A Publication of the Public Library Association Public Libraries Online

Using Pokémon GO to Connect With Your Library Community

by on September 15, 2016

Many librarians were savvy enough to get in on the Pokémon GO craze early. After figuring out the difference between a lure and a razz berry, they determined if their library was a PokéStop or gym. They may have hung signs that said what team was in control and maybe had the gamers post a picture of their favorite Pokémon and where they got it.[1] But then what? If this augmented reality technology is here to stay—and with reports of an upcoming Harry Potter Go game, it just might be—then where do we go from here? Libraries all across the country are brainstorming ways to use Pikachu and friends beyond books.

The Pierce County Library System (Wash.) has managed to make every location either a PokéStop or a gym, according to Elise Doney, the Teen Services librarian at the Lakewood Pierce County Library. “We’re having folks of all ages stop by the library,” Doney said. “I see a lot of adults playing. And also families.”[2]

Adam Jackman, Adult Services librarian at the Gig Harbor library in Pierce County, said he has seen a resurgence of interest in Pokémon-related materials from multiple generations. “I think it’s giving us something else to talk about,” Jackman said. “This is another bridge that we can talk to people about. Anything that opens that door (for communication), we’re excited to talk about.”[3]

The Skokie Public Library (Ill.) created a Pokémon GO Safari Program, where library trainers lead students, grade K–5 within a few blocks of the library to hunt Pokémon and learn about neighborhood landmarks.[4] Using Pokémon GO in conjunction with your local history collection can be a great way to share often hidden resources with the community.

The New York Public Library has used Pokémon GO to highlight some of its unique possessions like the Gutenberg Bible (third floor) and asks patrons to post pictures of their captured critters on Twitter and Instagram while tagging the library.[5]

If you browse Pinterest, you’re sure to find plenty of ideas to incorporate into your fall story times. The Craft Blog Stalker compiled twenty great ideas for a party or program.[6] There’s also a pin for Pokémon hair bows made with Perler beads and one for an origami Bulbasaur bookmark complete with teeth!

The Baltimore County Library System (Md.) recently hosted the Ready, Set Pokémon GO! Poké Crawl, in hopes of luring people—especially those that may not be regular library users—to all their branches. Josh McCready, a member of the marketing department, said many Pokémon GO players grew up in the ’80s and ’90s and haven’t been back to their local library since they were kids.

“It’s a good way to remind people what free services are available at their fingertips already at the library that they’ve often lost track of or didn’t even know about,” McCready said.[7]

 The augmented reality technology is something that will be working its way into many aspects of everyday life and something that tech-savvy librarians can have lots of fun with. The El Paso (Texas) Independent School District recently used the game to promote the upcoming school year.[8]

From naming and drawing new Pokémon to incorporating the characters into library scavenger hunts and all the things librarians traditionally do with book characters, libraries are sure to use the craze to come up with new and innovative programs. Pokémon speed dating, anyone?

Share your ideas with us in the comments.

[1] Melanie Lyttle and Shawn Walsh, “Pokémon GO: Strike While the Iron Is Hot,” Public Libraries Online, July 15, 2016.
[2] Elise Doney, “Pokémon Go connects Pierce County Library System with its communities” by Andrea Haffly, The News Gateway, July 28, 2016.
[3] Ibid.
[4]Pokemon GO Safari,” Skokie Public Library, August 16, 2016.
[5] Lauren Weiss, “Catching ‘Em All at NYPL with Pokémon GO,” New York Public Library [blog], July 8, 2016.
[6] Katie, “20 Pokemon Go Craft Ideas,” The Crafty Blog Stalker, July 29, 2016.
[7] Josh McCready, “County libraries use Pokemon Go to attract patrons” by Rachael Pacella, The Baltimore Sun, July 23, 2016.
[8]Watch: EPISD uses Pokemon to hype new school year,” El Paso Times, August 8, 2016.