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Slide Notes

Hello everyone. I'm Kellen Freeman. I work at the Delaware County District Library and I run our library's board game collection. Today I'll be here to share a bit about what we've done, what we currently do, and what you can do to start your own collection.

My plan is to stop periodically for questions, but if something is unclear or you want me to explain further what I was talking about, feel free to raise your hand and I'll be sure to cover it.
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Hello everyone. I'm Kellen Freeman. I work at the Delaware County District Library and I run our library's board game collection. Today I'll be here to share a bit about what we've done, what we currently do, and what you can do to start your own collection.

My plan is to stop periodically for questions, but if something is unclear or you want me to explain further what I was talking about, feel free to raise your hand and I'll be sure to cover it.

Why Games?

To begin, why should we include modern hobby board games in a library collection? Well the biggest reason I have is, why not? We've move away from being the book place to include movies, computer usage, bicycles, hotspots, video games, and more. Why not continue the trend of adding to the community's general recreational ability with games?

To give some more information, the games I'm referring to are known either as hobby or modern board games. They sometimes are called designer board games because the name of the designer is typically seen on the front of the box. I'll be calling them modern board games, but if you see any of those terms elsewhere, they refer to the same kind of game.

These games have moved beyond the traditional roll and move approach of the older board games. Modern games require thought and planning. Some more than others, but even easy games require some level of critical or creative thinking skills. Whether it's planning the optimal strategy or telling a great story, you'll need to think well as you play the game.

They're also growing in popularity. According to David Sax in his book The Revenge of Analog, board game sales have double-digit growth every year since 2008 and now make up around half of the game and puzzle portion of the $2 billion toy industry. Board game cafe's are emerging as an opportunity to pay a couple bucks and spend all day playing games together. In fact there's one over in Hudson called the Malted Meeple.

Which goes into another aspect. With all of the digital interaction we have anymore, it's nice to put your phone away for a couple hours and sit around a table with friends and family and interact together in person. Board games provide this opportunity to do just this.
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Games to Know

I want to take a moment to go over about 10 games I think you should know to give you an idea of the kinds of games I'm referring to when I discuss our collection. These games are classics and well regarded, and some have even won awards.


Catan, or Settlers of Catan as it is sometimes called, is a powerhouse and a legend in the modern board game movement. It's the game that got me started in the hobby and it's one that a lot of people know about since you can find it at Barnes and Noble and Target, not just hobby game stores.

In Catan, you'll all be exploring an island, gathering resources to expand your reach by building roads, settlements, and cities. Players fight over the best spots to be on the board, but it's still up to the luck of the dice as to which spots really are the best. Once one player hits 10 points, they are the winner.
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Ticket to Ride

Another classic game, Ticket to Ride has players racing across the country by train claiming routes for their own as they try and complete a line of trains from one city to another. But not everyone can go everywhere because space is limited so planning, flexibility, and a bit of luck will help a player win the game.
Photo by Anthony J


Hive is one of my favorite abstract strategies. Like Chess, players will be using tiles to move around the board. Each insect can only move in a certain way. But unlike Chess, the board is made of the tiles. So you're not limited to where you can go, as long as you stay connected to the hive. Once a player has surrounded their opponent's Queen Bee with tiles, they are the winner.
Photo by brian.demaio


Mysterium is a great cooperative game where one player is a ghost, and the other players are psychics trying to solve their murder and put them to rest. They'll have seven rounds to do this. The ghost will silently give clues to the other players using a deck of cards with fantastical artwork on them to try and help the psychics to link up the possible events of who committed the murder, where it took place, and with what object. If they can do this and correctly deduce which of the various options is correct before the end of the seventh round, they'll all win the game.
Photo by yoppy


Lanterns is a fantastic tile laying game where players will place lake tiles on the board in an attempt to gain lantern cards in order to make dedications to those who have passed. Whenever you lay a tile down, you get the color of lantern card that matches the color facing you. But, so do all the other players. So you'll need to be clever with your placement in order to get what you need without giving your opponents exactly what they need too.
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The Grizzled

