by Fallon Bleich
previously published 11/13/14
One Library’s Quest to Start a Board Game Group
Earlier this year, the reference department of the Bentonville Public Library, where I work, decided to put together some new adult programming. One of the programs that came out of their brainstorm was the TableToppers group, named for the Wil Wheaton YouTube show. While the program is still gaining some traction, so far we’ve had regular attendance and people really enjoy coming. I interviewed her to get some insight into what the process was for starting the group, as well as how she went about launching the program:
Why did you decide to start doing TableToppers?
I was introduced to the wonderful world of tabletop gaming by Wil Wheaton. Tabletop gaming is not the same as a board game such as Monopoly or Candy Land. Tabletop games are more intensive and typically require more strategy whereas board games are mostly luck. Being a fan of Wil Wheaton’s YouTube show TableTop and seeing the success of his crowd funding for season 3, I saw an opportunity to use his success and influence to bring in a new demographic of patrons. Our community has an untapped population of those who are dedicated gamers and geeks. I saw this as an opportunity to start a whole new program type for our adults.
Knowing the higher prices of the type of games that we were planning to promote, I started reaching out to our local game stores. While they are able to contribute to our program, we still needed more games for participants to play. The owner of the first store had mentioned that some companies will donate games or send out demo copies. Demo copies are typically an unfinished prototype of a game made for game stores and others to use to test and see if the game may be popular or find some of the flaws. Having this thought in mind, I wrote to some of the more prominent game manufacturers and distributers that would be the most likely to be able to help support our program. The first round of letters that I sent out got a great response. To date, we have had a total of 24 games donated. In addition to the donation requests that we sent, we also received donations from staff members. At this time, we still have committed donations that have not arrived yet.
How many sponsors do we have for it?
While we have received a lot of encouragement from everyone that we have reached out to for support, we have had 5 corporate/local sponsors and 2 individuals who have already donated games to the event. Currently, we have at least 4 committed sponsors from whom we have not yet received their donations. There are still come companies that wrote to that have not yet responded but we are hopeful to hear from them soon.
Rio Grande Games
Alderac Entertainment Group
Barnes & Noble Booksellers-Rogers, AR
Steve Jackson Games
Galaxy Games-Springdale, AR
Gamer Utopia-Rogers, AR
How easy/hard was it to get the games?
Considering what we are asking for from each sponsor, we have had a relatively easy time getting donations. The hardest part of putting together all of the material to send/take to the potential sponsor was creating the material. Knowing what our end goal would be (participating in International Tabletop Game Day 2015), we had to figure out how to pull all of our ideas together to create a cohesive program. While Wil Wheaton has a great format for his show, we had to restructure it to fit into a limited time frame on a larger scale.
What methods have you used to get an audience for it?
While we are promoting the event by the usual ways of posters, handouts, press release, social media, and in-house promotion we have also reached out to our local gaming community by way of the local game stores and venues. We have also reached out to the local RPG (role play game) group to help spread the word. So far, these methods have worked pretty well.
Our upcoming game this month: http://reviews.libraryjournal.com/2014/03/blogs/games-gamers-