With coronavirus continuing to spread, in-person gatherings are off the table—but one librarian in South Carolina is using video games to bring her community together virtually.
Tina Chenoweth, Young Adult Services Manager at the Baxter-Patrick James Island branch of Charleston County Public Library, has been recreating her library in the popular new video game Animal Crossing: New Horizons. In the game, players move to a deserted island, construct buildings and infrastructure, and make their own furniture and decorations. Players across the world can use an online code to visit each other’s islands to explore, exchange resources, or just socialize.
“Even if there weren’t a pandemic happening, I absolutely would have incorporated Animal Crossing into our regular programming because I see it as a great way to get people working together toward a common goal,” Tina told I Love Libraries. “Then the pandemic happened and added that extra layer of interacting with people of all ages we can’t see in person and really made the whole idea that much more meaningful.”
In Animal Crossing, players are given a plot of land on their island where they can build their house; Tina has repurposed hers as a library, complete with a children’s area in a separate room. The island also features an outdoor creative studio with a crafting table that players can use to create their own tools and decorative objects, as well as a bulletin board where players can leave messages for other visitors.
BPJI patrons have been loving visiting the library’s island—many have even created virtual items to “donate” to the space. “Patrons and visitors have been super supportive. In fact, almost all the bookcases, the library wallpaper, and a good portion of the decorations in the library were supplied by patrons,” Tina shared. “One visitor kept flying back and forth between BPJI’s island and his own island in order to ferry supplies. It’s so heartwarming!”
The virtual library is one of many offerings Tina’s library has created or expanded in light of COVID-19. “CCPL has rolled out an impressive virtual programming lineup that includes regular storytimes along with exercise, journaling, poetry, cooking, craft programs, and more,” Tina said. “Our patrons still have access to Wi-Fi in our parking lots, as well as access to our digital resources, and we recently began offering a new remote telephone service as well.”
Looking ahead, Tina hopes to continue building the library’s island to be even more fun and engaging for visitors, and to more closely resemble its in-person counterpart; one future project she’s considering is to add a learning lab/PC room like the one at the brick-and-mortar BPJI branch. She might also start stocking the virtual branch with in-game “DIY recipes” (items that let players create new furniture or decorations) for patrons to use in their own gameplay—sharing free information and resources with her community just as real-life libraries do every day.
Animal Crossing players can visit the BPJI island using the library’s Nintendo Switch friend code, 0912-2261-5044. For more stories about innovative and creative libraries, subscribe to the I Love Libraries newsletter.