Future Ready with the Library: An Exploratory Lab on Kodiak Island

A version of this content was originally posted on the YALSA Future Ready with the Library Cohort Community of Practice and written by Katie Baxter. The Future Ready with the Library project is funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

youth interviewing each otherI popped over to the Community College recently to meet with Libby, the professor of Alutiiq Studies, who also co-chairs 4-H on Kodiak island. Since it was 10 cents Wednesday at the local Monk’s Rock coffee shop I was able to spring for delicious homemade pumpkin spice cookies to bring to the meeting. Libby was as thrilled as I was to have a little break for creative collegiality. I started our conversation by talking with Libby about Future Ready with the Library cohort member Laura Pitts’ Building Better Leaders program model.

I also wanted to talk with Libby about the Exploratory Lab I’m working on for the Kodiak Future Ready with the Library project. I have most of the activities, learning experiences, and materials in place for our project. However, I am missing one thing, an activity grounded in Alutiiq cultural values. I am familiar with the story telling traditions and themes of Alutiiq culture that draw upon the tribal value system, but, I am not as well versed in activities. While I could have explored the online Alutiiq Word of the Week database to find out about activities, this was a great opportunity for me to sit and learn with Libby.

Through talking with Libby I decided to modify an Alutiiq Dart Game and to include a spruce tea making time into the Exploratory Lab. For the spruce tea making, students make cups of tea for each other. They will also take part in a conversation about things they would like to work together on as a way to make their community a great place for youth. When they do this the youth will already have interviewed each other, so I will look to see if they can translate the interview or “curiosity-communication skills” to a social time.

As a community college professor Libby is very intrigued by the library as a space for interacting with middle school youth. She has just been part of a 4-H Open House at the library. (About 85 people attended) She is experiencing first-hand how one library space (the multipurpose room) can be transformed into all kinds of learning space for youth. A ten cent cup of coffee and 30 minutes out of my day went a long way to connect the library to the community and the community to the library. (Not only did I get to talk with Libby about the Future Ready with the Library project, I had a chance to show her the online library catalog which she can add to her class site for her Alutiiq Culture students.) I came back to the library energized and ready to move forward on a couple of other projects that I’ve been working on with library staff.

But that’s not all, as I worked with a high school student to proof some of the Exploratory Lab materials, she asked if her H.S. National Honor Society (NHS) could be a part of the project since members like to take on community projects. The high schooler is now interested in, at a future date, having NHS invite some middle schoolers to participate in an Exploratory Lab. Her group will no doubt generate a different set of responses to one of the questions we are focusing on during the Lab, Who Makes Kodiak Island Work?

And still, that’s not all, I also started to brainstorm how NHS could help the library gather the different 3D models of the island that will be created by different groups offering Future Ready with the Library Exploratory Lab over the next year. Once these models are collected NHS will sponsor an exhibit of these 3D islands at one of the First Friday Art Walks sponsored by Kodiak Arts Council. How easily this all fell into place, we didn’t even need cups of coffee to have the conversation. I just needed to ask her to read a draft.

This post is by Katie Baxter, the Director of the Kodiak Public Library in Kodiak, Alaska.

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