Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Tinkering with Marketing

We have these origami trees on our children's help desk that one of our talented staff made for her winter themed display and they received so many compliments and questions that we made a QR code sign that directly led people to the instructions.  The desk has been one of those places traditionally kept without advertisements but so much attention made me start to wonder...

As librarians, we tend to get flyer crazy. I've walked into many libraries where there are signs and flyers everywhere: No cellphones, No food or drink, Musical guest this Sunday, Printing- 15 cents a page, or Please sign up at the desk (just to name a few). You can see that it might be overload for anyone walking in especially if they are trying to chase a 2 year old around. But how to engage the child without text?

And so begins my marketing experiment, based on all the excitement and interest in the origami trees at the desk, it seems like this would be a great place to start marketing STEM programs and showcasing our skills.  Out came two of my favorite toys: littleBits and Legos. It's really fun being a librarian sometimes.

Would more people notice a windmill made out littleBits and Legos than a traditional flyer to promote my upcoming littleBits progam? Of course! If I could make a hypothesis, I would say that by adding interactive elements on the desk, the programming attendance will likely increase rather than traditional marketing.  This is entirely based on observation because unfortunately the date and time of the event vs children's schedules would be an uncontrollable factor for this one time experiment. It would be hard to definitively conclude using the scientific method that in fact it did increase attendance without a survey of some kind but it definitely didn't hurt! It has only been two days and everyone who asks a question comes up to the desk to play with it. It also doesn't hurt that we have a huge box of pencils at the desk for the after school crowd which are always a hot commodity. Food for thought for today.

Video explanation:

littleBits Windmill from Duxbury Free Library on Vimeo.

Bits needed: RGB LED, 3 Wires, Power and battery, motion sensor, pulse, servo motor.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Teen Tech Week coming up

As national Teen Tech Week approaches, it seems smart and energy-saving to survey my teens and ask them, "What can you provide the library during Teen Tech Week that will be a value-added service to our loyal patrons?"

That's what I plan to be asking my incredibly tech savvy teen friends in the up-coming weeks as national Teen Tech Week is March 9 - 15, 2014.  I know we're gonna be doing some awesome stuff....!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Duxbury High School Robotics gets a thumbs up from us!

Great things are happening in Duxbury regarding tinkering and engineering.
On Saturday, Jess and I trooped over to the Duxbury High School to see the final result of the robotics teams efforts.  Duxbury senior, Evan Nudd explains it all.
Competitions on March 21 and 28th. Go Dragons!

Duxbury High School robot explanation from Duxbury Free Library on Vimeo.

Here's a link to the team's blog:

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Seeing a Playgroup as Tinkering

I had one of those eureka moments at a meeting a few weeks ago, when a fellow staff member was talking about her writing group and the importance of having open ended free writing components. I thought, "Hey that's tinkering too!" I think if we all look hard enough we can find lots of examples of tinkering that we do in our everyday lives or in already established library groups that doesn't have to involve electronics.

I've always been a "don't read directions first" kind of person, which was tough during my schooling years but that's the beginning of my tinkering. Can I figure it out without looking at the directions? We all develop educational and life strategies based in part by our personalities. For me, this tinkering led me to always jump head first into technology. I was never afraid of "breaking it." I'm the kind of person that purchases Adobe Photoshop and just begins by pressing all the buttons before I crack open a tutorial book (if I do at all). It's an unorthodox strategy but one that brings unique problem solving and unexpected confidence to the table. I learn different ways to do a variety of skills that works for me. It's the beginning of self-directed learning.

We recently started a playgroup for children under 5 in our children's department as an experiment to see if it would take off. When we talk to parents, they seem to always be looking for safe, appropriate places to play with their child and meet other parents especially in the winter. One of my friends always tells me that she goes to libraries during long car rides with her 1.5 year old as a break in between destinations when she gets fussy. Although they can always play with our puzzles and blocks that we provide in our children's room, the opportunity for interactions in the space could be limited.

Sometimes as librarians, we can really over think programming. For instance in our playgroup, we could have made flyers with instructions and explanations for each table with early literacy definitions but have you ever tried to read a paragraph with a 3 year old? It's hard! With that in mind, playgroups can foster that "no directions" tinkering as well. We set up stations with early literacy inspired tools that invited children and parents to explore and interact with each other but we don't tell them what to do at each station. This also helps keep parents engaged. One of our biggest stations was building. We had cardboard blocks, magnet blocks, and Duplo blocks with a Duplo table top. We also had these wonderful Duplo Read, Build kits that included a picture book story with building activities.   

Another hot station was the magnet and chalk boards. We purchased stove top covers from a thrift store and chalk board spray painted them (Thanks Pinterest!).  This became dual purpose because you could put letter magnets on it or practice your own letters or even learn to rhyme. Many parents began spelling the names of their children, the beginning of letter recognition. We never told them to do this, they just began prompting on their own or taking cues from other parents.

For our sensory bin we were recently shipped a box of Mango promotional material with orange and green shredded paper which we hid figures in to find. The kids enjoyed playing in the paper, especially putting it on parent's heads.  Caution: it DOES get messy.

As librarians, we are experimenters. We try different programs without a guarantee of how they will work but we jump in time and time again, mostly without instructions from other libraries on how a program is done. We find what works for us and we constantly try to improve and try new things. We also receive unexpected results. One mother had said how nice it was to not be distracted by all the other things in her house while playing at home which sounds a lot like why I can successfully go to the gym but the treadmill at home collects dust.

Our playgroups are on Fridays after Gather Round story time at 11:00am. Registration is required.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Tinkering Tenets from San Francisco's Exploratorium

If ever there was a mecca of STEAM activities it would be the Exploratorium in SanFrancisco. For decades it has been a leading institution for people of all ages to explore the mysteries and discover the answers to "how" "why" "what" questions in the natural world.

They have come out with a new book that the Duxbury Free Library now owns, The Art of Tinkering, by Karen Wilkinson and Mike Petrich.

Here are their tenets:

  1. Merge science, art & technology: "...when you mix them together, you get a veritable tinkering trifecta in which technological tools and scientific principles let you express your own artistic vision...." 
  2. Create rather than consume: this says it all.
  3. Revisit & Iterate on Your Ideas.
  4. Use familiar materials in unfamiliar ways
  5. Express ideas via construction
  6. Prototype rapidly: "When you have a new idea, it's incredibly helpful get it out of your brain as soon as possible - to sketch a design or build a working model...."
  7. Embrace your tools
  8. Be comfortable not knowing
  9. Go ahead, get stuck: "...When you tinker, you're going to mess up. you're going to get frustrated, fail, and maybe even break a thing or two. We call this getting stuck, and believe it or not, it's a very good thing. Failure tells you what you don't know, frustration is making sense of that failure in the moment, and taking action leads to a new way of knowing...."
  10. Seek real-world examples everywhere
  11. Reinvent old technologies (and discover new ones, too)
  12. Try a little "Snarkasm": We like to jokoe aronud while we tinker, and we call our particular brand of well-meaning wit and unprecious playfulness "snarkasm. A little humor helps...."
  13. Balance autonomy with collaboration
  14. Put yourself in messy, noisy, sometimes dangerous situations:"...the dangerous aspects of tinkering is a powerful motivator - it forces you to slow down and pay close attention to what you're doing. A little caution goes a long way."
Check out the book at your local library!