PLAY Book Review – The Library as Playground

Summer Blog Series 2023 – Summer, the Libraries & PLAY #2

Check out the next installment of our Summer Blog Series.  Remember, PLAY is important no matter what season it is…so NO SUMMER LEARNING LOSS here! Guest blogger Noah Lenstra, PhD, shares a summary and review of a recent book that highlights the intersection of play and public librarianship.

PLAY Book Review – The Library as Playground: How Games and Play are Reshaping Public Culture

Leorke, Dale, and Danielle Wyatt. The library as playground: How games and play are reshaping public culture. Rowman & Littlefield, 2022

Australians Dale Leorke and Danielle Wyatt recently wrote and published an entire book on the topic of the library as playground.

In this book they explore how games and play are reshaping the design, spaces, programming, and even the daily life of public libraries in Australia, Singapore, and Finland.

Having backgrounds in urban design and planning, Leorke and Wyatt are particularly interested in both permanent and temporary transformations in public library spaces, particularly things like gaming zones, makerspaces, escape rooms, LARPs (live action role-playing games), and other immersive play experiences supported by public libraries in those three countries.

The opening chapter – “Play in Public Culture” – sets the stage by discussing how play has become more ubiquitous as a concept. We now think a lot more about the importance of play in our daily lives, in our urban planning, in our leisure time, and in our digital culture.

This increasing ubiquity of the idea of play shapes how public librarians approach their work. Public libraries are not islands but instead reflect and shape public culture.

As games and play continue to become more central to our culture, the library as a broker and advocate for playful spaces, places, and nourishment grows in importance.

How has play and public librarianship been coming together in Singapore, Australia, and Finland?

Based on their ethnographic research, Leorke and Wyatt find that “play has become more prominent, more varied, and more expansive in library spaces” (p. 121).

The authors discuss how in Finland playful librarianship has included developing new library collections that include snowshoes, ice hockey gear, and trekking poles, which the authors say “echo[es] Finnish culture’s deep roots in the outdoors and nature” (p. 43).

Chapter 3, “The Well-Played Library,” features different modalities of games in libraries: digital games, tabletop and physical games, and immersive games.

Chapter 4 on “the spatial and temporal transformation of libraries” includes sections on gaming zones, children’s/teen zones, makerspaces, and playful architecture.

Chapter 5 on “partners in play” looks at how public librarians work in collaboration with those in the gaming industries in Melbourne and Helsinki, and it also includes a section on how library facilities seek to “integrate traditional areas for play in the city-parks, playgrounds, and public squares-into [library] spaces and services” (p. 87).

Chapter 6 concludes the book with a call to action to put play at the center of our understanding of public librarianship.

Anyone interested in understanding how play has become more ubiquitous around the world would find this book to be valuable reading. The book also suggests possibilities not only for the integration of play into public libraries, but also for any public spaces.

This is the first of two blog posts I’ll be writing this summer on recent books that highlight the intersection of play and public librarianship.

My next blog post will focus on Simple Positive Play at the Library, a new book written by an American public librarian that just came out in Spring 2023.

The Library as Playground: How Games and Play are Reshaping Public Culture. By Dale Leorke & Danielle Wyatt. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2022. 149 pp.

About the Author: Noah Lenstra, PhD, is Director of Let’s Move in Libraries and associate professor of Library & Information Science at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.  Learn more about Noah at and follow him on Twitter at @NoahLenstra.

About the Summer PLAY Blog Series: This summer we are featuring some great PLAY resources with our 2023 Summer PLAY Blog Series, starring invited play partners as our content experts.  PLAY is important no matter what season it is…so NO SUMMER LEARNING LOSS here!  Noah Lenstra, Director of Let’s Move in Libraries, is reprising his Summer, the Libraries & PLAY blog series.  This summer Noah will highlight recent books on the intersection of play and librarianship.