It is snowing in the library!

It is snowing in the library!

This week I got to make some great bookart holiday decorations that I wanted to share.

First I made this totally secular (hmmm….) tree. Very simple, though a little monotonous and time consuming. This tree took me about 45 minutes. But it is the perfect activity for when you need to turn your brain off.

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These are the instructions I followed.

Then I got to make these lovely snowflakes from weeded books. I was told how to do this so I took pictures and will include the steps here.

First, close your eyes, bite your lip, and then squeal a little bit while you tear some pages out of a book. Using a paper cutter or scissors, make them square. Like so…

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Fold that in half to make a triangle.2016-11-30-19-11-58

 

And fold that in half again making a smaller triangle.2016-11-30-19-12-15

 

Now fold that triangle into thirds. So fold #1…2016-11-30-19-12-32

 

And then fold #2.2016-11-30-19-48-43

Now visualize a line that would make a smaller triangle. Here I have drawn it for you.

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Cut along that line.

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Discard everything but the triangle that is left.2016-11-30-19-49-33

 

Now get creative and cut out a design. Anything goes really as long as you don’t cut all the way through.2016-11-30-19-50-43

 

Unfold and you have your snowflake!2016-11-30-19-45-30

And here is one other decoration that would be great that I haven’t tried yet. These appear to be newspaper that has been cut, folded, and spray painted. They are lovely!

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Bots & Books: West Texas Training

Bots & Books: West Texas Training

This week we conducted our second training for year 2 of Bots & Books in San Angelo, Texas at the Tom Green County Library System.

2015-10-19 14.27.52-1 2015-10-19 14.27.11 2015-10-19 09.54.06 2015-10-19 09.54.00 2015-10-19 09.53.10I brought these Lego candies for an afternoon pick-me-up. They actually click together! They taste a little like Smarties.

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Another day packed to the brim with information, but our librarians were real troopers and made it through with a smile. This stuff can be intimidating and difficult for those who aren’t comfortable with technology or who haven’t played with Legos in a few decades.

Here are some of the cool builds we worked on!

Next week I will be speaking to another pocket of libraries in north east Texas about our fantastic Bots & Books grant! Only one more training to go!

Bots & Books, Year 2!

Bots & Books, Year 2!

Our new grant fiscal year started September 1st and I have been really busy getting the second year of the Bots & Books grant up and running! This grant allows CTLS to provide the equipment and training to help get public libraries all over Texas started with robotics programming for youth patrons.

STEM library programs are becoming so popular (and necessary!), but many librarians are intimidated by the word robotics. It is expensive to get into and there is a learning curve to the content. That is why CTLS created this grant. It helps libraries who don’t have the initial budget by providing all the equipment needed to begin. And we train librarians on how to use the equipment, provide them with ways to tie robotics to literacy, and consult with them on ways they can grow and sustain their robotics programs beyond our grant year.

By the end of this grant year I will have worked with 26 libraries all over the state! Here is a robot I built to show off at our upcoming CTLS Membership Meeting.

Not only is this programming important for small communities that may not have other avenues for this kind of experience for children, but it is yet another way for libraries to serve their communities. We can provide fun, informal educational experiences for our children and their families at not cost to them.

Man, I love my job!

#TXLA16 Robotics presentation

#TXLA16 Robotics presentation

Just got word that my proposal for a session on robotics programming at the 2016 Texas Library Association Annual Conference  has been accepted! The session, Bleep! Blorp! Books! Robots in the Library:  How to Sustain a Robotics Program @ Your Library, is tentatively scheduled for Thursday of the conference, April 21st. Headed to Houston in the spring!! 😀

Public Librarians as STEM Educators?

Public Librarians as STEM Educators?

The Space Science Institution is a nonprofit organization that does R&D and education to make science accessible. They created an education branch called the National Center for Interactive Learning. One of the NCIL’s projects is called the STAR (Science-Technology Activities and Resources) Library Education Network. Also known as Star_Net, they have an online community where librarians can collaborate, they offer training, and give information about grants for libraries to produce STEM programming.

