Catch Them All!” Pokémon Go and Your Library | Compendium
Pokemon Pikachu courtesy of Flickr user Farley Santos

Pokemon Pikachu


by Elizabeth Hess

Confession time: when I first heard about the mega-popular free app Pokémon Go, I reacted with a “whaaaaat?” rather than a “wa-hoo!” I sadly missed the first round of Pokémon-mania back in the 90s, so this resurgence in worldwide popularity due to the release of the augmented-reality game Pokémon Go befuddled me at first. Once I started noticing kids, teens, and adults playing nearly everywhere I went, I knew I had to learn more about bringing Pokémon Go to the public library! Where would I begin?

Luckily, I have the best job in the world. One of the most wonderful aspects of being a librarian is learning about all sorts of trends and phenomena I might not have discovered otherwise- like Pokémon Go! As part of this worldwide public library community, we often have front-row seats to the incredible ingenuity and creativity of public library staff. Around the world, libraries are incorporating Pokémon Go into fun programming, dynamic displays, and creative outreach efforts.

Pokemon Measuring Stick photo

Pokemon Measuring Stick

Wondering where to start? Check out Six Pokémon Go tips for the ultimate beginner. Niantic’s own glossary of Pokémon Go terms will help you learn the lingo, while the National Pokédex (encyclopedia to catalogue Pokémon) provides information about the 721 Pokémon discovered so far.

Getting started as a library:
If you need to brush up on your Pokémon knowledge, check out the post Everything Librarians Need To Know About Pokémon Go! by Raegan Cross, a Youth Services Programmer in Kansas. The author also linked to her presentation for Florida Library Webinars, where she included additional information about safety concerns and hosted a lively discussion brainstorming ideas for libraries.

Looking for more?
Join the Library Pokémon GO Support #PokeLibrary Facebook Group! The articles Pokémon Go: Strike While the Iron Is Hot! by Melanie Lyttle and Shawn Walsh and Here We Pokémon Go: Libraries Should Welcome the Age of Augmented Reality by Anna Call both focus on the “how” and “why” public libraries should embrace Pokémon Go.

Blog/Website posts:
Public libraries around the world have been collecting helpful information and posting on their websites, from Halifax Public Libraries in Canada to Shreve Memorial Library in Louisiana: Pokémon Go at Halifax Public Libraries and Pokémon Go @ SML. They’ve provided information to help their patrons learn about Pokémon Go, play at their libraries and nearby locations, and stay safe while doing so. Closer to home, Green Tree Public Library in Pittsburgh, PA and Lackawanna County Library System in PA, also posted reading and viewing suggestions for Pokémon players.

Pokemon Pikachu craftPrograms:
Oil City Library in Oil City, PA, hosts a weekly, officially-recognized Pokémon Club for players to talk, trade, and play. Montgomery County-Norristown Public Library in Norristown, PA, hosted a Pokéwalk, setting up lures and raffling off gift cards for iTunes and Google Play to attendees.

Benson Memorial Library in Titusville, PA, recently hosted the program “Gotta Catch ‘Em All at the Library!” where they invited community members to come to their front lawn to catch Pokémon and chat with others. Their local newspaper, The Titusville Herald even ran a story about the program. Jessica Hilburn, Library Assistant, explained that the library set lures to attract Pokémon and had a great result: “Pokémon Go has been a great tool for reaching out to the community and we’ve had quite a bit of success using it. I think more libraries should definitely use Pokémon Go and we still have lures left to use for another program sometime in the future.” Executive Director Justin Hoenke wrote a blog post about the inspiration for the program, how he reached out to the community, and the excellent response they received.

Kutztown Community Library has built on their existing weekly meetings hosting the official league, Sacony Creek Pokémon League for the Pokémon Trading Card Game (since 2014) by providing phone chargers, drinks, and snacks for Pokémon Go players visiting them as they’re both a Pokéstop and a Pokégym. Carolyn Wasser explained that they’ve had fun setting lures around the library and posting signs indicating that “the library is infested with Pokémon!” Janet Yost mentioned that Pokémon Go has also positively impacted their social media reach, with a recent Pokémon Go-related Facebook post reaching almost 2,800 people, rather than their normal 300-400 person reach.

Pokemon Videogame Vintage Ad

Pokemon Videogame Vintage Ad

Displays and Passive Programs:
Jessica Kovacevich Moore, Library Associate at Anne Arundel County Public Library in Annapolis, Maryland, explained that posts in the Facebook group Storytime Underground inspired her to use Pokémon Go at her library in a variety of ways. She crafted a chalkboard for patrons to add the Pokémon caught in the library to create their own Pokédex. Behind that, she set up a display that was very popular: “We could not keep it stocked! I have never seen every single Pokémon movie, Easy Reader, and Graphic Novel checked out! It was awesome!”

Additionally, her library offered a Pikachu bracelet craft for kids, a “Caterpies” guessing game, a scavenger hunt, and a trivia game for teens, which were all very popular. As an added incentive, Moore reported that her coworker KT Zawodny came up with the idea that “anyone who showed us their Pokédex was able to get a PokéBall key tag, made on our 3D printer!” She adds that her library is gearing up to allow the public to use the 3D printer soon, so this was a great opportunity to advertise.

Kara Cervelli, head of children’s services at Perry Public Library in Perry, Ohio created two Pokémon passive programs based on existing programs updated to the Pokémon theme. Using a wall ruler crafted by her husband, she invited kids to compare their heights to various Pokémon, whose heights she marked along the ruler, while last summer she used the heights of superheroes. She remarked that not only children love this fun activity, “even teens and adults have come in to measure themselves!”

Cervelli also updated another ongoing passive program- the voting box- to ask kids to choose their favorite Pokémon. Each month, she posts eight choices for children to vote on, (favorite Halloween candy, favorite summer activity, etc.) featuring different Pokémon most recently.

With so many ways for public libraries to take advantage of Pokémon Go, you’re sure to find the perfect idea to help your library reach existing and new patrons!

For more ideas on how to promote Civic & Social Literacy in your library, visit the PA Forward Commons and be sure to add your programs to the database by completing the PA Forward Commons Submission Form!

I would like to offer my sincere gratitude to all those who so generously offered me information about their experiences using Pokémon in their libraries: Carolyn Wasser, Janet Yost, Jessica Hilburn, Jessica Kovacevich Moore, and Kara Cervelli. Thank you!