The Grizzled is a great wartime simulator in a way that is different than any other wargame I've played. This one focuses on a few specific soldiers as they fight together in World War I. Each round, players will place cards from their hand with obstacles on them. They'll keep doing so in an attempt to empty their hand. But if too many of the same obstacle are on the table, the mission will be a failure. But if they can get all their cards played before the deck runs out, they'll make it through the war together. Oh and I should mention you can't talk to each other during the game, so you've got to take into account the possibilities that are around and hope that your teammates will have something they can follow up with to get the mission to be a success.
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Another abstract game, Qwirkle is what I like to refer to as color Scrabble. Each player has a hand of 6 tiles with colors and shapes. They'll be placing these tiles on the board trying to line up six tiles that either have six shapes of one color, or six colors of one shape. If they do, they'll score a Qwirkle for extra points. Otherwise, they earn points based on how many tiles they could lay. It's a bit of back and forth with when to play and when to wait that has a real good puzzle and thinking aspect to it, but still light enough that it's not impossible for kids to play.
Photo by Cat Sidh


Concordia is one of the best games I've played in a long time. Concordia has you exploring the Mediterranean trading goods and establishing depots along the way. You have a hand of action cards, and you play one card each turn to perform an action. You then can't perform that action again until you later take another action that lets you draw back your whole discard pile. So you have to plan along the way what's the best order of approach to your actions. You'll also gain more cards to better craft your strategy whether it's trading goods for money, establishing depots around the board, or just getting more cards. At the end of the game, those cards are also how your score points based on what you did in the game. So planning in the short term can help lead you to victory in the long term.
Photo by msaari

Five Tribes

The last game to cover is Five Tribes. If you've ever played Mancala, this is that general concept, but made into a bigger puzzle. The board is made up of tiles that are place in a different layout each game to force you to play differently than the last game. On your turn you'll move a set of pawns from one spot and drop them off around the board. Wherever you drop the last one indicates what you'll do that turn for your action, whether it's gaining goods, Djinns, placing palaces, or assassinating other pawns. At the end of the game, whoever has the most money from the various scoring possibilities wins the game.


Our Collection

I want to talk a bit about our collection and what we did at DCDL.

The idea started when I was being interviewed for a position I didn't get. They asked what I would add to the library and without a better answer just pulled out board games since it's my hobby.

Jump forward a year or so and I see a friend has added board games to his library. I ask him about it and begin seeing that this is a larger trend than I realized. So I put a packet of info together to propose we add them to our library and was met with approval. I worked to get an initial order put together and we went from there.

launched Feb '15

In February 2015 we launched our game collection with 22 titles. Since then it has grown to 119 currently circulating games with around 15 more being processed right now. We also have around 15 role playing game books which I'll cover a bit more in a moment.

The collection launched and I expected the games to maybe do alright. My definition of alright was around 5 check outs a month. But by the end of the first week, 21 of the 22 games had gone out. I went into panic mode and began looking at ordering more games. including a couple extra copies of the most popular titles.

The next batch went out in June and from there it's been a semi consistent every six months for the next batch of games. My goal is to begin ordering fewer games at more regular intervals instead of a couple big batches a year.
Photo by smohundro

2000+ circs

As of March 28, we had 2,363 total circs on our board game collection, with a recent average of about 160 per month. Overall I'm really impressed with the collection's performance. Patrons really like the games, and we've had a group of dedicated gamers who come in and seem to get a new game each time they check out.
Photo by marfis75

Great Geek Fest

One of the big exciting programming events we do at the library now is what we call the Great Geek Fest. This all day library con focused on cosplay, games, vendors, panels, and had prizes for contests. I was in charge of the board game area and we had several people come along to play board games that weren't yet in the collection. Some were huge hits like Dr. Eureka, while San Juan wasn't touched all day. I also planned for some tournaments, but no one signed up for them, so I still have prize copies of games sitting around to try again this year.

Role Playing Games

This February we launched a group of role playing games. These are the traditional pen and paper variety. We had Dungeons and Dragons books in our collection already, but that was about it. We then added to our board game collection some one book games.

What I mean by that is, typically it takes about 3 books to run a game of D&D, though not everyone playing needs all three. With some of our D&D books wandering off in the past, including one that never once got checked out, I wanted to make sure that the new games we got would still be playable if they met that fate.

So the games I looked for only needed one book to play. That way if they go missing, there aren't more books that aren't as usable in the collection.

In addition, the games I chose also came with PDF copies from the websites we bought them from. We wanted to use them, so I obtained the permission from each publisher to upload them to OverDrive so that our patrons can use them digitally as well.

Photo by wili_hybrid

Your collection

So now that we've covered what we did, let's talk about what you'll need to do to get your own game collection up and running at your library.


