Gaming for Dollars
Senior Library Manager
Chesapeake Public Library, VA
MPA, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA, 2005; MLS, University of Kentucky, Lexington, 2000
Two amateurs with one chance to write the greatest vampire novel ever; epublishorbust.blogspot.com
Photo by Nancie Laing
While brainstorming possible ideas for a financial literacy program at Chesapeake Public Library (CPL), Jim Blanton thought guest speakers and other ideas seemed “so ordinary.” He pitched the idea of creating an online video game that required players to learn about money matters to help a character named $teve avert financial disaster.
“Finance is an intimidating subject for most people. I know it is for me,” Blanton says. “I wanted to make it visually appealing and fun so you didn’t realize you were learning.”
Funded with a $100,000 grant from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Investor Education Foundation, $ave $teve was born. Blanton worked with Norfolk State University’s Creative Gaming and Simulation group and with local artists, who designed the look of the game, including $teve, who resembles Blanton. $ave $teve can be played at child, teen, and adult levels. Links to unbiased financial information give players the knowledge to help $teve overcome his money challenges.
Blanton’s known at his library for his creative and unconventional approach, says Phyllis Schirle, CPL’s director of PR. “Ideas flow from Blanton, and he’s able to create accessible programs and market them, especially important in the case of $ave $teve because financial information is perceived as dull,” says Schirle.
Most recently, Blanton’s “Scanversations” (which enable patrons to interact with as many library staff as possible) introduced library users to QR codes. Staff posted book reviews online and then wore QR codes on their badges that directed patrons to the links.
It’s a little early to know the impact of $ave $teve, which launched in June 2011. By February, the game had 6,447 page views. The library is partnering with local schools to use the game to supplement learning. If Blanton’s track record for other programs is any indication, it should be a success. For example, his annual FantaSci event started in 2002 with 950 attendees and had grown to 3300 people in 2011. The Labor Day weekend awards presentation for $ave $teve participation drew 3000.
Blanton says it is important to stimulate curiosity about library programs and find community partners who spread the word. “You can’t just put something out there and hope that people come,” Blanton says. “You have to go out and seek partners who are as excited about it [as you are].”