Written by: Ashra

A person in a dark room is playing the video game Super Mario Brothers on a screen. The person’s features are illuminated in a dark blue light.
Photo of Man Playing Super Mario Bros, taken by Anurag Sharma and licensed under Pexels

The UNT Media Library is a hotspot for students and faculty alike. Its diverse selection of tabletop, video, and board games provide a wide array of options for patrons to peruse. Nestled inside of this assortment is the Media Library’s special Legacy Collection, consisting of over 500 rare and/or older games that can be checked out for patron use in the library. 

This semester, I had the pleasure of interviewing some staff members who work at UNT’s Media Library about their game collection, diving more in-depth about their exclusive Legacy games and consoles. These titles consist of anywhere from the Atari to even the Nintendo Wii, which is now considered retro! 

I spoke with three staff members at the Media Library about the hidden gems in their collection: Steven Guerrero, the Media Arts and Digitization Librarian; Diane Robson, the Games and Education Librarian, and finally Brendan, one of the Digitization Student Assistants currently employed. Diane has been at the library in some shape or form since 1989, and Steven since 2008. Both were originally employed as Student Assistants. Brendan has been employed as a Student Assistant since this last October, in 2023. 

The Media Library – An Overview

As of writing, the Media Library carries almost 3,000 video games, roughly 16.67% of which are cataloged within their Legacy Collection. I asked whether either of the librarians had any idea of how much the collection was worth; they quite honestly informed me that they had no clue. It can be difficult to measure the worth of a game (or multiple games), especially when prices fluctuate irregularly due to rarity or obscurity. The Media Library’s collection is especially hard to quantify due to its sheer variety of games. While a number of libraries have begun cataloging games, it is especially unique of the Media Library to allow students to play these games, rather than merely archive them. 

While the Media Library has been a part of UNT Libraries since the 1970s, its role today as the place to go for all types of games did not come into form until much more recently, in 2009. The Media Library was mostly used to carry and showcase its collection of 1,100 16-millimeter slides, a type of film recording that predates VHS tapes. These films were largely used for educational purposes until the 2000s, when movies migrated online. With their library almost devoid of use, Diane alongside Sue Parks decided to start collecting video games using a grant that began with two gaming stations. Quickly, they regained and then overcame their lost userbase.  

More recently, Student Affairs serviced $200,000 to build a more modern space within the Media Library, with the overall goal to create an eSports hub. To this day, the hub is often used by UNT’s eSports teams. 

Collection Development – Gotta Catch ‘em All! 

The Media Library’s collection development process was never merely a library endeavor; it was a University of North Texas endeavor in full. What started with some gaming stations for students blossomed into research materials for faculty in the Game Design program, an auxiliary space for eSports teams, and a collaboration with the student body as a whole. Thanks to university-wide support, the Media Library was able to become what students love about it today. 

Using the money provided by grants and the University, the Media Library began collecting games in earnest. What started as a Wii, an Xbox and a PlayStation evolved into older, rarer consoles once the library had the funds to support the endeavor. When hunting for rare games, Diane’s favorite haunting grounds are the online sales platform eBay. Other than eBay, high volume of the rarer items in the collection are also donations. 

One of the rarest and strangest items in the Legacy Collection is the Fairchild Channel F, a console from 1976 that runs games on computer chip cartridges. The Media Library staff happened across this console on eBay for roughly $800. The process of attaining the Channel F is a testament to the struggles of developing the Legacy Collection; purchasing requests like these must go through Collection Management. Bidding requires more paperwork, so the Buy It Now option is the library’s best bet. The biggest problem is time; after everything is finally processed, the eBay listing may already be sold.  

A set amount of money is set aside within the budget every fiscal year for the Media Librarians to use on rare and unique situations such as the Fairchild Channel F. When something truly special pops up, Diane has also gone to their Division Head to request extra funding. Rarely, if ever, have they been refused. 

Troubles in Gamer’s Paradise

The Media Library’s collection development process is not without its challenges, however. In the summer of 2023, one such donor offered to send his games over to the library. What came in consisted of roughly five hundred old, rare games, all of which were coated in dirt. Each item had to be cleaned twice before the games could be tested one by one, a painstakingly slow process.  

Another big challenge the Media Library battles is the force of time. Older games and consoles may require adaptors or specific TVs in order for them to run at the correct parameters. However, when the media in question is too old, sometimes it can be hard to tell what the problem exactly is. Even worse, sometimes game just outright stop working. Some games can be fixed, but other times it seems like the game won’t ever play. Nevertheless, nothing that has stopped working has been thrown out by the Media Library.  

Another question the library struggles with is how much to fix in a game. When a game or console requires repairs that remove its original hardware, is it now an emulator? And if so, does that make it unfit for the library’s purpose as a host of rare, original hardware?  

Two people laying in bed and playing a video game together. Both of them are holding video game controllers in their hands. Their heads cannot be seen.
Unrecognizable black man and kid playing in bedroom, taken by Ketut Subiyanto and licensed under Pexels

Conclusion – Keep Gaming On 

As a final send-off to the collection, I asked everyone what they are most proud of in the Media Library. Diane said that it is still here after all this time, Steven that the library has opened so many new possibilities in collection development, and Brendan its flexibility, as well as its expansive legacy media.  

A final fun fact about the library: Diane was recently killed by Scrappy in Plasmophobia! That’s right, even Scrappy the Eagle uses the Media Library from time to time!

For more information about the Media Library, peruse its Gaming Collections or Game Introduction. 

Go, Mean Green Gamers! 

Toy figures of (L to R) Luigi, Yoshi, and Mario stand side by side on a gravel road.

Focus Photo of Super Mario, Luigi, and Yoshi Figurines, taken by Pixabay and licensed under Pexels

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