If you have spent any amount of time with me this summer, I’ve probably told you about how much I love the Ann Arbor District Library’s Summer Game.
If you haven’t seen me…well, fortunately the internet furnishes the means to tell you all about it from a distance!
The Summer Game is the brainchild of some genius, and since 2011 has been giving library members a more novel way to spend the summer than solely reading novels. Instead of the traditional dictate to read a certain 5 or 10 books in summertime, it makes the library and all its resources a treasure hunt. As Minesweeper taught Windows users how to click and right-click, the Summer Game teaches users – children, teens, adults – to use both the online catalog, and the library in general, more effectively.
Gamemakers have prepared a series of colorful badges, with questions and clues to find the pun-tastic codes needed to earn them. You learn facts about fallen empires, fashion trends, bears, NASA missions, and comic book heroes, to name a few, as you follow the clues to find which items in the catalog have a game code attached. You get points for entering codes, and more points when you’ve entered all the codes for a particular badge. You get points when you check items out, log your enjoyment of them each day, rate, and review them.
You get points for exploring the library branches. I live closest to Malletts Creek, but the Summer Game gives me a reason to look at what Traverwood and Westgate have to offer (including reservable rooms and Sweetwaters coffee). There are codes at various library spots (the director’s office, the Friends of the Library shop, the Goblin game-within-the-game) and events (the Board of Trustees meeting, the Summer Bag sale, the classes in the secret lab, concerts, lectures, the A2 Comic Arts Festival). Going to the Board meeting is how I learned that across the 5 branches, AADL hosted over 2000 events last year (a number that climbs every year)!
You get codes by exploring Ann Arbor. Each year features different free spaces, including some of Ann Arbor’s 150+ parks and nature areas. Specific bits of signage include the words chosen for game codes.
You get points for visiting businesses the library has partnered with: Zingerman’s, Literati, The Ride, The Lunch Room, Food Gatherers. The code’s in the window, if you prefer not to go in (or visit after they’re closed), but Zingerman’s Deli also took the step of preparing Flavor Passports this year, where you get codes for sampling some of their wares. Twist my rubber arm, y’all.
You get badges for milestones – a bonus if you read, watch, or download something for 50 days of the summer, a bonus if you rate a certain number of items and write a review.
And once you’ve accrued all your points, you can redeem them for prizes: a fine forgiveness card, coasters, umbrellas, chocolate. There’s something new each summer, thanks to the Friends of the Library.
When you don’t have the traditional summer vacation, or children who do, the Summer Game is a reminder of earlier leisurely days, a callback to childlike wonder and curiosity. It’s a reminder to play (very literally the reason I was putting Legos together last night, for the first time in a decade). It’s a nudge to try new books or movies or tools (like a sewing machine, mini theremin, or guitar), a nudge to make things, to learn, to break out of the bubble and go somewhere new – even if somewhere new isn’t very far away.
If played to the fullest extent possible, the AADL Summer Game makes for eager readers, Ann Arbor experts, contributing users, curious explorers, local consumers, and engaged citizens.