Go and libraries are natural partners, not just because of longtime efforts to stock libraries with go books but because libraries have also often hosted go clubs. Which is why the AGA’s Chris Kirschner, 2008 AGF Teacher of the Year Vincent Eisman and I found ourselves among 20,000 librarians at the American Library Association’s (ALA) annual conference last week in New Orleans.
The American Go Foundation (AGF) sent us out to promote free equipment and books to youth librarians. Libraries across the country are stocking lots of manga (Japanese comics) because they pull kids in. From my own program, at a public library in Boulder, CO, I knew Hikaru no Go was a gold mine: once kids read it, they want to play go. And with Winston Jen’s generous donation of 1,000 sets of Hikaru, we figured we would be in a good position to reach out, especially since the AGF is giving libraries and schools the entire 23-volume set for free.
We knew the event was going to be big, but we were shocked at how huge the convention center was. The building itself ran for almost two miles, and the vendor area housed 900 exhibitors. I had arranged to have our booth in the Graphic Novel/Gaming Pavilion, and once the conference opened, we had a steady stream of visitors.
All three of us have done a lot of demos before, but we felt that this was very different. People were not casually interested, or just wandering by and curious: they were focused, excited, and looking specifically for ways to engage kids and teens in their libraries. A great number of them were members of YALSA, the Young Adult Library Services Association. They were very enthusiastic about what we were providing, and seemed like a perfect target for us. There were also a number of library directors and people in other departments who took information and said they would give it to the right person at their branch. Not only did 113 libraries sign up for a free set of Hikaru on the spot, but we also gave out over 700 brochures, about 500 copies of The Way to Go, almost 200 starter CDs and 280 cardboard sets. We even taught librarians how to play right there in the booth as well, and they all seemed fascinated.
The AGF has been reaching out to libraries for a couple of years now, so I was hoping we might encounter some people who already knew about us. There were several who had, and they raved about how much they appreciated our services. One school library already had a go program, with equipment from us, but didn’t know we gave away Hikaru now, so their librarian was psyched to order it. Another one told me that the program was going strong for a while, but then it died out when some of the kids moved on. She said it successfully resurrected itself this past year when two fifth graders read Hikaru and got into the game. I ran into a librarian from Sacramento, who said she had had many go demos at her library in the past. When I asked who did them, she said it was None Redmond, Japanese professional Michael Redmond’s mother, and a tireless promoter of youth go. Another librarian said the kids really love go at her branch, and that the equipment we sent gets used all the time.
Even at night, when we were “off-duty,” we found go connections. After strolling down Bourbon Street, where we soaked in the live jazz and the beautiful French Quarter architecture, a waiter at one restaurant overheard us mention the word atari, and asked if we played go. We were pleasantly surprised to find a fellow player at random and he told us there were a couple of go clubs in New Orleans, although we didn’t have time to visit any of them. A security guard at the convention center also turned out to be a player, and had contacted me in advance through Tiger’s Mouth, our youth website.
Much to our delight, a good number of the librarians had already heard of go, Hikaru, or both. It seemed that everywhere we went we saw evidence that go continues to break into the national consciousness. Chris Kirschner remarked on how much ground had been gained in the past 30 years and mused that “we can never underestimate the value of the seeds that we are planting,” and that one never knows what teaching even one person how to play go might lead to.
We all felt that this particular group of people were in a great position to help spread go on a much larger scale. Once they have Hikaru in their libraries, they will find kids asking to form a go club. The AGF will be right there for them, offering free starter sets with enough equipment for 24 kids to play, and ongoing support through our mentor committee. Slowly but surely, we are building the future of go.
- Paul Barchilon, Vice President of the AGF and Youth Editor for the E-Journal. Photos: Top: The AGF booth at the convention.
- Photos: top left: Vincent Eisman convinces passersby that go is for them while Chris Kirschner demonstrates go in back; Bottom right: Kirschner teaches a librarian; photos by Paul Barchilon