemption," to the family-friendly "Disney Sing It."
J.M. Konecki, an Oak Park dad of two and frequent library user, was "appalled" to see the stack of video games in the kids' section. By library rules, a person can check out up to 200 titles out at once (though the library said it would be virtually impossible to do that — there's a 30 limit "hold" policy).
"It's like crack," said Konecki, 41, "You give a kid a little bit, and then they want more and more. When it comes to kids, there should be some sort of tie-in to reading and education, and I think video games are getting away from that."
The library invested about $20,000 to add its video game collection, with the kid titles arriving in late July, and adult titles arriving a few weeks ago. Patrons have repeatedly requested video games, and the library thought it made sense to listen, said Monica Harris, assistant manager of adult and teen services.
They've been offering a program for four years where teens and seniors can come to the library to play video games. And neighboring institutions — in Forest Park, Brookfield and Riverside — already offer games, Harris said.
The collection has proved extremely popular. More than half of the titles have holds on them right now ("Call of Duty Black Ops" has been reserved 41 times alone).
With the death of video stores, it's harder to go out and try a video game, said Rebecca Teasdale, assistant director of public services and programs at the library. And they've found that video games aren't just for teens.
"Sometimes we think about video games appealing to a particular demographic group, but research is showing that the appeal is very broad," she said.
Some, such as Konecki, worry that video games rot your brains and take up all your free time. But Harris pointed to research showing that video games teach kids exploration and problem solving, among other things.
"We really do consider gaming play and creative thinking to be hallmarks of 21st-century learning, and we want to be part of that," Harris said.
Malek Sarhan, a 13-year-old volunteer who frequently uses the library, was skeptical about the addition at first. He thought video games had no place there but came around after a while, deciding that the library was just hoping to keep up with the times. He currently has a copy of "NBA 2K11" on hold for the Nintendo Wii.
"At first I was kind of upset, but everything has to modernize," he said.
Game rentals are free, you can have them out for up to seven days, and they can be renewed if no holds have been placed. The library is thinking of adding more in the near future, and patrons can request titles they're looking for at oppl.org, according to Harris.
"It's obvious to us that this is a very popular collection, so we need to spend more money on it," she said.