Interview with Lauren Hays

Lauren Hays is the Instructional and Research Librarian and the Co-Director of the Center for Games and Learning at MidAmerica Nazarene University. She holds an undergraduate degree in education, a masters in library science, a masters in educational technology, and a graduate certificate in online teaching and learning. She is co-teaching two classes for Library Juice Academy that she has agreed to talk to us about: Games in Academic Libraries and Informal Learning in Academic Libraries.

Hi Lauren! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview.

Hi Rory! Thank you for the opportunity to talk about the courses I will be co-teaching with Teresa Slobuski.

I’d like to start by asking you what the Center for Games and Learning is. Want to tell us about that?

Sure! The Center for Games & Learning at MidAmerica Nazarene University’s Mabee Library sponsors game design and game research for use in educational settings. It is an initiative that was funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. I was the principal investigator on a 2014 Sparks! IMLS Grant that created this library-based Center for Games and Learning.

Your two classes are on games and informal learning in academic libraries. Would you care describe those classes?

Games in Academic Libraries is going to be an introduction to thinking about ways to use games in an academic library setting. They can be for recreation, student development, curriculum support, or games can be used to teach information literacy. Games for learning is a huge push in the K-12 setting and this is a way to start thinking about them in higher education.

Informal learning is a big topic. It can encompass a lot of different things. Libraries hold a lot of physical real estate on campuses and this space should be used strategically to promote learning in a myriad of ways. Learning informally is one of those ways.

I’d like to ask you a little more about the games class first, and then move on to discussing informal learning. The games class, what will it cover exactly? Is it based on existing projects that can be adapted into other settings?

Games in Academic Libraries is divided into four main topics–one a week. The topics are Introduction to Game Studies and Games in Libraries, Educational Integration of Games, Games and Libraries, and Advanced Topics. Teresa and I will share our own projects and highlight other projects we know that are happening. The class also happens to be happening over International Games Day @ Your Library, sponsored by the ALA, so we will highlight that and encourage course participants to find a library that is part of IGD.

We hope the class will be an opportunity to learn and network with others who are interested in this topics. I have found making connections to be very important in my career, and I love the opportunity to connect with others around common interests.

It sounds like it will be a very stimulating class for people. One thing I hope it will do will be to give good practical preparation for people who are planning to implement a game project in their library. Do you expect to present solutions to common problems and issues that people may encounter?

Yes, one of the first questions we plan to ask is if the course participants have any concerns about incorporating games into their libraries. We will respond to these concerns from our experiences. During the last week of the course, we want participants to conduct a brief community analysis where they will consider the best type of games for their library, their community needs, and to identify any supporters they can leverage to build a community of practice.

I imagine that between your prior experience and what the students will contribute to the class, there will be a lot of good ideas for people to use. So, about informal learning… What is informal learning, in the context of that class?

In the context of this class, informal learning is learning that takes place outside a formal learning setting. It includes the creation of new knowledge through group and solo activities.

So what are some examples?

Gameplay, makerspaces, space design, furniture selection, and technology are examples of ways librarians can foster informal learning in their libraries.

Okay, so would you describe the class on informal learning in academic libraries? What is the content of the course? What can people expect to learn by the end of it?

Informal Learning in Academic Libraries will be broken into four main topics: What is Informal Learning?, How have libraries promoted informal learning?, How CAN libraries promote informal learning?, and Local studies of informal learning at your library. Teresa and I want to look at informal learning broadly and then bring it to the local context. Context is very important when thinking about how to promote learning. Informal learning helps build life skills such as critical thinking, flexibility, collaboration, and creativity. We want to help academic librarians think about how to foster these skills in their spaces.

Okay, one thing I think I should have asked earlier… What is the Center for Games and Learning at your library? What kinds of things is it doing? Do you think it’s something that other institutions can use as a model?

The Center for Games and Learning is a library-based center. I co-direct it with the director of the university’s honors program. The Center supports professors wanting to use gameplay in their courses through a collection of games and consulting services. With professors we will walk through how games can best be facilitated, adapted, and debriefed. We also provide resources for the broader education community. Local teachers often use the Center for their k-12 instruction.

The Center is replicable, though it does take a lot of support from faculty and administration. I have talked with other librarians who have started incorporating games into their academic library for recreation and curricular support. They each start at different places and chose to focus on certain things based on their community.

That sounds great. Okay, I have a harder question for you. Can you tell me what it is about games and informal learning that has captured your interest and inspired you to pursue it in your library?

For me, the interest in games was sparked by my desire to collaborate with faculty. I learned about the the honors director’s interest in games and I invited him to discuss the possibility of applying for a grant where we would collaborate in this area.

In regards to informal learning, this interest grew a bit more organically. My library has served as the de facto student union on my campus for a few years. As we’ve adjusted to the increase in traffic, rearrangement of collections, and repurposing of space, we have worked hard to be intentional about the learning that can occur in those spaces.

What do you think is the most important thing you’ve learned working with games and informal learning?

That experiences are so important for learning. I know there is a lot of research on experiential learning, but it wasn’t until games and informal learning started to be part of my everyday work that I started to dig into this literature.

Well, thanks for this interview. It’s been very interesting hearing about your classes. I hope it goes very well.

Thank you, Rory. I appreciate the opportunity to share.

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