What is it?
Pokemon Go is a free app that has players walking around their communities using their smartphone to find Pokemon characters in the real world. The game started in 1995 and the name comes from the concept of pocket monsters.
Exploring a media phenomenon
Pokemon GO was launched on 6 July in the US, I started to notice stories in the media the following week.
Stories like: Pokémon GO: What Do Librarians Need To Know? provides a thorough overview. It concludes: “Though it remains to be seen whether Pokémon GO will be a brief fad or a long-term obsession, the game’s popularity has already helped to demonstrate how emerging tech creates opportunities for libraries to connect with and educate patrons in unexpected ways.”
The trickle became a flood as libraries around the country planned to get involved:
Baltimore County libraries to host Pokemon GO event Friday and Yolo County Library gets in on Pokemon fun and many more.
Then I noticed articles examining the dangers and risks, such as Don’t Go There: Are Libraries Appropriate Places to Catch Pokémon? [seems a shame you have to point out that some places are completely inappropriate, but still……...] and yet more articles looking at opportunities: Why Pokemon Go and The Library is a perfect partnership.
And you know something is getting more established when someone takes the time to write a “How to” guide: Everything Librarians Need To Know About Pokemon Go!
“What does any of this have to do with libraries?
In the Pokemon Video Games, players catch and train Pokemon in order to compete at Gyms. Pokemon Gyms, in the Pokemon Universe, are places where trainers can compete and battle for prestige, earn badges, and make their Pokemon bigger, badder, and better.
In Pokemon Go, Gyms are attached to free, safe, public places that all players can get to.
“We have been given a huge gift of outreach. Let’s use it!”
Pokemon are starting to be found in amongst the bookshelves in many libraries, and with free WiFi gamers are being encouraged to drop in and see what they can find. Some libraries have been designated as Pokestops, and others as Pokegyms where Pokemon can be caught and trained.
And not just in the United States
Michael Lewis, head of libraries, commented:-
“Libraries have always been welcoming open spaces for all the community and we are very pleased that the Pokemon community think so too. We look forward to a summer of Pokemon challenges, and perhaps gamers might like to take on our ‘Big Summer of Reading’ challenge at the same time.”
Pokemon has provoked the most animated discussion so far on the Library Innovators network message boards, with colleagues like Karen from Cheshire commenting: “A few of our libraries are using their Facebook pages to let people know they are Pokestops or gyms, and we're using our Twitter account, too. These posts appear as feeds on our website”
And Krystal from Suffolk goes further: “We're putting posters up encouraging people in as all our libraries are Pokestops and we're also encouraging people to stop by to charge up their phones and perhaps have a look around 🙂 Also, we're trying to be fun with it on social media. A good group to for ideas has been the facebook group ALA Think Tank. As America are ahead of the curve for Pokemon they had good library ideas, and actually, it's just a really fun group to be part of anyway.”
Luke from Newcastle wins the geek prize: “We've also arranged a Lure Party; not many people have said they are going but we'll see what happens on the day! We're encouraging people to lay lures and catch as many as they can. We're trying to use it in an attempt to attract new and different audiences to our buildings and to encourage people to use the free buildings and on street Wi-Fi.”
And in case people think it is all a bit of a waste of time, articles are showing that however fleeting it may be, it is currently driving lots of new traffic to businesses. So, as the article quoted at the top of this post stated, whether a brief fad or long term obsession, this is an excellent example of how libraries are well placed to exploit a technology based opportunity: from attracting new visitors to making life just a bit more fun.