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Board games in libraries: not just for International Board Games Week!

People playing board games at Ipswich County Library

Library and information advisor Andrew Miller shares his experiences of organising International Games Week events and setting up Ipswich County Library's permanent Board Games Library.

29 October - 4 November 2017 is International Games Week, with libraries across the world holding events where people can play old favourites and make new discoveries. As Ipswich County Library's resident board game addict, it's my favourite time of the year and I encourage other libraries to organise board game events and even set up board game libraries of their own.

There are lots of great reasons to hold a board games event and/or loan out board games. They offer people of all ages the opportunity to exercise their maths, reading, dexterity and problem-solving skills while having a lot of fun. At our recent Fun Palaces event, participants aged 6-76 built a French region out of tiles (Carcassonne), raced cars around a track (Pitch Car), searched for spies (Codenames), did the plumbing (Round the Bend) and built kingdoms out of dominoes (Kingdomino). You can go around the world and have loads of adventures without leaving the library.

Board games also build social bridges. For example, at last year's International Games Week event, a young boy was watching an older girl play Guess Who with one of our volunteers. The girl asked him if he wanted to play, and after a few rounds, they tried a different game, with other children and mothers joining in. They learned the rules together and asked library staff for help when they got stuck. A two-player game snowballed into a group activity.

People playing board games at Ipswich County Library

In fact, International Games Week is a great place to start off a board game revolution in your library, as registering your event gives you access not only to materials to help you promote your event, but also activity and theme ideas for your event and even games themselves (stick to the UK offers, though, or you'll be stung by custom taxes!).

Donations and sponsorships can also be a huge help. Our Friends group granted us some cash to buy in a few games, and some of our customers have donated high-quality second-hand games to us.

Zatu Games logo

This International Games Week, we secured sponsorship from local online board game retailer Zatu Games. Not only have they helped us with promotional materials, advice and a donation of board games, but they have also agreed to sponsor our Board Games Library in the longer term, helping it grow bigger and better. With over 7,000 board games in their catalogue, from Monopoly to Zombicide, and a team of around 50 bloggers who know all there is to know about the world of board games, we're very excited about this next chapter for our games library.

Board games make you laugh, be silly, talk to each other and think. For me, there's no greater pleasure than seeing customers having fun over a game or two, and I'd love to see that happen in more libraries.

Visit Ipswich County Library's page to find out more about their Board Games Library.

Some of our other libraries hold regular board game sessions. See our libraries page to see what your local library offers.