‘Magic’ at the Southworth Library looks to attract new crowds

Jan 4, 2024

Alice Ripley, a 10-year veteran of the Dartmouth Libraries, noticed that their offerings often skew either toward children or older adults — while teenagers and young adults didn’t have quite as many options available. 

So when Dina St. Pierre started as the new library director and asked for program recommendations, Ripley stepped up — she planned a series of Magic the Gathering events for teens and adults, which now take place monthly. 

“Magic is such a popular game and it kind of overlaps with an amount of library interests,” Ripley said. “That could potentially be really a good boost to encourage people to be here, and to get them in the door really.”

Magic: the Gathering, a collectible trading card game created in 1993, is one of the most popular card games in the world. Players typically duel each other and win by depleting the opponent’s “life total” to 0, usually by casting spells and attacking with creatures. 

While Magic has a large competitive contingent, the events hosted at the Library are played with “commander” card decks, which are for more casual players. 

“It's about a handful of people sitting down and playing a multiplayer game, and just jamming games and having fun,” Ripley said. 

The events are just getting off the ground in the new year. The Jan. 4 gathering was the first of three scheduled dates for 2024, each on the first Thursday of the month. 

“There's very few places like libraries that still exist, where it's just kind of like a community hub,” Ripley said.

The events are not currently open to complete beginners, since “teaching someone to play a game that’s been around for 30 years is very complicated,” but Ripley said she can definitely answer some questions and provide pointers. 

In the future, she’d like to create beginner-friendly events, but does not know what form they would take yet. 

Nick Ulewicz is a 13-year Magic veteran. While he’s mostly into the game for the collectible aspect — Magic players are typically responsible for bringing their own decks full of cards they own — he also values sharing the game with other people in the same room. 

“There's not enough municipal facilities for Magic the Gathering or any collectible game or trading card game,” Ulewicz said. “There's no regularity around here.”

Ripley’s grandfather Jaysun, who taught her how to play, came for the first time Thursday night to play the game, which he hadn’t done for years. 

Dre Pina, on the second table, has played the game since 2013 and just appreciates more places in the region to play Magic with other people. 

With two games running, the Jan. 4 gathering was the most turnout Ripley has seen, but she hopes it continues to grow from here. 

“I believe very strongly that public libraries should be a space for people of all ages in the community to just sit and be,” Ripley said. “And I think programs like this provide a space for [that].”