The library has always been the place to find the classics: Dickens, Melville, Poe -- and now, Mario and Luigi.

The library has always been the place to find the classics: Dickens, Melville, Poe -- and now, Mario and Luigi.

Earlier this month, the Delaware County District Library joined a small but growing group of library systems in Ohio that loan video games to patrons.

The games are available only at the Delaware branch, but patrons at branches in Powell, Ostrander and Orange Township can reserve games.

Mary Jane Santos, Delaware County District Library director, said the library hopes to offer video-game collections at all of its branches by 2015.

Santos said the size of the Delaware library's collection -- about 100 games for the two most recent PlayStation, Wii and Xbox consoles -- has limited it to one branch so far.

"We have to start a collection with a rather sizeable number," she said. "You can't start a collection with seven or eight titles."

Santos said video games will be "an enhancement" to the library's offerings, not a main focus.

She said the library originally budgeted to start a video-game collection in 2013, but employees needed more time to research what games were popular and would be suitable for library patrons.

Until Jan. 9, when the library began loaning the games, Santos said staff members were consistently getting questions.

"Over the last few months, we had several folks of all ages asking why we did not (loan) video games," she said.

The new collection already has proven to be a hit.

Santos said the last time she checked on the collection, only 12 titles remained in stock.

Babette Wofter, director of the Licking County Library system, said video games have been a popular offering in Newark and at the system's other branches since early 2012.

"They're very rarely on the shelf," Wofter said. "If you want them, you have to place a hold."

Wofter said the library system now offers more than 1,000 titles.

She said library patrons checked out games 12,000 times in the past year.

Santos said the Delaware County District Library hopes to grow its collection to 200 or 300 games before it opens collections at its other branches.

She said the games cost $20 or more each to purchase, and the library is seeking other ways increase the number of titles it carries.

"We're asking folks to donate if you've played a game and beat a game, or you're tired of a game," she said.

Santos said almost all of the library's games are rated "teen" or younger by the Electronic Software Rating Board.

Teen games are recommended for players who are 13 or older.

Wofter said Licking County's system offers games rated from "everyone" to "mature," which are recommended for users who are 17 or older.

Santos said Delaware County District Library staff members tried to focus on educational games and bestsellers with classic characters.

She said buying games that are established hits will be cheaper for the library because new releases typically cost more than games that have been in stores for a while.

Although more library systems are starting to loan video games, Wofter said a large percentage remain reluctant.

Of the library consortium Serving Every Ohioan's 89 member systems, only seven, including the Licking County Library, offer video games, Wofter said.

She said she understands why some librarians would be leery about buying games, but she added spending a small portion of her system's budget on crowd-pleasing materials makes sense to her.

"My philosophy is to give the customers what they want if it's possible," Wofter said.

Santos said library officials already are looking into the next service to offer Delaware County residents.

She said the library currently offers e-books and magazines for tablet computers, and officials are looking for a way to allow patrons to stream movies and television shows online via a subscription-based service.