Gaming and Multigenerational Programming

First, an update on the weather from last week. We did in fact have 12 inches of snow that Sunday (1/5). Overnight Wednesday into Thursday (1/8-9), we had approximately two more. Then on Friday (1/10) it rained several inches. Between that and snow melt we had localized flash flooding. Then the temperatures went from subzero Sunday-Tuesday (lows and some highs) to in the 50s by Saturday. It’s been a weather adventure to say the least!  Now onwards to the post, the conclusion of my programming research.


Gaming programming was a surprise feature within the literature I read.  Kleiman’s conference presentation discussed how the Wii was utilized at his library’s “Senior Spaces.”  Not only were Wii gaming sessions popular, but playing Wii was also a success itself without needing the gaming sessions.  Discussions with seniors demonstrated that using gaming devices allowed them to feel more in tune with technology.

"Teens playing guitar at EK's Game On program" by San Jose Library via Flickr Creative Commons.

“Teens playing guitar at EK’s Game On program” by San Jose Library via Flickr Creative Commons.

Watson-Hadlock covers two forms of gaming programming for children.  Like Kleiman, she notes how video gaming can be used to encourage children to visit the library.  It can draw new patrons into the library when advertised in places children visit (she used the example of at schools).  Also educational computer gaming (such as Oregon Trail) can be used for younger children to encourage learning.

With both seniors and children, the gaming allows them to learn and utilize technology in safe environments.  For seniors, this means they are more knowledgeable about the gaming world.  As Kleiman points out, it makes them feel younger.  This enables them to relate more with their children and grandchildren.  For children, the gaming helps increase their understanding of technology.  This helps them to become more excited to use other forms of technology as they grow older, such as creating PowerPoints or using flash animation.

Multigenerational Programming:

A second surprise trend I read about was multigenerational programming.  It aims to mix patrons of different age groups together.  Several examples were found within the presented literature, ranging from multiple generations of senior citizens, mixing seniors with their families, family programming as part of children’ services, and programming that involves both seniors and children.

First, examination of multigenerational programming for seniors should be addressed.  Butcher and Street’s Christchurch study, four groups of seniors were examined separately.  These were 40s to late 50s, late 50s to early 70s, late 60s to 80s, and late seventies to end of life.  The overlapping age is accounted for because some groups have transitions to the next at earlier or later ages.  Within these age ranges, the younger generations often came to the learning centers/library with technology experience.  Older seniors did not.  Programming often mixed the generations, allowing the younger seniors to assist the older seniors with learning in the offered courses.   However, this study posed one problem.  The New Zealanders considered those in their 40s and 50s seniors.  This is not the case with the other studies and in American culture which focus on seniors as retirees.

Many of the articles examined pertaining to children’s services discuss family programming.  Hughes-Hassell, Agosto, and Sun studied libraries that offered evening programming to children of working parents.  Interviews conducted as part of the study reveal that evening programming was requested by parents who wished to take their children to the library themselves.  Sometimes these programs were storytimes, but they could also be for the entire family.  Either way, parents wished to experience the library with their children and not just send them with babysitters.

Example of a Lap Sitting Program by San Jose Library via Flickr Creative Commons.

Example of a Lap Sitting Program by San Jose Library via Flickr Creative Commons.

The Diamant-Cohen study illustrated three more forms of family programming.  One was library lap sitting programs where parents read to their children within the library.  Lap sitting programs have been shown to reinforce positive feelings children have towards reading and provides excellent parent-child bonding. A second was to send both library books and gift books home with families to read together.  A third method involved parent education classes in which parents learned how to use books to explain things without actually reading the book using pictures, questions, and other interactive means.

Mixing seniors and children in programming is another form of multigenerational programming.  Kleiman infers that seniors and their grandchildren can have joint programming in his presentation when he said “Senior Spaces” was designed for seniors and their families.   Hughes-Hassell, Agosto, and Sun observed that many grandparents take their grandchildren to libraries for the daytime programming.   Neither article directly stated what types of programming is offered to include both seniors and children.  However, Honnold and Mesaros offer programming ideas for seniors and children in their book’s chapter “Mix Seniors with Teens and Children.”   Programs that would involve mixing any senior with children include combined story times with books both groups find appealing, book buddy programs, and veteran history projects.  Other programming revolves around grandparents and grandchildren.  They provide six ideas for Grandparents Day celebrations and tips on literacy for grandparents who raise their grandchildren; the latter is because it is an increasing trend.

One joint program that received the majority of attention in the Honnold and Mesaros’ chapter is “Grand Time @ the Library”.  This is a program for children in kindergarten through sixth grade and their grandparents.  Once a month they meet at the library for storytime, snacks, projects, and games.  Each month is themed and material relating to the theme is on display, but still available for checkout, leading up to the program.

All of the multigenerational programs benefited their participants.  Not only did the programming provide a safe and fun learning environment, it also provided an educational experience.  Young was able to teach the old and vice versa.  It also allowed the generations to connect and enjoy time together.

It is pertinent to mention not all libraries offer all the presented types of programming.  The larger the library is, the more offerings it is likely to have.  Smaller public libraries often just have summer reading programs for the children and book clubs for adults.  Even if the programming needs of each group are not fully met, the staff should be able to provide unique reference and readers’ advisory to each group.


Note:  Because of database licensing issues, I cannot link to most journal articles.

Butcher, Wendy and Patsy-Ann Street.  “Lifelong Learning with Older Adults.”  Aplis 22, no. 2 (2009): 64-70.

Diamant-Cohen, Betsy.  “First Day of Class:  The Public Library’s Role in ‘School Readiness.’”  Children and Libraries, Spring 2007 (2007): 40-48.

Honnold, RoseMary and Saralyn A. Mesaros.  “Chapter 6:  Mix Seniors with Teens and Children,” in Serving Seniors, 89-113.  New York:  Neal-Schuman Publishers, Inc., 2004.

Hughes-Hassell, Sandra, Demise E. Agosto, and Xiaoning Sun.  “Making Storytime Available to Children of Working Parents:  Public Libraries and the Scheduling of Children’s Literacy Programs.”  Children and Libraries, Summer/Fall 2007 (2007): 43-48.

Kleiman, Allan M. “Senior Spaces:  The Library Place for Baby Boomers, Older Adults & Their Families.”  IFLA Conference Proceedings (2008): 1-6.

Watson-Hadlock, Madeline.  “Tots to Teens:  Age-Appropriate Technology Programming for Kids.”  Children and Libraries, Winter 2008 (2008):  52-55.


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  1. Pingback: Two Year Anniversary! | Amy's Scrap Bag: A Blog About Libraries, Archives, and History

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