Aspen Institute Taskforce pt. 1: 24/7 Learning

The Aspen Institute Taskforce for Learning on the Internet recently released the report Learner at the Center of a Networked World. At 116 pages, the report is quite comprehensive. Since there is far too much information for one blog post, I am going to break this into a series.

The report calls for a change from the 18th and 19th century model of education:

Continue reading Aspen Institute Taskforce pt. 1: 24/7 Learning

Robotics for the Rest of Us

When I first started my job, I used to spend hours planning programs, planning for every possible thing that could possibly go wrong. I would arrive at my events’ an hour early and would nervously pace the room, thinking all the thoughts we’ve all had: Do I know what I’m doing? What if a teen has questions I can’t answer? What if I get fired and have to be a barista again?’ 

But since 2006, librarianship has changed. We are no longer expected to be experts and with the advent of the Maker Movement, teen programming has become more about HOMAGO than lesson plans. This led me to do something last winter that I never, ever thought I’d do: I started a Robotics Club’ with no knowledge of robotics. If I can do it, so can you. Here are my thoughts: Continue reading Robotics for the Rest of Us

Fun with MaKey MaKey

In November, I began a 6-week series called Maker Mondays. The program attracted a small following and has since become so popular that I extended it into June and am even creating a summer Maker camp for teens. Maker Mondays is a program for grades 6-9 and serves around 15 students each week. Every Monday, we learn a new skill or do a new project.

The favorite activity by far has been the MaKey MaKey. MaKey MaKey’s are invention kits that work like simple Arduinos. It consists of a simple board and wires with alligator clips.

The MaKey MaKey
The MaKey MaKey

Continue reading Fun with MaKey MaKey

Think BIG: Planning Large Teen Events at Your Library: Part 3 of 3

Part 3: Marketing, Creating, and Running Your Program

In Part One of this series, I talked about the values of big programming and in Part Two, I talked about putting together a Teen Planning Committee to help you come up with something spectacular. Now, it’s time for your event. What do you do?


Marketing is one of the biggest components of big programming. You’re trying to draw in a new audience (and actually get people to come to your event), so it’s important to have a detailed marketing plan.

Split the effort between you and your Teen Planning Committee. Put a teen or a group of teens in charge of social media marketing. Teens are up on the latest trends that are happening in their community. Whether they use Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, Snapchat, or _______ (I’m leaving a blank here to symbolize something I’ve never heard of), teens will know how to spread the word. Students also have an advantage you don’t have: word-of-mouth. Your Teen Planning Committee can talk to their friends and family about the event, who will talk to their friends, and so forth.

Continue reading Think BIG: Planning Large Teen Events at Your Library: Part 3 of 3

Think BIG: Planning Large Teen Events at Your Library: Part 2 of 3

Part 2: Forming a Committee and Involving Teens

In the Part One of this series, I discussed why you should try big programming. Big programming isn’t so much a numbers game as it is an approach to program planning. However, with this approach, your programs will scale up over time. And bigger programs require more money, more planning, and more support.

Last weekend, our Teen Planning Committee and I ran a Library Comic-Con that attracted 100 people. This was a “big” program, in both planning and in numbers. We’re still learning from each experience, but I’ll walk you through our basic recipe for success. Continue reading Think BIG: Planning Large Teen Events at Your Library: Part 2 of 3

Think BIG: Planning Large Teen Events at Your Library: Part 1 of 3

Part 1: Why Should I Try Big Programming?

When I mention to some people that I’ve helped organize events that were not only staffed by teens, but also attended by over 100 of their peers, I get a variety of reactions: admiration, respect, but mainly people questioning my sanity. As someone who could get 6 teens in room on a good day (maybe more if there was pizza), making the jump from small, niche programs to taking a chance on planning something big required a lot of work and a big leap of faith. Now that I’ve lived to survive two large events and am in the midst of planning a third, I feel like I’m at a point where I can share what I’ve learned so perhaps you won’t end up crawling into a ball and crying when your administration suggests you “think outside the box” with your programming.

So what is big programming? “Big programming” is not a game of numbers; it is a mindset. Like most of you, I host some programs on a regular basis. We have an Anime Club, a Zombie Club, and a Minecraft program. We have a small group of devoted followers who come to these events and these programs are definitely one of my favorite parts of my job. However, these programs serve a niche audience. If 50 teens suddenly showed up to Zombie Club, I wouldn’t count it as “big,” since I would still be serving the same group.

Continue reading Think BIG: Planning Large Teen Events at Your Library: Part 1 of 3