While wandering through the Indianapolis Convention Center in search from a bit of relief from the ever present Gencon crowds, I stumbled upon a treasure trove of roleplaying history. Shelves and Stacks of books in an unassuming side room inexorably drew me in.
I had discovered Alexandria.
More specifically, upon spending some time with Chief Librarian David Carnahan, I had stumbled upon the Alexandria RPG Library, a non-profit lending library that travels to events to share the history of roleplaying games.
The Alexandria RPG Library got its start at Emerald City Comicon, where David was the Deputy Manager for Gaming. “Working shows and seeing libraries for board games and video games made me wonder why there wasn’t something for RPGs. I pitched the idea of a library to the head of gaming. He thought it was a neat idea and let me have some space. I was the Deputy Manager for Gaming, so it was an easy sell. I love what RPGs can do for people, seeing people light up the first time they play or get excited for a character they made. I have seen people of opposite political views have polite conversation because they don’t want to ruin a gaming group. RPGs bring people together.”
From a humble start of around four hundred and fifty books from David and his friends’ personal collections, the Library has grown into a two thousand volume labor of love, spanning over one hundred systems, ranging from the well-known, such as various editions of Dungeons & Dragons, to the rare (Avalon Hill’s Powers and Perils), to the one of a kind: “An early donation was a binder of a world started by a man’s father in the 70’s and built through the 80’s and 90’s. It’s unique and one of a kind. We have some other great things like old Judges Guild books, the WWF RPG, and Dinosaurs…in Spaaaaaace.”
Despite the number of unusual and rare items in the collection, David isn’t concerned about theft or loss. “Lots of people ask this. We had a book go missing and it showed up at the next event. I think gamers like what we are doing too much to let stuff disappear.”
The Library is labor of love, with David doing most of the work of sorting, packing, and hauling the massive number of tomes himself, with assistance from his wife. Volunteer Game Masters who use the library’s resources to introduce people to games they may have never encountered or simply not played in many years. I myself spent a some gloriously nostalgic time playing sessions of Rifts and the Ghost Busters RPG in the Library and it is some of the best fun I had at Gencon.
During our conversation, I discovered that in addition to preserving RPG history, David is also involved in therapeutic and social work with veterans, prisoners, and at risk youth. “Being a vet with PTSD I know how important it is to have support and help. Gaming gives you that and some stability as well. Some people need something to look forward to and others need a way to relearn empathy. We also work with teens that are at risk to become a statistic. We give them something to do, while teaching them teamwork, social skills, critical thinking, and more.”
The Library currently does not have a set schedule and is in the middle of getting a calendar built, so for the time being, following them on Facebook and Twitter is the best way to find them. If you would like to donate or volunteer, links to their social media and donation information can be found at www.alexandriarpg.com.