Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Libraries try to attract teens through video games

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Charles E. Shoemaker⁄The Gazette
Fourteen-year-old Blake Weil (right) and William Galbreath, 7, both of Potomac, compete in a Dance Dance Revolution competition at the Potomac Library on July 9. The contest is one way libraries are reaching out to young people.
The sounds of Justin Timberlake, techno music and stomping replaced the usually hushed tones at the Potomac Library last week, as county teens and kids had the chance to show off their dance moves and compete at the library.

The Montgomery County Recreation Department brought Dance Dance Revolution, a popular video game that involves performing dance moves on a platform that coincide with arrows on a screen, to the Potomac Library. It was one stop on a tour of all the county libraries.

The video games are part of a larger effort by libraries across the county to get more teenagers involved. Kathie Weinberg, the teen librarian at the Bethesda Library, said the libraries have recently planned a number of events geared toward teens, including coffee houses, forensics sessions, and concerts. The Bethesda library brought in two representatives from MAC Cosmetics who did makeovers for more than 40 teens.

‘‘We have made so much progress in the last year,” she said. ‘‘There was a report last summer to the director about the need for increased programs for teens in the library.”

Nine dancers participated in the competition in Potomac on July 9, but 31 people competed when the game came to the Rockville Library June 26 and Derrick Felton, county Recreation Specialist with the Teen Team, said he hopes for even more in Germantown on July 30 and other upcoming libraries.

‘‘We thought it would be a great way to get [teens] into the library,” said Lindsey Hundt, the acting branch manager at the Potomac Library. ‘‘Montgomery County is focusing on teens and our need for them to be library participants.”

Though the turnout was not huge, Jane Snyder, the teen librarian at the Potomac Library, was satisfied.

‘‘The kids in this community are so overscheduled, it’s not even funny,” she said. ‘‘I can’t believe we have this many people.”

Stephanie Yang, an incoming sophomore at Winston Churchill High School, won the competition by beating Blake Weil, an incoming freshman, in the final round. Yang won a $25 gift certificate to Best Buy and will continue on to the countywide tournament in the beginning of August. The county winner will receive an iPod nano.

‘‘I was really bored at my house and had nothing else to do,” Yang said. ‘‘I like DDR because it’s fun you get to exercise.”

The DDR event was originally planned for teenagers, but younger children showed up to participate last week’s contest. Mo and Cherno Joof, 9 and 6 years old respectively, competed without any DDR experience.

‘‘The focus is on teens, but it’s still a community event,” Felton said.

The DDR event is just one way to get teenagers into the libraries, Weinberg said.

‘‘People ask why teens come to the library for a video game,” she said. ‘‘It gets teens into the library, it gets them there, and they get a library card and we’ll see what comes from that.”

Before the competition began in Potomac, Felton asked the participants, ‘‘Does everyone have a library card? Is everyone doing their summer reading?”

Beyond getting teenagers into the library, the event was also a successful collaboration between the Recreation Department and the county libraries.

‘‘There has also been a push for different county departments to work together more,” Snyder said.

Guitar Hero, another video game involving playing a guitar along with chords on the screen, will be played at half the libraries and DDR at the others. The event will be held at every county library by the end of July.

Upcoming events

Dance Dance Revolution and Guitar Hero competitions will be held at county libraries through the end of July. Upcoming dates are:

Guitar Hero, 1 p.m., today, Kensington Library, 4201 Knowles Ave.

DDR, 1 p.m., Thursday, Long Branch Library, 8800 Garland Ave. Silver Spring

Guitar Hero, 1 p.m., Monday, Silver Spring Library, 8901 Colesville Road

DDR, 5 p.m., Tuesday, Little Falls Library, 5501 Massachusetts Ave., Bethesda

DDR, 1 p.m., July 23, Poolesville Library, 19633 Fisher Ave.

Guitar Hero, 5 p.m. July 24, Bethesda Library, 7400 Arlington Road

Guitar Hero, 5 p.m., July 29, Marilyn J. Praisner (Fairland) Library, 14910 Old Columbia Pike, Burtonsville

DDR, 1 p.m., July 30, Olney Library, 3500 Olney-Laytonsville Road

DDR, 5 p.m., July 30, Germantown Library, 19840 Century Blvd.

Guitar Hero, 1 p.m., July 31, Damascus Library, 9701 Main St. Damascus