Western Brooklyn

Brooklyn Public Library Gets $3 Million Grant To Bring An Xbox To Every Branch

A group shot of Assemblymembers and library staff at a funding celebration at the Central Library this morning. (Photo by Gregg Richards)
A group shot of Assemblymembers and library staff at a funding celebration at the Central Library this morning. (Photo by Gregg Richards)

New York State Assemblymembers have determined bringing video game consoles (and other technology) to every Brooklyn Public Library branch is high priority, and have secured $3 million in state funds to see their vision through.

According to a press release, “the equipment will help BPL establish a baseline level of technology in each branch and customize digital offerings to meet the unique needs of Brooklyn’s neighborhoods.”

While it is difficult to understand how these digital offerings are in any way shape or form customized — Are Xboxes particularly fitting with the community needs of Bensonhurst, PS4s with Gravesend? Is Bay Ridge clearly the type of neighborhood that most values the Wii? What on earth do they mean? — new technology will obviously be hugely beneficial to local libraries, which have ubiquitously outdated computers, a heavily used resource.

Library staff members helped choose the equipment, and will aid in the effort to show library patrons how to use it. The technology will also augment STEM programming currently offered at each library.

The equipment to be received by each branch includes:

  • Video game console: Xbox, PS4, or Wii
  • Portable PA system (for the 2/3 of our branches who do not already have)
  • 5 iPad Airs 2
  • MacBook Pro
  • Windows Laptop
  • Flatscreen TV 50 – 55″
  • Lego Robotics kits
  • Little Bits kits

What do you think, is this a good use of state money, or perhaps this cash would be better funneled towards, oh, our decrepit public transit system? Our rapidly aging infrastructure? Our dangerously potholed roads? Better job-help services?

Just earlier this month, BPL president and CEO Linda Johnson noted at the reopening of the New Utrecht Library branch that the New Utrecht Library alone requires “$5 million in projects”, including extensive exterior work, to be “what it needs to be.”

What’s more important, the crumbling facade of a building or an Xbox?

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  1. I have two sides to this story:

    One side tells me this is a good thing, video games surely helped stimulate my brain growing up and definitely helped me improve my critical thinking – despite what my parents and other feeble-minded adults ever thought. Surely this can help the students in some way, I mean, it helped me right?

    The other side tells me this is a disastrous idea, for a few reasons: 1. Video game consoles become obsolete, and fairly quickly, as do many if not all of these electronic devices. Sure the $3m influx is nice now, but you won’t get a $1m influx each year after to make sure the technology is up to date. 2. This doesn’t help an ongoing problem that I think the youth of today has already, which is the fact that young children DON’T go outside! They do not go outside for fresh air, to see the sights and sounds, to talk to people on the street, or socially apply themselves anywhere outside of their home. All this technology does is shelter them to stay indoors and apply themselves to gadgets, rather than going outside and learning real social skills that, if left undeveloped, will haunt them for the rest of their lives.

    I hope I’m not the only person who feels this way…

  2. I agree that we need to get more kids playing outdoors. It is vital to good health, mental well-being and social integration.

    However, libraries are repositories of knowledge, and the average kid has significantly less knowledge about tech than I did when I was younger. Yes, they all know how to operate their devices, but it’s the rare kid who understands how and why their devices operate, and how to repair them when (small) things go wrong. My son is a whiz at all sorts of gadgets, game systems and online services, but he simply won’t let me teach him how to run a proper virus or malware scan, or how to deal with matters when his system starts to slow. He just puts in a call to “Geek Dad”. More kids need to be given the chance to learn about the hard and soft innards of computers and the like. I once thought computers would be the thing my kids would want to tinker with, the way my friends and I used to tinker with bikes and cars. Not to be. I hope the libraries offer classes on all sorts of computer skills for all ages.

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