By Ivan Pereira
The Queens Public Library has always been the place for readers to find books on famous literary heroes such as Tom Sawyer and Harry Potter, but they can also check out the latest adventures of Super Mario and Master Chief as well.
For the last two years, the library has been loaning out video games at selected branches as part of a pilot program. The selections range from kid-friendly games such as the one featuring Dora the Explorer to those meant for hardcore older gamers such as “Grand Theft Auto IV” and “Call of Duty: Black Ops.”
Joanne King, a spokeswoman for the Queens Public Library, said the organization started the program as a way to give its members free and easy educational and entertainment forms of multimedia.
“Many are [about] geographical skills,” she said of the library’s game selection.ï»¿ “The library is committed to recreation as well.”
The roughly 1,000 titles include games for the Sony PlayStation 3, Microsoft Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii gaming consoles. Library card users can take out the titles for a period of seven days at a time, according to King.
Although the program is only operating at 31 branches, including the Central branch in Jamaica and the Bayside, Forest Hills, Long Island City, Richmond Hill and Whitestone branches, the games are popular items.
“It is a small section because they go out quickly and they’re constantly taken out,” she said.
King said the library has received no complaints about having video games that are more violent and said they have strict policies on loaning the titles to young library users. Users under the age of 12 are given access only to material that is rated appropriate for them, according to King.
“If a child has restricted access, they cannot take out anything — games included — that is rated above that age level. If the parents give permission, they can take out anything they please,” King said.
Library users had mixed reactions to the new offerings.
Martine Feitel, a frequent user of the Bayside branch, said young cardholders are already distracted with the games at home and on the computers at the library.
“They’ll never do their school work,” she said.
Fellow Bayside branch user Mary Pat Gannon, who teaches English at Archbishop Molloy High School, said access could indirectly help youths’ literacy skills since they are exposed to the countless shelves of good books that surround the games.
“In terms of diversity, it’s good for young people to get into the English language,” she said.
Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4546.