Going Robotics

Robot Arm from LEGO® MINDSTORMS®

Robot Arm from LEGO® MINDSTORMS®

For the past two weeks, I’ve been thinking long and hard about how I would develop and implement the teen Summer Reading Program (SRP). My goals are to provide programs to local teen residents, engage the local community, and encourage reading during summer break. This means that programs and incentives need to appeal to teen audiences. Brainstorming and discussions with my branch manager led to the idea of Teen Wii Night as well as Origami and Robotics Workshops. I wanted programs that were participatory and felt these fit the bill. In addition to planning and carrying out these programs, I will also need to reach out to local businesses to request donations that will be given as reading prizes. Then I will need to consider marketing and things like instruction sheets and booklists.



The Wii and origami events will be fairly straightforward to carry out – we have equipment we can borrow for the Wii night and there is a library assistant at another branch who is an origami master and can teach the workshop. The Robotics program was always going to be the difficult one to implement. I did a lot of research on the internet; I wanted to make sure that such programs were feasible and had a good chance of success. Looking at libraries that had implemented programs on robot building, it appeared that most used LEGO® MINDSTORMS® as the platform. I reached out to a teen librarian at the San Francisco Public Library – he generously shared his thoughts about the LEGO® MINDSTORMS® robotics program that SFPL hosted last year and answered my questions in great detail. He explained how they structured the program and what he would do differently when the library hosts the program again this spring.



After discussing with my branch manager, we agreed that we would not likely receive funding for a LEGO® MINDSTORMS® robotics program in time for SRP. I am still going forward with plans for such a program, but for fall or winter. I strongly believe in a program like this for teens – it will be fun for them but even more importantly, it promotes 21st century skills (teamwork, computer programming, engineering, robotics technology) that will carry them forward to college and career. My next step is to apply for grants so that we may purchase several LEGO® MINDSTORMS® education sets that can be shared between teens during a workshop. For SRP, however, we will be going with a simpler robotics kit for each teen, one that is inexpensive and less time-consuming. It’s probably better for the sake of my own sanity to start off with something basic before I tackle something that is much more ambitious!

Promoting Library E-books

I read a very intriguing post in the ACRL TechConnect Blog on promoting library e-books: give e-books a physical presence by using dummy bookmarks much like the way dummy books replace physical books shelved elsewhere for whatever reason. Since online library collections are still largely invisible to users, the staff at Florida International University created plastic dummy bookmarks and dispersed them throughout the stacks in locations where the titles would have been shelved had they been physical books. Each bookmark was printed with the book cover’s image, title, author, and call number. A library user browsing the stacks can note titles that are available as e-books within each subject section.

You can brainstorm all sorts of ideas off this concept, as the comments following the ACRL post show. I especially like the idea of using QR codes on these bookmarks. Scanning one of these codes will take the user immediately to the online catalog page where the e-book can be checked out. I’d like to see a display of  print books that have matching e-books in our library and produce bookmarks containing QR codes that link to corresponding e-book records. Not only does this physical display create more awareness of the library’s e-book offerings and digital collection website, it also gives patrons easy and convenient access to these e-books via QR codes. Of course, you run into the problem of the e-book already being checked out because of the marketing. At least the online page will also offer the option of placing the e-book on hold. The premise is that once users get a chance to see how it all works, they will  be encouraged to use the e-book lending program.

Oh, and a cool note on the way I found the ACRL blog post – through Carnegie-Stout Public Library’s Pinterest board

The Relevancy of Libraries in Today’s Digital World

digital world background

Much has been said, and continues to be said, about how libraries are transforming themselves to remain relevant in today’s information-rich and technology-driven society. User-centered planning, services, and collection development; innovative library spaces; remote access to resources; and social media participation – these are only a few of the responses to the internet age that are reshaping the 21st century library.

Lately, I’ve been pondering specifically about the importance of  libraries as social and economic equalizers in today’s digital environment. A democratic society promotes equal opportunity as well as equal access. It is even more important these days for libraries to provide information  and access to those who may not otherwise have the means or circumstances to keep up with current technologies critical for functioning in many areas of today’s society. Something as basic as sending an e-mail for you and I can be a challenge for others. By providing such services as  free internet access and workshops that teach digital literacy of all sorts, libraries enable many individuals to function more successfully and competitively in our current environment, which in turn gives them more opportunities to pursue. That’s the kind of empowerment  libraries can offer.

I love having people walk into my public library with a new e-reader or tablet and saying, “I got this as a gift but I don’t know how to use it. I thought maybe the library could show me.”

And that is just one of the myriad of reasons libraries are still relevant today.

© 2016 JoAnne Chen