Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The New Reference: Teaching tools, Skill-building

As we adjust our print reference collection to suit the needs of the community, monies open up that we can spend on resources our patrons are excited to use - specifically ten seats in our building for and the full Adobe Creative Suite in our new Digital Media Lab.

Our patrons are looking for services too expensive to purchase in a home setting and the skills to use creative digital products. We have discovered another service we can provide.

David Murphy was able to give a practical class on buying and selling on Ebay last night using our subscription to as well as the Digital Media Lab and his own experience on Ebay. Suzanne Gunnerson held a similar class in July on mastering the Windows 8 operating system.
By using video classes, we can learn together, stop the video, answer questions, restart, jump ahead, or re-watch an exercise we might not have fully understood. We find that our patrons enjoy getting an overview togther with others and THEN coming back to the library to watch the course more slowly and in greater depth on teir own.

In September, we plan to host introductory course on a number of Adobe products: Photoshop, InDesign, Acrobat, Muse, and Dreamweaver.

In fact, if a patron wants to acquire a highly coveted Adobe Certification on a particular Adobe software product, they need only be diligent enough to take the entire course for free at the library and then sign up with Adobe to take their certification exam, which costs a pretty penny itself, but gives a person an amazing credential for their resume. They can learn at their own speed and take the exam if and when they are ready.  All done by maximizing their available resources at the public library.

This is a great way we have found to be resource to our patrons: purchasing teaching tools, expensive software suites, and equipment such as professional scanner and conversion software so they can convert VHS to DVD, scan their precious family photos and documents, learn to start an online business, the list goes on and on!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Getting comfortable with Arduino micro-processors

Carol plays with code changes.
 Taking the time to set up our computers before our Arduino  group gathers really paid off. We were ready jump right in and  work through the excellent little Sparkfun Inventor's Kit booklet  one project at a time. Chris Connors supervised, gave advice, and  encouraged us to explore the options in the code once we set up a  project.  We played with LED light sequences, sound sequences,  and blinking speed.
 Joining us were Jed Phillips, from the Ames Library in Easton,  and Melissa McCleary, from the Pemborke Public Library.

David Murphy's blinking light circuit.
 We are now thinking, "What can we build with this?"  Halloween  comes to mind and our Halloween maven, Carol Segar, is already  thinking about setting up some spooky rooms here at the library  powered by Arduino.
For me, the lesson is: don't be put off by the unfamiliar. Give a new medium a chance to reveal its potential to you! It took me two tries, months apart, to begin to be comfortable with working with micro processors. It's new, but with good tools and a plan of attack, you can go beyond your comfort level and discover new avenues of creativity!
Suzanne works through the book
at her own pace.
Jess and Jed download new sounds
to use with their buzzer circuit.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Mad Scientist Lego Challenges completes the library Lego week.

Last Wednesday the children's room hosted a Mad Scientist Lego Challenge night for families. This coincided nicely with our upstairs Lego Contest display. I'm really getting into themed weeks at the library for programming although the caveat would be if someone was on vacation that week, they'll miss out on everything surrounding the theme but as librarians we learn that we can't always please everyone (but we sure try hard!).

Upon entry to the night, participants were given a bingo card and asked to complete at least 3 of the 9 challenges. We had 9 different challenges around the room:
Challenges: Can you building something that...

1: Survives the zip-line
2: Goes down the ramp
3: using littleBits
4: using just one color
5: using 2 x 2 bricks only
6: Stop motion
7: Lego firewalk (this one differed in our other challenges. We told the parents we'd like them to experience what it was like to step on a random Lego. In true kid fashion, they all said the walk "wasn't bad".)
8: is wearable
9: is awesome (to appeal to those kids that just want to build without restrictions).

This program was open to ages 5 and up with an adult for one hour. Everyone who finished received a Lego bookmark. I think our conceptual idea of makerspaces can have so much reach when paired with the popularity of an inter-generational toy like Legos. It is all about building and experimenting!

Mad Scientist Lego Challenge 2014 from Duxbury Free Library on Vimeo.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Lego Contest is a Sure Hit!

I was overjoyed this morning when I counted 57 entries in our 2nd Annual Lego Contest. The Lego Contest is one of the easiest program we've had all summer and by far, my favorite.  Participants of all ages (up to 12) create a scene from their unique Lego World at home, write a story about it, and bring it in. We host a week of bringing in entries and a week of displaying them all over the children's room while our staff judges deliberate.

Judging is based on good stories, creativity, and attention to detail. The size requirements is no bigger than 11 X 14 inches and it cannot be a set built from instructions. Those are the only guidelines I give. e try to keep entries as close to the front desk as possible and pictures are taken just in case anything gets knocked over.

Entries ranged from a working gumball machine to a futuristic civil war to a drive-in movie theater. It was great to see so many girls participate this year. I hate to admit it, but I think the pink Lego friends franchise combined with the popularity of a strong female character in The Lego Movie has made a huge difference.

My favorite part of the contest is the literacy component. It's one thing to look at Lego people in a house and think "Oh that's nice" but they take on a whole new perspective once you read their stories. It's important to have a venue like the library where kids aren't graded for their stories. I found the ones in conversational tone quite charming. We had entrants as young as 4 years old with their parents writing down what they said. 

A special album is posted on our Facebook page to include the pictures and stories of all the entries for people to "like". Whichever creation gets the most likes by Thursday will win a special popular prize.  Feel free to like your favorite! I warn you, it's a tough choice.