South Charlotte

Library offers games, teaches lessons

Lounging in an easy chair in front of a large TV screen at ImaginOn, 12-year old Kabah Coletrane and his friends are enjoying a turn at Rock Band 2 on the library's PlayStation 3 system.

Muttering through his best version of a 90s grunge-rock song, Coletrane is taking his shot at singing.

Coletrane and his buddies may not realize it, but at the same time they are developing certain life skills the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library system has targeted through its new Learn, Quest, Play initiative.

Learn, Quest, Play uses video games and board games to teach such lessons as teamwork, sportsmanship, and problem solving. Sometimes the games are available on a casual, walk-in basis. But mostly, structured activities or tournaments are held, including teen events this week.

On Tuesday, the West Boulevard branch will break out its Wii and Xbox systems 2-7 p.m. ImaginOn will host Xbox Kinect activities all week including Sports on Tuesday, Joyride on Wednesday, Adventures on Thursday and Dance Central on Friday.

ImaginOn is open 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday-Saturday.; and 1-6 p.m. Sunday.

"The impetus behind Learn, Quest, Play," says Kelly Czarnecki, ImaginOn's Teen Services Librarian. "... is we were looking for ways to showcase our programs to the community, our stakeholders, in a way that says we're bringing value to people that use the library and who participate in these certain programs."

Czarnecki says gaming has been taking place at Charlotte Mecklenburg Libraries at least since the start of her tenure in 2006. Learn, Quest, Play places a system-wide umbrella over all the casual gaming activities branches used to conduct on their own.

Teens working together through gaming was on display a recent Saturday when Coletrane and his friends gathered in The Loft, ImaginOn's second floor teen area.

One of the bystanders tolerating Coletrane's, ahem, off-key grunge rock vocals was 16-year old Micah Abdullah Smith, whose father's home is just a short Razor scooter ride away from ImaginOn. Sharing a cringed expression with the rest of Coletrane's friends and checking his ears, a grinning Smith offered a light-hearted plea.

"Make it stop," he says.

Smith says he regularly participates in video game tournaments ImaginOn hosts. He and his sister, 14-year old Amatullah Smith, were among the half-dozen or so challengers from Charlotte who played an online Super Smash Bros. tournament with teens from Detroit. ImaginOn is hosting an online Super Smash Bros. tournament with a Madison, Wis., library 3 p.m. Thursday.

The board games the library system offers have more of a literary slant to them. Among those on the game list are Scattergories, Pictionary, and Apples to Apples.

"There are games the teens pick up on," said Czarnecki. "And we saw that kind of teamwork come out in some of the games because they have to learn the rules, they have to figure it out together."

Youths can experience giant checkers, about the diameter of a basketball on a room-sized checker board, and a giant Connect 4 game.

For details, visit www. cmlibrary .org .