The first thing you should do is decide if they will circulate or if you'll have an in-house collection. This is something we decided after we got our first batch of games. My plan was to use them all in house, and ordered games with that in mind. Then our Deputy Director decided to make them circulating once we had purchased and processed them but before we put them out.

It was definitely the right call to make, but I would have considered some games in a different light had I known that.

When we started, patrons could borrow one game at a time for two weeks. If I knew we would lend them, then some games like Zombie Dice wouldn't have made the cut. Because I didn't think it would be as exciting to take home a tube of 13 dice for 2 weeks and play a game that takes only 10 minutes over a game that plays for an hour instead.

I was wrong, and Zombie Dice is one of our most popular games with 42 circs in it's history.

Still, some games I would have considered sooner, like games that take maybe 2 hours to play through. I didn't expect patrons would want to come to the library all day in order to play it, but had I known then that they could take them home, I would be more open to getting those.

So while the decision to keep or lend might not impact your patrons interests, it can impact your choices as you decide what to select.
Photo by Nick Sherman


The next thing I would suggest you decide is whether or not you'll charge for replacement parts. We could all the part of a game once it comes back and check to see if anything is missing. If so, we renew the game and ask the patron to return the part. If they can;t find it, we attempt to replace it t cost. We chose not to charge for replacements, but there are libraries that do charge .10 or .25 per part. We will charge you if you damage the box or the parts entirely, but not if you're missing one part. Publishers have been amazing at supporting us when parts come up missing. Usually all it takes is a quick email or an online form and parts are sent to us.

You also can order parts from websites like the Game Crafter or Print and Play Games. This slide has some of the parts available from the Game Crafter. This bag here, has roughly $8 worth of parts and is enough to fix several of our games if a piece or two go missing.

Now not everyone will send replacements. I'm in a lottery for a spare cardboard coin from one publisher just waiting on my chance. Likewise, some publishers have certain parts for sale, like we bought a pack of cards for Pandemic instead of getting one card, but from my experience with the publisher, I bet they would send just one card. But on the plus side, we have a complete set of cards.


When it comes to selecting games, I use a few resources to choose. The first is just my knowledge of games. I've played a lot and especially at the start of the collection, I knew more games that were fantastic than we had. Anymore, my personal knowledge only gets me so far.

So I turn to Board Game Geek to get a lot of the initial selection ideas and learn about games in a broad sense. Then I often go to YouTube to watch videos and see if the gameplay feels like it matches up to the description.

I mentioned game cafes earlier, and I have gone to play games there to test them out before purchasing games for the collection. In Columbus we have a large game club that has a lot of games called CABS which I can use to try before I buy.

On your handout I've got a few websites and video series that have been helpful in learning more about games in the past. I would suggest any of those. Likewise, there is a Facebook group of librarians that do games, and their hive mind is really helpful in knowing if something is a hyped up flop or a secret treasure.
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Point person

I highly recommend you have someone who will take the lead for this collection. Maybe that's you, maybe not. But it's really nice to have someone on staff who can know the collection well and answer questions for staff and patrons alike. These are not quite like books where you're just going to use a database to find similar authors to what people like. There's a bit of a learning curve if you're not already familiar.

I've been trying to secretly groom a couple of my coworkers into becoming knowledgeable about our games as well. They're friends that come over for my regular game nights, so it's not that hard, but it is something I'm trying to do to make sure that I'm not just the one who always has to answer questions.
Photo by amphalon


One thing to consider is your approach to educating patrons about the collection. You could put the games on the shelf and leave it at that. I wanted to take more of a step than that. Each time we put out new games, there's a list of the new games along with a brief description of the game.

The other approach was to create a small database that our patrons can look at. It has more detail on each game along with a video on how to play. I have some questions about how much it's used versus how much work I put into it, but I've got pretty good at making new pages and so it doesn't take that much effort to provide information to our patrons.

There is one last site you could use, and that is Board Game Geek. It's the database for board games and is also really heavy and hard to use at times. That's why I created our own in order to slim down tons of information into the bare bones approach to teach someone about the game.

How and if you decide to teach games is up to you. The other idea I want to do but never took off was game days where I could teach games from the collection. We had a bit of that at the Great Geek Fest and I think it went over well, and I'd like to revisit that idea at some point.
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Staff buy in

The big thing you may need to do is get staff buy in. Not everyone will be on board, and depending on the size of your library, not everyone has to be. My goal is to try and do as much of the work as I can to make sure that those around me don't have to do as much. We do share the load of checking in games throughout circ at all our branches. But I prep the games for the collection so all tech services has to do is stick the labels on the box and get them in the catalog. Then I offer to count the heavy games so that my coworkers don't have to if they don't want to.

