"Engaging Beyond Our Walls" grant will turn libraries into hubs for creating neighborhood games using local history and landmarks

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"Engaging Beyond Our Walls" grant will turn libraries into hubs for creating neighborhood games using local history and landmarks

American University and DC Public Library receive 2-year grant

Learning about a local sculpture by texting it. Taking an audio tour or a story walk using a cell phone. Soon, people in 25 communities across the United States could learn how to make outdoor games and other interactive experiences at their library.

American University's Game Center and the DC Public Library have received a two-year, $249,000 grant to offer libraries tools, training and templates to create neighborhood games. Called "Engaging Beyond Our Walls," the project addresses three needs lacking in public libraries:

  • basic training in game design for communities, 
  • templates of successful games result in community participation, including with ties to local history and public space,
  • free authoring tools that are easy enough for non-technical users to create games. 

Libraries will leverage their expertise in media literacy and local information to help give everyone access to game design tools, amplify overlooked voices and engage new audiences. The goal is that community members create more than 100 free local games and interactive stories, reaching thousands of players. 

"Libraries are often the only institutions in neighborhoods that provide both civic and community content,” said Benjamin Stokes, project director and Associate Professor at American University. “With this grant we can demonstrate that local, interactive games can connect us more deeply to our physical streets and local history, and ultimately our neighborhood and community." 

The American University Game Center explores the impact of games and play in contexts like  health, education, policy and governance. The project was inspired by Stokes's recent book, "Locally Played." The DC Public Library will guide the curriculum development around local history and video training needed to expand the project.

The project will begin with five anchor libraries in the Mid-Atlantic region that will host workshops and help create training videos. Following this initial group, other libraries will be brought on in two groups of 10 through online self-directed training.  

"Engaging Beyond Our Walls" was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS, LG-250108-OLS-21). "As pillars of our communities, libraries and museums bring people together by providing important programs, services, and collections. These institutions are trusted spaces where people can learn, explore and grow," said IMLS Director Crosby Kemper. "IMLS is proud to support their initiatives through our grants as they educate and enhance their communities."

To sign up to be notified about major project announcements, including calls for libraries to apply, visit: https://forms.gle/PgBijyMGWjzmQ4taA



The American University Game Center serves as a hub for experiential education, research, and creative development of games and interactive media experiences. The Center takes a ‘Games +’ approach to its work, exploring the impact of games and play in a variety of contexts (games + health, games + education, games + policy and governance, etc.). Founded in 2013, the Center is a joint initiative of the School of Communication and the College of Arts and Sciences. The Game Center has previously launched games and interactive stories with the Smithsonian Institution, NPR affiliates like WAMU 88.5, neighborhood groups like the Adams Morgan Day Festival Committee, educational companies like the Educational Testing Service, the National Institute of Mental Health, and more. Our games have been played more than a million times. https://gamelab.american.edu/ 

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation's libraries and museums. We advance, support, and empower America’s museums, libraries, and related organizations through grantmaking, research, and policy development. Our vision is a nation where museums and libraries work together to transform the lives of individuals and communities. To learn more, visit www.imls.gov and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.