STEM in the Library

Having science, technology, engineering, and math programs in the library is nothing new. When the library had grant funding for programs, we had instructors from outside organizations present programs such as The Mystery of Chemistry, Rube Goldberg Marble Machine, The Science of Toys, and Radical Robots. Now that we no longer have grant funding and have a tighter budget, I’m trying to keep STEM in the library with some in-house programming. One such program was Build Your Own City. I asked coworkers to bring in their recycling and set out everything on a long table. Each participant received a large flat piece of cardboard, their choice of recyclables, tape, and glue. I set out some books about buildings and cities for inspiration. We brainstormed things we liked in our city and things we think our city is missing. Each person designed her own city. At the end, each person shared her city with the group. Another program is LEGO Club. Using grant money, I purchased several boxes of LEGO bricks. Once a month, LEGO Club meets to build anything and everything. I set out books about buildings, bridges, and skyscrapers for inspiration. At the end of the hour, each participant can choose one creation to put in a display case in the library for everyone to see. It is interesting to see how many parents and children work together to create their masterpieces. To celebrate International Games Day, we hold a gaming program in the library. Last November, in addition to the traditional board games and Wii games, I created a live-action Angry Birds game. I saved boxes and tubes of different shapes and sizes. Participants worked in teams; one team set up the structure, and the other team tried to knock it down. The structure that lasted the longest won a point for the construction team. It was a lot of fun, but it was also more challenging than participants originally thought it would be. I chimed in every once in a while to ask questions like, “How do you think you could make your structure more sturdy?” and “Why does that tower fall over but that tower stays standing?” Teams became more strategic as time went on, noticing things like the number of boxes on the base level made a difference. Build Your Own City LEGO Angry Birds

Teen Programs at the Library

In an attempt to bolster the library’s services for teens, I have begun to hold monthly programs exclusively for those in grades 6 through 12. Examples of programs are as follows:

  • Hunger Games Party- Teens had to survive in the arena for Hunger Games-style snacks, crafts, and challenges.
  • Cupcake Wars- Teens each got 3 unfrosted cupcakes, a mound of white frosting, and their choice of 3 toppings to create a book-themed cupcake in 30 minutes. Library staff chose three winners. Teens were able to eat their masterpieces at the end.
  • Minute to Win It Party- Teens competed in a series of minute-long challenges. Results were hilarious.
  • Anime/Manga Club- Manga-loving teens came together to discuss manga, eat snacks, make crafts, and watch manga at this recurring summer program.
  • Inflation 101: Balloon Sculpting Workshop- Local business taught teens how to make balloon animals and other sculptures.
  • Recycled Runway- Local business taught teens how to alter an old t-shirt to make something new and fabulous.
  • Teen Crafternoons- Summer program featuring a new craft each week including duct tape, glove monsters, and yarn creatures.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh Party- Local resident led Yu-Gi-Oh card tournament.
  • Books & Bites- An un-book club with snacks. Teens were asked to share books they’d read and enjoyed. I booktalked some of my favorites, too.
  • Teen Murder Mystery- A live-action version of the board game Clue.

Teen Advisory Board

When I started at my current position, there were very few things for teens. I wanted to change that. I used my prior experience working with teens in libraries and lots of research to determine what I wanted to do and how to do it. Many libraries have a teen advisory board. I knew I wanted to start one to get teens more involved in the library and to help me get a sense of what what would appeal to teens in the community. I established my goals for the group. I then created an application for membership that contained a description of what the group would do and the benefits of membership. Once the application was ready, I began to recruit members. I started by asking teens who use the library regularly. I then sent the application to teachers at the local middle school and high school and asked them to hand out applications to any teens they thought would be interested. I also took applications to school visits to talk about the summer reading program. The first meeting was in April 2014. Meetings are held once a month and have had attendance between 3 and 6 teens each time. The most recent meeting in October represented the six month anniversary of the Teen Advisory Board. There are five teens that attend somewhat regularly. My goal in the next six months is to have a core group of at least five regular members who attend five out of the next six meetings. I feel that the group has been a success. I will continue to build the membership and make the group into something that is valuable to both the library and the members.