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Attention, Libraries: It's Time to 'Switch' It Up
Posted On April 11, 2017
On March 3, 2017, Nintendo released its 15th video game console (counting both home and portable consoles), the Nintendo Switch, to consumers in the U.S. Presented as a hybrid device that can be used both at home and on the go, the Switch is a step forward for the company after the subpar sales of its previous console, the Wii U.

The system launched with only a handful of games, but those that were released are excellent. Titles such as “1-2-Switch” and “Snipperclips” would be a welcome addition to any library’s video-gaming program, because they emphasize fun and teamwork. The standout is none other than the long-awaited next title in The Legend of Zelda series, “Breath of the Wild.” This open-world adventure and puzzle-solving game is a true masterwork. To help librarians relate to this: It’s as if a classic writer such as Jane Austen or Charles Dickens came out with another book. “Breath of the Wild” is the video game equivalent of a legendary novel. It is a breathtaking game that manages to bring together all that is wonderful about the storytelling and gaming experiences.

Throughout the rest of 2017, Nintendo plans to release new games such as “Mario Kart 8 Deluxe,” “Splatoon 2,” and “Super Mario Odyssey.” These titles, which are part of what has proven to be, over time, extremely successful franchises for the company, will help determine whether or not the Nintendo Switch will be a success in the long run.

Communal Gaming

The experience of using and playing the Switch is amazing. Nintendo’s longtime emphasis on fun and connecting with others is front and center on this console, and nowhere is this more apparent than the game “1-2-Switch,” a collection of short mini-games that encourages players to turn away from the screen, look their opponent in the eye, and enjoy a quick burst of video-gaming fun. Playing off the idea that players “switch” games and styles of play quickly, “1-2-Switch” offers 28 mini-games that can be picked up and played by those of all different ages or skill levels. The mini-games in this collection are all over the map (Have you ever wanted to virtually milk a cow? Well, now you have your chance with the mini-game “Milk.”) and designed to get the players active (“Boxing Gym” and “Dance Off”) and communicating with each other. You’ll find yourself spending more time talking and laughing with the players around you than you will looking at the screen.

Bill Sannwald, principal librarian at the San Diego County Library, is excited about the portability of the system and how it offers the chance to play a multiplayer game at a moment’s notice: “Something like 1-2-Switch is actually perfect since you can set it up anywhere, not to mention it encourages (requires, even!) interpersonal interaction and not just staring a screen. The Switch portability and no need to necessarily set it up on a TV is pretty huge. For libraries, that makes it ideal. Just set it up on a table and you’re good to go!” Libraries are all about connecting communities to people, information, and experiences, and the Switch is a system whose main focus is dedicated to fostering just that.

Potential Drawbacks

There are a few downsides to the system. Its internal storage tops out at 32GB (6GB of that is dedicated to the OS), so most users will need to purchase a microSD card if they wish to buy their games digitally from the Switch itself. The uniqueness of the system (the portable screen and the tiny controllers) could also present a problem for public libraries with video-gaming programs. The Joy-Con controllers, which can be removed from the sides of the Switch’s tablet device, are small and seem fragile. Paul Palmer, teen librarian at the Upper Darby Township and Sellers Memorial Free Public Library system, remarked that “controllers are the big question and concern right now for library use” and that “getting enough equipment for 8 players to play together could be super expensive if it means all new controller purchases.” Libraries that hope to use the Switch for video game programs will have to make quite a substantial initial investment right at the start if they hope to have success with it.


I’ve spent 1 month with the console, and what a great month it has been. One morning, I brought it to my library for my co-workers to try out. After a brief introduction to “1-2-Switch,” my co-workers (who are not gamers) were jumping from mini-game to mini-game. The favorites seemed to be “Quick Draw” (a one-on-one Western-themed shooting duel) and “Runway” (cue your inner RuPaul and strut down the runway while making dynamic poses). Many laughs were had, and the game definitely brought the staff together and created a positive experience.

Don’t let the downsides mentioned previously get you down: The Nintendo Switch is a quality system that will provide hours of enjoyment. It also gives librarians another great tool to use to connect with their communities. People can learn a lot through play, and in time, we’ll see more of this with the Nintendo Switch.

Justin Hoenke is a library consultant who is interested in public libraries as community centers, supporting youth services staff to help them achieve their goals, and video game collection development. You can learn more about his work in libraries at Hoenke previously worked in public libraries across the U.S. and New Zealand in leadership and youth services.

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