My best bit of advice is incremental shifts. Start with games like Hive that have 22 tiles, or Zombie Dice which is 13 dice in a tube, or Rhino Hero which is 60 cards and a token. Don't grab the Feast of Odin or Terra Mystica which are basically an entire tree inside a box. Start slowly and build trust. Once the games go well, you can work to get bigger games that are a bit more complicated over time.
Photo by Hindrik S

write it down

Lastly, the best advice I can give with all of this is write it down. Once you have your criteria in place, get it on paper. I just had someone offer to donate a game to us that I don't think will go in the collection. I have a piece of paper that backs up why I don't think it will. I still have to see it to know for sure. This has helped me to reject subpar donations over the years and to accept games that were donated that do fit well with our desired goals.

That copy of our selection criteria is provided for you.

Photo by Kalexanderson

Prepping Games

So this time around I made sure to make a checklist for preparing our games. Last time we put games out I missed a couple of things and I was spending time catching up by putting labels on the boxes after they were out on the shelf. So this checklist has all the steps needed to get a game out the door. Probably a bit more extensive than it needs to be, but it's helpful to have more than less information. I included a copy of that for you.

To go down through that checklist, the first step is ordering. We order most of our games from a local hobby store. Those that we can't get for whatever reason we'll pick up on Amazon. Once we have them in hand I'll prepare them by punching out the cardboard bits, bagging and banding the parts together.

The next step is to print the rules. We don't use the original rule books. Instead we print the PDF copies that publishers provide. On rare instance I've had to copy a few of them which is a paint to get pages to line up front and back, but it can be done. Then I hand those off to our communications specialist who laminates them. Once those are assembled, I add labels to the bag. On the front gets one of these neon green labels asking patrons not to put them in the drop box. They follow this advice really well except for Mr. Jack. That game ends up in the bins on a kind of regular basis. I don't know what it is about that one. Then on the inside of the box there's an inventory label. This label holds the accurate information as to what parts are in the game. If a part goes missing and I don't get a replacement, I'll adapt this list to reflect that.

I then send them back to Technical Services. There they'll put the corner labels on, patch any weak spots on the boxes, and get them cataloged. They come back to me from there and I'll stick one of our giant rubber bands on them.

The final step is to update our informational offerings with the listing. That includes a wiki page for each game, updating the mechanics pages to reflect the new games, then creating the game list that we'll hand out to our patrons.
Photo by Rob Swatski


This kind of goes along with the previous slide of replacements. You'll need to decide what to do when things break. Box corners will tear, cards will get torn, boards will come apart. It will happen to you. Best to know ahead of time what you'll do about it.

For us, we repair whatever we can. Our repair wizard has fixed game boards for me and patched up boxes.

One thing we use are called label lockers. Chances are your tech services department has these already. They're really thick vinyl stickers commonly put over top of call numbers to keep them in place. We put them on all the corners of our games.

Additionally, you'll want a strong glue. I like Gorilla Glue because it's really strong, but doesn't burn plastic. We have a game called Memoir 44 which has these little plastic pieces that keep breaking from time to time. All it takes is a dab of glue and they're back in business.

Likewise, varnish is something I can suggest. Once again, Memoir 44 has dice which I noticed the symbols were fading from being handled so much. I quickly colored the symbols back on with sharpie and then sprayed them with a clear matte varnish. Looking back after a year, the dice are holding up great.

Some game cafes will also varnish their tiles to help them withstand being used over time. I haven't bothered to do this, but it is a step that some places go to. Additionally, some also sleeve their games. Sleeves are plastic covers that you can put cards in to give them a bit more stability and support. They're nice, I sleeve some of my own games, but I don't sleeve our games. It's in my view an extra cost that doesn't have quite that distinctive of a benefit. But others do, and it's a notable thing you can do if you want your games to last as long as they can.
Photo by Emily Barney

Learn More

Everyone should have a packet, and that's got some places you can go to find out more about the games I've talked about as well as where to can buy games from. Also there's a list of resources you can visit on the web that will let you get more involved in the community.

