On January 11th 2013, the Seattle Seahawks’ fans created a man-made earthquake that registered on the Richter Scale according to an article on ESPN’s website. This was not actually the first occurrence of such crowd noise, which was captured by seismographs in a 2011 playoff game. Some of Seattle’s residents caught the event live, but, according to the Seattle Times, others viewed it from an even more exclusive venue: Seattle’s Central Library. This creates an interesting dichotomy of perceptions: the shushing librarian and the raucous NFL crowd.
I do not advocate that every library should become a sports bar on Sundays, but instead that providing this service should not be seen as anathema to a library. If the mission of a library is to serve the needs and recreational goals of the community, allowing public viewing of sports events may be in keeping with this goal. If the mission is more focused on vocational and educational usage, then perhaps this is not an appropriate usage of the space.
There are pros and cons to sports-viewing in the library, and I will try to bring some of these to the forefront, though I welcome additions and amendments in the comments. First, sports viewings may bring in a different demographic from the community. It might be a way to reach out to young adult men, for instance. Alternatively, it might create a space for sports viewers who do not feel comfortable in sports bars, or who do not have interest watching games at home. Will this be an incentive for them to use other library services?
Sports-viewing creates a community space of people with similar interests. It also can provide equity, by allowing sports fans who might not be able to attend live games, or afford big screen televisions and pricey cable and satellite packages, to truly have a sports experience.
The potential issues of sports-viewing in the library are also fairly numerous. What are the copyright implications? Are there limits on the number of people who can view the sporting event? The size of the television permitted? Churches have been having Superbowl parties for some time and the NFL has provided some guidelines–such as a need to use the church space rather than rented space and not charging for the event. Would these guidelines be the same for libraries?
There is also a moral question with regards to sports. Hockey and football have been embroiled in concussion controversies, for instance. Will there be a negative response from some members of the community as a result of sports screening? Will staff members have issues with this? A logistical problem also presents itself: if some community members are interested in spending quiet Sunday afternoons at the library, does the space allow for this, in addition to sports viewing? If a game goes into overtime could this cause a conflict with the library’s hours? What should the library do in this instance?
If a library decides to bring sports viewing into its space an important decision is how often are they going to show games? During the playoffs exclusively or also when there are big regular season events? Should it be limited to certain sports based on their popularity or other considerations? Should it be focused on local sports or a way for people who might not have access to their teams at home to be able to see them?
The answers to these questions and to whether sports should be shown in the library, in general, are based on the mission of the library and the desires of the community. But the idea should not be discarded simply because the library does not wish to embrace change. Does your library offer sport-viewing? Tell us about it in the comments below.
 “Seattle fans generated earthquake.” ESPN.com news services. Accessed January 13, 2014. http://espn.go.com/nfl/playoffs/2013/story/_/id/10282868/2013-nfl-playoffs-seattle-seahawks-fans-generated-earthquake-marshawn-lynch-td-run
 Merchant, Safiya. “Seattle Central Library to show Seahawks game on big screen.” The Seattle Times. Accessed on January 13, 2014. http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2022635298_libraryseahawksxml.html
 Godwin, Susan Fontaine. “NFL official statement provides rules for church Super Bowl parties.” Christian Copyright Solutions. Accessed on January 13, 2014. http://www.christiancopyrightsolutions.com/blog/post/2013/01/25/NFL-Official-Statement-Provides-Rules-for-Church-Super-Bowl-Parties