30 Days of Innovation #10: looking for programming ideas outside the library

Recently on a discussion board I follow there have been numerous requests (and responses) for free, unique, or new programming ideas for teens. I have been following these threads quite closely because I, too, am always looking for fresh ideas. Plenty of us find craft ideas on Pinterest (and collaborate on this board), discover great titles on blogs, and hear from experts on webinars. But there are so many more ways to discover programming. In fact, you need look no further than your personal life.

I have a group of computer scientist friends whom I love getting together with because the things they discuss are fascinating. Printer forensics, hacking, software testing- things that I will never be able to fully wrap my head around, but topics that I truly enjoy learning about. So much so that when I was confronted with the topic of STEM programming in my library, my first thought was, “I know nothing, but those guys could really rock a presentation or workshop!” I presented the idea to my supervisor and the scientists, and my library’s first teen STEM program was born: Beyond Facebook: using computers in new and alien ways.* The scientists plan on discussing operating systems, open source software, and learning community websites (such as Khan Academy). It is my hope that the teens who attend the program will leave feeling more empowered to manipulate technology to do more than the basic functions they already know.

I was recently celebrating my brother’s birthday when his friend from high school started grilling my dad about his interactions with presidents Reagan and Carter (as he was crew chief on Marine One during their presidencies). The friend is a self-proclaimed presidential trivia nerd, and between the two of the men I learned more about presidents than I thought I could learn in the time it takes to eat a hamburger. But it got me thinking–how could I turn this into a teen program? This friend of my brother’s is so passionate, so knowledgeable, and so, well, cool that I just have to get him in front of my teens. I haven’t quite figured out how to get him in here, under what guise, but I am doing it because he is the kind of presenter that inspires teens, and we could always use more of those.

I have a friend whose husband is a meteorologist for the FAA. My brother-in-law is an aspiring orchestral conductor. My sister spent over 5 years in the Army band, 2 of which were spent in Iraq. My branch manager was on two episodes of Jeopardy.

See what I mean?! People I know and interact with on a daily basis have some seriously cool stories, occupations, and abilities that can – surely, somehow – translate into a library program for teens. We should all push back from our computers and take a look around our circle of friends for inspiration for our next programming topic. Are you taking for granted the fact that you have a friend whose dad is a former Secret Service agent? Have you forgotten that your best friend studied abroad in China? Let’s stop looking to paid professionals to tell us what they will present, discuss, or lead in workshop format, and start looking at the folks sitting right next to us and asking them to tell us their stories.

*“Alien” is in homage to our summer reading program theme, Invade Your Library.
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