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Like many libraries, ours has been shifting attention to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), with a bit of art thrown in for fun and creativity (STEAM). We hired Juan Rubio about a year ago to join our Youth and Family Learning team. He is amazing and procures cool gadgets and funding for work hours to cover us learning about the cool gadgets. A few of the things he’s brought us are Geolocative Games, 3D Printing Programming, Little Bits, and Finch Robots.

So far I’ve had training on the Finch robots. We use Samsung Chromebooks with the Snap Extension. You can use the Snap without the Finch and program a Sprite to move around, so it’s worth checking out if you are interested in really basic programming. There are 4 levels of difficulty in Snap, which is useful in teaching. The picture below is level 3, which I find to have the most functionality and easier to use than level 4.

Screenshot 2016-04-20 at 9.08.26 PM

Here’s where I warn you that I have no background in programming aside from a little HTML, CSS and XML. I do understand that the Snap commands represent a more complicated coding language underneath. I’ve even learned how to have the program show some of that language, but I don’t know what it means.

You can still teach Snap/Finches without knowing coding languages. It’s mostly logic once you get the hang of where everything is. You need a Control and a motion command in order to make the Finch do something. You can add operators and sensors and use variables to do more complicated sequences, as you can see above.

Some things were frustrating for me and the students. The Finches didn’t always behave as they should, even when the program was perfect. Sometimes the problem was that a student would have 2 or more programs running at once and they would interfere with each other. Other times the traction on the floor or table wasn’t good for the Finch’s wheels. Sometimes it just didn’t do what you told it to. Especially when it came to the sensors. I was able to turn this into a learning experience where we tried many different things to get the Finch to do what we wanted, trying different inputs and environments. The students learned that sometimes the environment is going to get in the way of what you want to happen.

I’ve had 2 groups of students so far. I do outreach at a local family housing community center, where families are transitioning out of homelessness. It’s long term housing, so they’re fairly stable, at least in having a place to live. The teens that I work with there are mostly girls from ages 11-14. For these classes, I went once a week for 3 weeks and had an hour each time. An hour was not enough and the teens have a lot of things on their plates, but we had a good time and they learned a lot. We’ll have our party in early May and students will be challenged to make their Finches dance, make music and do a light show.

outreach

The other program I’ve had was at our branch over Spring Break. It was 3 days long with a party at the end of the 3rd day where they showed off the tricks they’d learned. This group was mostly boys, ages 8-12. They’d all had Scratch before, so understood most of the Snap programming basics. I had to modify the first few curriculum for them, then move quickly to the more advanced workshops.

My next training will be on the Geolocative Games. With that, we’ll create a game that is a digital scavenger hunt. There are a lot of ways to make this game beneficial to the community. One of my colleagues did a project with her service learning group where they researched the history of their neighborhood, then put locations named after iconic people into their game, with information to teach the gamer about the history.

It was a really fun and sometimes frustrating experience. Totally worthwhile. I wouldn’t have been as successful if I hadn’t had a very wonderful coworker at my branch who could help me with the more technical stuff. He is also a very patient and intuitive teacher and I learned a lot having him there to help with the outreach programs.

 

Wow, I haven’t been here for a while.  Lots of things have changed and every time I sat down to write all of it felt a little too heavy to drop on the page.  Nothing is bad, there was just a lot of life going on.

I suppose bad is relative though.  I did break up with the Mister.  Long distance relationships wear you down after a while, and for me, our relationship got worn down to nothing.  There’s no he said, she said, just an end and a new beginning.  I am happy being single and it isn’t that different from being in a long distance relationship.  At the moment, I’m happy being me.  Maybe someone else will come along that is also happy with me being me and we can be happy together.  There should probably be a law against using the word happy that many times in a paragraph.

Libraryland has been wonderful.  I’ve been participating in our programming committee and feel like this is a group who’s work will make a difference.  I got approved to have a Teen Space at my branch too, in addition to Teen Advisory, so now we will have a once a month hang out spot just for teens.  Reading Marathon is coming up in about a week and we go next week to the middle school to promote it at lunch hour.  I love having a specific program to promote–ok, I just love tabling and all the teens I see.  I feel like a mini celebrity bribing the kids with candy to love me (I mean, love the library of course). Oh and we got a new regional manager.  Yup, another new manager.

