Leah Canner, Librarian at Rosedale Library, Baltimore County Public Library

Library, external shot

Recreational sports leagues are a great way to introduce youths to new activities and place them in a social environment that encourages cooperation and healthy competition. Many youths grow and flourish socially as a part of a team and use sport as a common language to make new friends. But not all kids enjoy or are capable of physical exertion.

I wanted to create a less strenuous experience for the community at the Rosedale Branch of the Baltimore County Public Library. I’m an avid video gamer and I’ve been playing an online game called SMITE for a few years. It requires practice, skill, and teamwork to win—just like sports! So I thought, let’s make a library-centric esports league!

Kids playing the game.

I contacted the game developers and pitched the idea. They were really excited about it and sent me a huge box of giveaway swag and codes for in-game items. With summer approaching, I crashed our local high school’s lunch hour with some loot and a laptop to show off the game and get the word out.

When the school year ended, it was game on! The league met every Wednesday afternoon for two hours. Participants chose in-game names and added each other to their friends lists, and we made esports jerseys with craft store t-shirts and iron-on paper from our maker cart. As the summer went on, the kids learned how to communicate and work as a team and grew closer both in and out of the game. They started bringing friends, and other kids dropped in to spectate and cheer on the athletes.

Kids celebrating

After nine weeks of gaming and giveaways, it was time to bring the league to a close. Eight kids attended nearly every session, with a dozen more coming to at least a few when they could. They petitioned me to keep it going into the school year and I started seeing some of them regularly visiting the library to play more games, read graphic novels, and just hang out together.