Silver Lake, Kansas is a town with a population of 1,439 people (according to the 2010 Census). Thanks to the local library, there’s a whole lot of building going on in the community… and I’m not just talking about renovations and an expansion at the library. Youth in the community have been visiting the library to play Minecraft, a game that allows them to build almost anything they can imagine.
What is Minecraft?
Minecraft is a game. Players build things out of cubes in a 3D world. It’s available for Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems. There is an iOS version and Android, Xbox, and Raspberry Pi, too. It’s incredibly popular.
Why did the Silver Lake Public Library decide to offer Minecraft?
When asked why the library decided to offer Minecraft, Cathy Newland, director of the Silver Lake Public Library, jokes, “Because Tracey and Alphie [Youth Services Librarian and Assistant Director at the library] told me to!” Two articles from Library Journal’s Digital Shift blog also helped support the decision:
“Minecraft has a lot of educational potential. It helps kids develop spatial and problem-solving skills, collaboration and creativity. It also creates the opportunity for group and social learning. Minecraft is all about building on a lot of different levels. We talk a lot about makerspaces in libraries these days, and Minecraft is like a virtual makerspace (in sort of a micro-global way--you're building little worlds!).”
What Minecraft activities are happening at the library?
The library hosts a monthly gaming night and one of these nights they featured Minecraft. Patrons can play MinecraftEdu three days a week. The library plans to hold another Minecraft game night during Summer Reading Program, at which participating kids will receive an assignment to finish. Players at the library events are primarily middle school students, but the library will be involving high school students, too, with adjustments, “Teens don’t like MinecraftEdu – they usually have their own accounts online. When we have the Minecraft night for teens, we will adjust to that – they will have to do certain things but won’t use MinecraftEdu.”
What’s involved in setting Minecraft up for a library environment?
The library purchased MinecraftEdu. The total cost was $95, which includes $18 each for 3 public access workstations licenses [$54] and $41 for the enhanced software [for the computer designated as server]. Dan Alexander, Technology Coordinator with Northeast Kansas Library System, the regional library system, helped the library with setup. Dan says, "Staff ran into a small road bump at first. They had installed the client side on the gaming computers but not software on the local "server". MinecraftEdu setup requires a "server" computer; one that will host the gaming world. Once the server side was up and running you could then connect to it through the client computers. It is easiest if you know the server's static IP address, for example 192.168.1.200, name and save this connection for future ease of use. After setting up the "server," it is a good idea to increase the RAM that the program has access to. Help with changing the Server RAM settings and other help can be found at the MinecraftEdu wiki."
Advice for other libraries interested in Minecraft?
“It might be good to get familiar with the game before offering it to the public! At least one person on staff should know what is in the game and the Minecraft lingo. The kids were way ahead of us! Still are, but that is ok. We are learning from them.”