April 24, 2018

Brian Mayer | Movers & Shakers 2015 — Innovators

Brian Mayer


Gaming and Library Technologies Specialist, Genesee Valley School Library System, Le Roy, NY

MLIS, SUNY at Buffalo, 2004

A founding board member of the American Library Association (ALA) Games and Gaming Round Table, he has helped rebuild the annual ALAPlay, which he chairs

about.me/bmayer; gvlibraries.org/gaming

Photo by JMS Studio & Gallery

He’s Got Games

For Brian Mayer, designing the award-winning board game Freedom: The Underground Railroad (Academy Games, 2013) about the abolitionist movement was an extension of the gaming and library technology specialist’s lifelong love of board games—he owns over 600—and his work as the gaming and library technologies specialist of the Genesee Valley School Library System (GVSLS) in upstate New York.

Freedom won the 2013 Dice Tower Gaming Award Honors for Best Cooperative Game, Best New Designer, and Best Game Theming. Recognition, however, says Mayer, is secondary to the “way that people have been able to connect with the game in the way that I hoped.”
“I took everything that I had learned from my years of working with games in the classroom,” says Mayer, “to create something that bridged education, the hobby market, and art.”

For the past eight years, the certified pre-K–six teacher, who also has a library degree, has been using board games as a way to enhance the learning experiences of students in GVSLS, working with classroom teachers to include game design as part of content instruction, going into classrooms and libraries regularly for game events, and using games as a way to reach middle and high school students with special needs and English Language Learners (ELL).

It’s in his work with special needs and ELL students that Mayer has “emerged as a leader,” says GVSLS director Christopher Harris (a 2008 LJ Mover & Shaker), who adds that high school students, many of whom are reading at an elementary level, are able to engage on a high level of game play.

Games are language-independent, too, says Mayer, who works with the region’s large (and growing) Spanish-speaking population. Students who are just learning or haven’t fully mastered English can be part of the same learning experience as the rest of the students, often excelling.
“There are a number of ways that you can measure success with games,” Mayer says, from games serving as a formative assessment tool for the application of concepts and skills to anchor points for learning.

“When…designing games, [students] need procedural language and programmatic thinking (great STEM skills) to create the rules,” he says. “[They] need to think about end design, usability, accessibility, with how end users interact with their product. They need to go through a tough editorial process…learning from failure and rewriting and redesigning. Just awesome stuff.”

This article was published in Library Journal's March 15, 2015 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.



  1. Lyn (Mayer) Mucha says:

    So proud of you my son! What a great honor!