Study: tracking every RPG book in every public & academic library in the world

Edd writes, "I am a professor at Ithaca College in New York. Recently for a research study I tracked almost every Role Playing Game Book circulating in every public and academic library in the world."

"There were some really interesting results, for example if you looked in every single library in many states there are less than ten (10!) RPG books! That is horrible. The goal of this paper is to encourage libraries to add these materials to their collections. Something I hope you would also think is a good idea?"

It may be time to reconsider the role of role-playing games in collections. The academic study of games has steadily increased, both in research and in curriculum. Popular interest in the role-playing game genre shows no obvious signs of subsiding. Library collection of these materials simply does not match these trends. A library with a single shelf of role-playing game books would be in the top 5% of library collections of these materials. A library with a single bookcase of role-playing game books would be in the top 1% of library collections of these materials. The American Library Association produces materials encouraging libraries to use these materials in community building, but players need to reference these titles to play. Many academic video game programs exist in states that have minimal numbers of these titles. Even with the advent of video games, paper-based role-playing games have remained popular, and their continued popularity can be seen as an indicator of their cultural importance.

Anecdotal reports indicated that patron theft could potentially be discouraging librarians from collecting role-playing game materials, but no verified data could be found. The results from the comparison of TSR materials to Wizards of the Coast materials imply that this might be an unsubstantiated fear. Digital circulation of materials could be a potential solution if theft is found to be a substantial issue. Future research could investigate the reality of theft problems with these materials, and at the same time study their impact on patron engagement.

Schneider, E., & Hutchison, B. (2015). Referencing the Imaginary: An Analysis of Library Collection of Role-Playing Game Materials. The Reference Librarian, 56(3), 174-188. [PDF]


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