A New Gaming Role: Extended Reality and Gaming Librarian

New roles in tech librarianship

When someone hears the phrase “I work with video games for a living,” there are many different careers that may come to mind: YouTubers, streamers, and coders. One job that probably will not is librarian. However, that is exactly my purview at Mississippi State University (MSU). I act as the University’s Extended Reality and Gaming Librarian. This is a new position established in September 2023. But what is an Extended Reality and Gaming Librarian and what exactly do they do? In this post, I hope to answer these questions and delve deeper into video games in an academic library setting.

How I became the Gaming Librarian

I am the first Gaming Librarian at MSU. Previously I held a completely different job as a cataloger. I had worked at MSU for almost six years as their Special Collections cataloger, dealing not so much with technology but with materials from the archives—a very unlikely start for a gaming librarian.

Several opportunities led to this change. I am a gamer in my personal life and have always held an interest in virtual reality (VR). By the time 2020 rolled around, I had already published several articles on the subject of VR. 2020 was important, because this was when MSU libraries decided to catalog their purchased VR titles. This was new to not only MSU but also the cataloging field in general. After I presented a video game to the library faculty and staff in 2023, the Dean started referring to me as the “gaming librarian.” In September of that year, the title was made official: the Extended Reality and Gaming Librarian position was created, and I became an ex-cataloger.


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What does a Gaming Librarian do?

So, what exactly does an Extended Reality and Gaming Librarian do? If the position had to be put in a box, it would fall under the category of content specialist or research librarian, but with a focus on video games.

Many may relegate video games to the realm of just entertainment, but they are much more than that. I recognized this. The video game that I presented to the faculty and staff of the library was the game This War of Mine by 11-bit Studios, which was the first game to be added to the recommended reading list in Poland. Many academic and peer-reviewed studies, articles, book chapters, and books have all had video games as their focus. Museums such as the Museum of Modern Art, the Imperial War Museum, and the Smithsonian Museum of Art have started featuring exhibits with video games.

As the Gaming Librarian, one primary focus of my new position is outreach, workshops, and consultations geared toward faculty and students. These sessions are to help make researchers aware of how games can help students understand class concepts and help students incorporate games into their research and class work. Games like Poly Bridge and Kerbal Space Program to help teach different aspects of physics. Humanities classes can use casual games such as Stardew Valley as writing prompts for creative writing courses. These are just some of the possibilities, and there are many others.

Like movies and television shows, games can also be studied and written about in a variety of ways. Researchers just need to be open to the possibilities.

Conclusion

Outreach, classes, and consultations are just one aspect of my role. As I meet with more students and faculty, many seem open to gaming possibilities and options. Video games are being viewed as more than just an aspect of entertainment and people are beginning to examine and think about them in different ways. While there are other aspects of my job, when it comes to research I encourage researchers to be open to gaming possibilities and am always willing to help students and researchers find ways to incorporate their favorite games into their studies. After all, with video games in the mix, research becomes just a little more fun.


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