Study: Track Every RPG Book in Every Public and University Library Around the World


Edd writes: “I am a professor at Ithaca College in New York. Recently, for a research study, I followed almost all the role-playing books circulating in all public and university libraries around the world.

“There were some really interesting results, for example if you look in every library in many states there are less than ten (10!) RPG books! It’s horrible. The purpose of this article is to encourage libraries to add these materials to their collections. Hope you also think this is a good idea? “

Maybe it’s time to reconsider the place 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 genre shows no clear signs of abating. The collection of these documents in the library simply does not correspond to these trends. A library with a single shelf of role-playing books would be in the top 5% of library collections for these materials. A library with a single library of role-playing books would be in the top 1% of library collections of these materials. The American Library Association produces material encouraging libraries to use this material in community building, but players should reference these titles to play. Many academic video game programs exist in states that have a minimum number of such titles. Even with the advent of video games, role-playing games on paper remained popular, and their continued popularity can be seen as an indicator of their cultural significance.

Anecdotal reports have indicated that theft from customers could potentially discourage librarians from collecting role-play materials, but no verified data could be found. The results of the comparison of TSR materials to Wizards of the Coast materials imply that this could be an unfounded fear. Digital circulation of materials could be a potential solution if theft turns out to be a significant issue. Future research could investigate the reality of theft problems with these materials, and at the same time study their impact on customer engagement.

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


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