Photo by betta design

Things to consider

These last few notes are things you can consider, not directly related to how to start a collection, but more with your selection of games and how you make those decisions in the face of a changing game environment.
Photo by fPat


This has been a sticking point for me. Expansions are one of the things that makes modern board games great. Now after you've played your game 50 times, you aren't stuck with that same game for the next 50. You can buy an expansion that adds new content and changes the way you play your favorite games.

The problem is, how do libraries handle these?

I've wanted to dive into some expansion opportunities with our collection, but have been too nervous to do so. Here's some considerations.

Some games come with mini expansions built into the box. Examples include the River and now the Abbot expansions to Carcassonne, the playgrounds expansion to Quadropolis, and the extra cards for San Juan. These I have no problem including in the game because they come there. There are instructions in the box on what they are and how to use them.

What I get a bit more unsure of is when I add expansions into a game that weren't there to begin with. There are two types of expansions. Small and large. Large expansions are a game that needs another box just to fit it all in there. An example of this would be the Scoundrels of Skullport expansion for Lords of Waterdeep. Waterdeep already is a pretty decently sized box, but then Scoundrels adds another box just about the same size.

If those were sitting on the shelf together at the library, I'd need to band them together so you knew they could come together. Otherwise someone could walk home with a box they can't play.

On the other hand, there are small expansions. These are the ones I think could potentially work, but I'm concerned about patrons confusing parts of the expansion for parts of the main game.

Here though are a few expansions I'm considering trying out and seeing how they work.

Catan comes with a 5-6 player expansion. It could fit inside the main game's box and all it does is add a few parts necessary to allow the game to expand by a couple players. Nothing ground shaking, but it adds life to the game.

Hive is a fantastic game that has a couple of small expansions that add just another tile to the game. Two of these are already included in the other editions of Hive, so I think it would be a pretty safe bet to include them into the game.

Lastly, The Grizzled has an expansion that adds missions to the game and I think greatly improves the overall feel of it. All three of these expansions could be fit in the box of the base game with a small disclaimer of what the expansion is. I've been considering doing this for a while but I'm too nervous.

I'm sure our patrons are smart enough to figure it out, but I worry I'll get too much negative feedback on it. Still I'll probably start small with the Hive expansions later this year as a dry run of how it could work.
Photo by irrezolut

Revised Editions

Sushi Go Party
Another thing to consider are revised editions. Sushi Go is a popular game that comes in a small package and is great for families. But last year they released Sushi Go Party which more or less makes the original obsolete. The new one adds room for more players and a huge variety of play styles because instead of being limited to the original 8 varieties of cards, you now have around 30 to choose from, so you can play with your favorites or a random mix each game to keep it interesting each time.

We have two copies of Sushi Go in our collection right now, and I want to add Sushi Go Party, but I don't see the room for both in the collection. If I were you, I'd jump straight to the Party version and ignore the original, but I'm waiting for ours to either get damaged or lost in order to replace them with the new version of the game.

Revised Editions

Agricola: Family Edition
Last year, I stood up here and said I'd never buy Agricola for our library because I want my coworkers to like me. The amount of pieces and cards were too much and I just couldn't do it.

Well I bought it. Because they put out a new edition. This new edition makes everything a bit easier to keep track of and doesn't include as many crazy options as the old one did. Meaning it's easier for my coworkers to count the parts and still like me.

That's not to say it's empty in the box, there's still a lot there. But instead of a handful of colored cubes, there's pieces that look like animals, wheat, bricks, and stone. Making it easier to track what's in the box.

I'm still a little worried about this one, but less worried than I used to be.
Photo by oosp

Revised Editions

Viticulture: Essential Edition
Sometimes publisher's do amazing things, and then sometimes they do better than that. Stonemaier Games put out a beautiful game about wine making in Italy called Viticulture. Then later put out a huge expansion made of a bunch of different parts for it called Tuscany. These games are massive and cost a lot of money.

Well a couple years ago, they revised it, bringing out Viticulture Essential Edition. What this meant is we got a couple of the smaller modules from Tuscany that really make the base game a lot better without complicating it. These little additions make the game dynamic and interesting from the start of each game.

So now we have a game with an extra bit of boost to it, that we didn't originally have. To make it even better I'm pretty sure the Essential Edition is even cheaper than the original so you get more for your money too.

The reason I bring these examples up is because the game market is changing. Just like movies get director's cuts and video games have Game of the Year editions, board games can change over time and new versions get put out of classics. Keeping in mind these changes can help to make your collection better, and also are a potential headache you'll need to overcome from time to time.
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