It’s a Friday night at the Plaza Branch, and magic is in the air in the library’s teen section – in more ways than one. A dozen or so young patrons gather around tables, swapping cards and invoking the names of otherworldly beings: Alien Telepath, Phyrexian Marauder, Fist of Ironwood.
“Kathy, what do you think’ll happen if I go against Chris’s Sliver Deck?” asks 11-year-old patron Fielding.
“You will die,” Meier says, then laughs. (Fielding – who knew the answer without asking – smiles, and his opponent, Chris, 18, responds with an impish chuckle.)
Meier’s Card Classics gaming time begins each Friday at 5 p.m., and teens and tweens come out in force to play and trade cards.
“I come here every Friday night,” says 18-year-old Dennis. This Yu-Gi-Oh enthusiast has played in tournaments as far away as Springfield, Missouri, but the Plaza Branch is his favorite haunt. “This is my lifestyle – it’s what I do,” he says.
For Meier, an 18-year Plaza Branch veteran, these games are a way into hearts and minds. She's held six tournaments in the past four months, with prizes such as free trading cards and coupons to Yogurtini. A Magic tournament will be scheduled soon.
Meier became interested in Magic when she started working with teens six years ago. She has since used it and similar games to help form bonds with an age group that can be apprehensive about the Library.
“Teens sometimes feel intimidated by the circulation desk and some of the work librarians do,” Meier says. “It helps break the ice if you have a personal relationship.”
Meier says many of the teens who come to Card Classics end up using the Library for other purposes, such as writing research papers for school.
And the games themselves, she points out, are not without their virtues.
Game play combines luck of the draw with strategy as players weigh the attack and defense power of their own cards versus their opponents’. It calls for skills in reading, critical thinking, math, and interpersonal communication.
What Plaza teen Matt, 14, says of Magic can be said of most things in the adult world: “It’s easy to learn, but to master it takes a lot of time.”