Syracuse University School of Information Studies (iSchool) Associate Professor Scott Nicholson was featured in a recent Post-Standard article about using games to create engaging communities within libraries.

“Games are only enjoyable when they’re matched with the right people and atmosphere,” Nicholson is quoted as saying. “What’s happening now is libraries are shifting to meet the needs of their communities.”

Today, people are looking for new spaces to interact outside of home, work and school. Libraries are trying to meet that need by offering an environment for people to talk, read, or play games. In 2008, the American Library Association (ALA) was given a grant to promote literacy through gaming where Nicholson worked with Jenny Levine, an ALA staff member, to assemble a team of experts and create an online toolkit for libraries starting gaming programs.

In 2009, Nicholson got a grant from the New York Library Association to travel across NYS with a group of iSchool students teaching librarians how to start their own gaming programs. This led to the YouTube-based Gaming in Libraries course that Nicholson taught for the iSchool in 2009, which inspired his 2010 book, Everyone Plays at the Library: Creating Great Gaming Experiences for All Ages.

Nicholson worked with iSchool masters students and and Angela Ramnarine-Rieks, an iSchool doctoral student to help the Fayetteville Free Library start their gaming programs. They now have a collection of board games and video games on a portable game cart that can be transported and played anywhere in the library.

“One of the exciting outcomes I witnessed from the Fayetteville program was how senior citizens and teenagers got to know each other throughout the summer,” Nicholson said. “Games can allow people from different demographic groups, but who live in the same area, to engage with each other in a safe environment. This strengthens our local communities through libraries.”

Nicholson combines his backgrounds as a librarian, computer programmer, a gamer and statistician both in the classroom and in his research role as a library scientist. He earned a bachelor’s in mathematics with computer science and a master’s in library and information science at the University of Oklahoma and a Ph.D. in Information Science in 2000 at the University of North Texas. He will be on research leave during the 2011-2012 academic year at MIT working as a Research Scholar on game design as a pedagogical tool.