I am reading a report paper called The Accidental STEM Librarian: An Exploratory Interview with Eight Librarians from John Baek from Star_Net. As the title states, it is presented as a case study after an interview process with eight librarians on the state of STEM activities in libraries. Baek seems to be asking whether public librarians should be acting as STEM educators. He points to the fact that STEM topics are not part of our extended education and that many librarians admit to having STEM anxiety. He notes that librarians interviewed stated that they didn’t feel qualified to be “teaching” science since they are not scientists. And, most importantly, these hesitations can come across to our patrons. If we aren’t enjoying it, they won’t be either. These are all barriers to providing quality STEM programming in the public library setting.

Having worked with librarians to get them started on a robotics program in their public library, I can say that I have seen all of these issues. I am always suggesting that public libraries should find a hole in their community and figure out a way to fill it. Parents are wanting to find ways to get kids, especially girls, more interested in STEM activities and it is crucial that the future workforce have an understanding and interest in these areas. So this is an obvious hole at the moment! We can fill it… and many actively are! But should we be? I have asked myself this many times.

My initial reaction is… yes. We are not presenting ourselves as experts and we are merely trying to spark an interest. As we so often say, “We don’t know the answers but we know how to find them!” But it can be difficult to say, “Come see me talk about and demonstrate robotics!” when you have little to no training or experience on the subject… hence Baek’s use of the term “accidental STEM librarian”. Many STEM librarians I know suggest that when you run into something you don’t know the answer to admit to it and work with the patron to figure it out. This is a great example to children of curiosity and critical thinking which is exactly the point of providing STEM programming. But that can only get you so far… does it get us far enough?

Getting past the anxieties mentioned above takes a real interest in the topic. Someone who doesn’t have an interest or curiosity should not be dictated to run a STEM program. That means that if a public library is going to offer STEM programming, it will end up being driven by someone who has experience or an interest. If no one on staff has that interest, will the library simply not offer this to their community? It is pretty standard for public libraries to offer a storytime. It isn’t really an optional part of being a youth services librarian. At what point will STEM programming be as standard as storytime? And how will our education change to drive that?

There are many gaps in LIS education. You aren’t taught how to do a storytime even though, if you are a youth services librarian, it is a big and very public part of your job. If we were to try to educate ourselves on all of the possible topics that we have programs on, we would NEVER finish with our formal education. At what point does this need to be talked about in LIS programs?

Baek concludes that we can use typical librarian skills such as the reference interview to boost our confidence to provide this kind of inquiry-based programming.

In one sense STEM is no different than what the library has always done, which is provide learning opportunities that help them fuel new interests, support career development, and engage in lifelong learning. When seen from this broad mission of the public library, providing STEM is just business as usual.

Public Libraries & MOOCs Can Provide Access & Engagement

Public Libraries & MOOCs Can Provide Access & Engagement

When I first began work on my Masters through the University of North Texas, I had reservations about how I would do in a mostly online environment. Luckily, I thrived and found the tools provided through Blackboard to more than make up for the lack of “community” or “meeting of the minds”. I did like the fact that the first couple of classes began in person. The other LIS students I met during those couple of weeks I remain in contact with today, several years later. We bonded immediately because we knew our time together was short.

I wrote recently about how the University of Wisconsin and public libraries around their state worked together to provide resources and physical space for discussions for a MOOC on Great Lake climate change. Earlier this year, a university professor made the case for joining MOOC resources and meetups to provide a more meaningful learning experience.

And the Skokie Public Library in Illinois is piloting a program to encourage participation in two Coursera MOOCs by providing a venue for patrons to come together to watch lecture videos and have a “kitchen-table” type conversation about what they learned.

Public libraries and MOOCs have the same goals: to increase access and educate. Librarians want to provide access to quality resources. MOOCs provide that. The biggest barriers for patrons are access to technology. Libraries provide that. And we can provide the physical space and local resources to make the content more meaningful. I really hope to see more public libraries offering this kind of program in the future.

via Scaling Education to the Community: How Libraries Can Leverage MOOCs | MOOC Report.