Thursday, May 26, 2016

3D Printers: Program or Service?

I'm always reflecting and evaluating how something is working especially something as expensive as our Ultimaker 2 3D printer.  Before purchasing a 3D printer, make sure to have a talk with staff about what they hope to accomplish with this printer. Is it a program? Is it a self-directed service? Is it both? This is true for any kind of new equipment such as video to DVD conversion, scanners, free Adobe suite products, and other items in our digital media lab. Ideally, people would come in, sit down and independently use the equipment for personal projects but some might need that initial tutorial for the confidence to begin.

I don't think we are at a point yet where most people have enough exposure to 3D printers to offer it as just another service (like our ink jet printers) without some beginner programming. It needs highlighting in newsletters, website, social media, etc. Sometimes it just takes that one hour program to encourage the self-directed learning that you hope to provide as a 3D printing "service".  Advertising a program like 3D printing and having no one show up? Don't be discouraged. This advertisement has planted the notion that your library has a 3D printer available.  Maybe Intro to 3D Printing is too vague? The reference department here did a series of directed workshops like board game pieces, jewelry, hand drawn prints and mother/daughter prints, to provide guidance with their initial printing endeavors. Some patrons gladly went off on their own projects but others liked the narrowed project guidance.

I feel like a carnival barker sometimes but try to bring your printer out in a visible space once in a while before the program itself. If you show it, they will come, eventually.  Even a simple display with 3D printed sample items is a real eye catcher and an opportunity for talk at the desk.
Since January, I have run monthly 3D printing beginner workshops (6 kids each) with only a few return customers coming back to print more. But the ones that have returned to print on their own made some really incredible things, one even winning a science fair! I am hoping this summer, when school commitments are over, kids will return to designing. We are going to hold weekly classes on Friday afternoons in July.

I have also emailed Boy and Girl Scout troops to offer a programming. I have had one Boy Scout pack visit and two Girl Scout troops this year. Remember they don't expect libraries to be offering these things so you still need to reach out, shout it from the rooftops and have patience.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

STEM highlights from MLA Conference

Yesterday I attended the Massachusetts Library Association's Annual Conference in Hyannis, MA. It had an amazing selection of presenters. They talked about the many facets of librarianship from programming to reader's advisory with some STEM highlights:


Mattapoisett, Rochester, and Marion public libraries came together for a MOBY (My Own Backyard) LSTA grant. Librarians from all three librarians as well as a science curriculum educator collaborated to provide backpacks with science related activities for patrons to check out as well as programming to highlight each bag. This goes back to that theory that if no one knows about it, the greatest stuff could just sit on the shelves. A great tip I learned from another presentation is even if many people don't show up to a program, just highlighting the database or product that you want to promote as an event, say one on one with lynda.com tutorials, could increase use. Some people might not be able to make the event, life happens, but maybe they didn't know the library had the product in the first place.  This happened recently with a ukulele workshop that we did. I specifically did it to promote having ukulele's to check out at the library. If someone was interested in the event but couldn't come or didn't have a ukulele of their own, I made sure to promote our circulating ukuleles in all advertisements. They are never on the shelves!


Back to the MOBY bags, they included hands on tools, books, and a journal to record observations. Each library has a different set of kits from tapping maple syrup to tidepools kits for the beach. They have had great success with the backpacks (no losses of materials) with occasional washing of items upon return.  They are more than willing to share their information as long as you provide them credit. If you want to learn more check out their joint Facebook page.

Even if you don't have grant money, there are still some great ideas for circulating items in the kits to purchase. One item in a backpack that I hadn't heard of was sticklets. Sticklets are silicon adapters that encourage outdoor model creations using sticks. What an ingenious idea! Without having the backpacks, this is still a viable circulating item.   These would be great to have outside on the library lawn to encourage sculpture design this summer (if you are near many trees).

In the afternoon I attended a presentation on the 6 Principles of the Montessori Prepared Environment which fits nicely into STEM drop in programming or a re-design of the children's play area. Having small interactive displays or selecting STEM toys like magnets, scales, and magnifying glasses to have out in bins for free play encourages child directed learning. No signs prompting the parent required.  Chokeable? Leave it near the children's desk on a higher shelf.  It is all about beautifying your space and encouraging free play that stimulates social and intellectual skills.  We, as librarians, are already doing this! Will it be messy? Perhaps, I wouldn't put paint or sand out there unsupervised.  We also instituted a sticker reward for cleanup and it works well. What is the cost? Put some rocks or other free natural items with a scale (lakeshorelearning) and magnifying glass (cheap in bulk from oriental trading or buy more sturdy ones from lakeshore) surrounded by science books and watch the learning happen. Try to come up with at least a theme for your prepared environment but be prepared for the child to use it however they see fit.
The last thing I saw was a demo of a vinyl cutter from the Goodnow Library in Sudbury, MA.  It's not available for patron use yet, just programming because the librarians just got trained on it themselves. This would be a great addition to makerspace. Be warned the price tag is $2,000 but the results were impressive.  We finally got our Cameo Silhouette ($230) up and running cutting vinyl and other materials but it was a learning curve with getting proper blade pressure. If something comes out jagged, it doesn't look right and we end up re-cutting it anyway. With something this large, we could cut multiple vinyl stickers at once. We could have printed our own summer reading badges! I'd rather have a large size poster printer but it's worth adding to the dream library.

Thanks to all the wonderful presenters who volunteer their time to inspire and share with others!