Today’s teens, as many know, are more about interacting and being hands-on at the local library than ever before. A major reason for this is due to advances in technology, which has assisted in helping the local library evolve into a better, more interactive place for our customers. There are many amazing resources for teen programming, when it comes to technology, but some of these can be expensive. Now that it is the time when we are at the end of our budget year, I have researched budget friendly STEM and technology ideas that are great for programming. Some great YALSA resources are Making in the Library Toolkit and YALSA’s STEM Wiki.

In the past, my department has done a few STEM programs for teens that were extremely cheap and/or free. The first program that we held was when we used virtual reality (VR) cardboard glasses, so teens could participate in VR worlds. VR cardboard glasses are fairly cheap, running from $4 – $15, depending on the brand. We used both the Google branded ones and a set from Light in the Box.

VR cardboard glasses

Courtesy: Paste Magazine

The best part about this program? Teens just need to bring in a smartphone and download free apps. I have done a little research and made a list VR Cardboard Apps but the teens that came to the programs found a lot of new ones as well. There are some apps you can purchase, but library staff and teens utilized free ones. 

Another free STEM program that teens love, is using Scratch. Scratch is a program that allows users to create stories, games, and animations. The website is free and is geared toward teens and youths; it is part of the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab. It’s a great way to earn 21st century skills that teens can take with them later in life. To participate, library staff and teens just need to make a free account. My department has had a lot of success with this program, and it is fun for everyone. The game, Get Da Cheeeze, is a perfect example of what library staff and teens can make using Scratch.

Get Da Cheeeeze

Courtesy: Hayley Burson; Get Da Cheeeeze

Some other, more advanced, options that are alternatives to Scratch are Alice, Stencyl, and StarLogo TNG. These are free as well, but the last two do have to be downloaded in order to participate.

One last budget friendly technology program that our branch has used is Build with Chrome. This is a program that Google Chrome established with Legos. If library staff and/or teens sign in with a Gmail account, they are able to save and post their building for others to view. If you do not have an account, no worries; you can still participate! This program is a lot of fun because library staff and teens can explore all the buildings other people have made nationally.  Participants can even become a Master Builder by completing challenges and unlocking new Lego bricks.

Build With Chrome

Courtesy: Build with Chrome


Lastly, to keep in mind if library staff decide to use Build with Chrome or Scratch, there are many ways that teens can be creative, and so library staff may want to have a longer program. In the past, I have allowed two hours for each of these programs and that was a sufficient amount of time. The VR cardboard glasses do not need as much time, but there are a lot of fun apps that teens can explore with their smart phones.

What local libraries can do with technology for teens and youths is growing rapidly. Teens today are more about action and less about watching. As stated in The Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action, “the library is no longer simply a quiet place to connect to physical content. It is instead a place, physical and virtual, to learn how to connect and use resources of all types from books to apps…”

Sharing ideas and experiences is important when working in the local library. If you have any ideas that are worth sharing, please do so! Some of the best resources library staff can come from colleges and teen customers.

About Maeve Dodds

Maeve is a Teen Lead Librarian for Charlotte Mecklenburg County, University City Branch, in Charlotte, North Carolina. She has worked in adult and children services, and was previously an elementary school media specialist. She likes reading in her hammock and trying new foods.

One Thought on “Week of Making: Budget Friendly Technology for YA Programming

  1. Great post! Very good ideas for interesting programs.

Post Navigation