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Board Games, Libraries, and Breaking the Rules

Board Game Day was held at Matteo Ricci Hall of the Rizal Library last Friday. I was asked to deliver the opening remarks, which I wrote in a hurry that same morning, and literally finished at the last minute. It's not as polished as I would have hoped, but if any of you have been wondering what kind of library director I hope to be, you're going to get more than a few clues here.

Opening Remarks
Board Game Day
25 January 2012

Good morning! And thank you for joining us today for Board Game Day.

Earlier this year, the Wall Street Journal published an article about events being held in public libraries in the United States that are designed to encourage people to check out what's new at the library. The events mentioned included Zumba classes, seminars on landscaping, and even hog-butchering, blacksmithing and fly fishing.

Some have questioned the relevance of such events to the mission of libraries. I would not be surprised if some in the Ateneo community are also wondering, "What do board games have to do with the mission of the Rizal Library?" The best answer I have for this question is to state that our mission is not limited to providing access to books, journal articles, and the Internet. We are here to facilitate learning.

We do this not only by continuing what has already been done in the past, but also by exploring newer, proven ways of enhancing the educational experience. Today, we hope to identify board games that will not only be fun to play and build community, but can also help our university achieve its mission of producing men and women for others. Now, that's a big leap in logic, but let me explain by discussing just one reason I think playing board games can help facilitate learning.

One thing common to all board games is that there are rules. And each game has its own rules. You have several choices. Most play the game according to the rules. Some try to change the rules and see if their fellow players will continue to play with them or throw them out of the game. Some choose not play at all. But you cannot play one game using the rules for another. You cannot play chess, for example, using the rules of Monopoly.

Here at Matteo Ricci and the library, we have lots of rules. For example, you can eat on the second floor, but not the first floor. Most students abide by the rules, but a few try to get away with eating their merienda or lunch, and risk getting reprimanded with a warning or even an official sanction. Some might ask, "How come we can eat on the second floor, but not the first floor?" And there is a good reason for that—ask me later—but the point I'm making is that there are different rules for different places, and different occasions. In the real world, unlike board games, some rules are written, many are not.

The same is true for Ateneo, the companies you hope to work for, the businesses you'll be setting up, Philippine society in general. But the rules are not always the same. As you very well know, sometimes the rules that are announced in public are not followed in private. You can choose to abide by the rules, break the rules, or refuse to play the game. But first you need to know the rules, and that the rules change depending on the game you're playing. I'm not sure if this makes sense, but when I started working after graduating from Ateneo, I learned that what I got used to in school is not necessarily also what happens outside. Or, as Dorothy told Toto in The Wizard of Oz, "We’re not in Kansas anymore."

This is probably getting too heavy for the opening remarks at Board Game Day, so allow me to just thank a few people, and share a little prayer. I’d like to thank:
Karryl Sagun, who organized this event,
Hans Fernandez and Adrian Manahan of Gaming Library, who provided all the games,
Diane Santos of Book Bench, who designed the poster for this event,
The various librarians and staff who helped Karryl prepare for Board Game Day, especially Manny Concepcion, who is the person in charge of Matteo Ricci Hall,
The volunteers, who will be helping you learn all the rules later, and
Mrs. Lourdes David, Director of the Rizal Library, who approved the proposal and made this day possible.

Finally, allow me to end with a familiar prayer with a few amendments…

Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the rules I cannot change,
The courage to break the rules that should be broken and deal with the consequences,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

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