The Boy is very nice to have around.  He’s at an awkward phase where he wants to be a gentleman, but he forgets sometimes and lapses back into teen sas.  I am diligent in reminding him to “be nice” and he’s always pretty quick to come around.  Unless there’s school work involved, then it takes him a little longer.  He got a bit of a scare this quarter though, so even that attitude is changing.  For now.  I understand wanting to be in charge of your own life but failing school isn’t a good way of proving you’re ready to be a man.  Oh, and when it takes you two days to empty the dishwasher, that means I have to wait that long to do the dishes. (That’s an exaggeration, in case you’re wondering). We’ve been having a nice time together generally.  The power struggles have gotten shorter and we have some pretty good conversations when we sit on the couch in the evenings.

This snow is awesome.  I had Wednesday off to take The Boy to his doctor appointments, but of course they were all canceled.  I stocked up on groceries on Tuesday night and I’m super glad because I haven’t been outside for the last 2 days for more than taking pictures and taking out the trash.  I got the house clean and organized yesterday and now am enjoying the warmth and quiet.  I think I’m going to go hang out in my newly reassembled bed for some quality reading time.  Hopefully my legs will not atrophy before my 6 mile run on Sunday.

I’m terribly bad at following through with my promises on here, aren’t I?  I believe that I said I would talk about how programs and teen advisory groups build community.  When I mentioned that, I was planning a short post because I was hoping to give a presentation on it at WLA this April.  Instead I will be helping facilitate a round table discussion.  No more qualms about talking too much.

I absolutely love having a teen advisory group.  As I said before, I looked at a lot of programming ideas before I settled on on TAG (I’m a dork, I like to say “TAG, you’re it!” on publicity.  The teens forgive me.) but after talking to Jackie I just felt like this was the right fit.  Our branch has a lot of teens and younger kids, a lot of families.  We lose the teens for a while in high school because they just have so much gosh darn work to do–I don’t think I would have gotten this group if they hadn’t started out in middle school last year.  Now they are in high school and they bring in their friends.  That means more teens using the teen area and the homework table.  More teens being a positive presence in the library.

When we have programs, our meeting room is right in the front of the library and everyone looks in to see why we are having so much fun.  If it’s a TAG meeting, we get curious gazes.  When we have a program, I make sure to put a sign in the window so that everyone knows what’s going on.  We celebrated National Gaming Day on Saturday and we got about 15 teens right at the start.  Later, families started to show interest and as the teens were game, we invited them in to play with us.  Moms, Dads and kids all came in and played Apples to Apples and Mario Kart.  I got to tell them why gaming in the library is so cool and they told me how wonderful it was to do something on that rainy day outside their house.  I invited everyone back to our inter-generational game and craft day in late December.

Building these bridges with teens, kids and parents is invaluable at the library. Giving teens a library connection to hold onto when they get into high school is key to getting them to return as library users when they become adults.  Having friends that advocate and sell library with the air they breathe helps that happen, as does seeing that friendly librarian face as they’re racing towards the lunch room at school.  I table a couple of times a year and offer candy for library cards.  I revel in the teens that can recite their library barcode numbers to me.  The ones that don’t have them want to know what all the fuss is about so I end up giving out applications with a “you’re going to need this for school” talk.  Teen advisory group members stopping by to say hi helps pave the way.

I also try to draw the community into programs.  When we had the neighborhood scavenger hunt last session, some of the locations were local businesses.  I took the opportunity to talk with the employees and managers of the businesses to let them know that they would have visitors and that there is a library, right down the street.  I’ve made acquaintances with some of them–we nod and smile now on the street–and one place has become very connected.  The employees use the library and the manager has offered to help with some prizes in another program down the line.  Full disclosure; I’ve been buying coffee and doughnuts there for a couple of years now.  I don’t frequent the other businesses as much and my coworkers don’t talk about the library as much as I do (they probably think I’m crazy ;)  I wear my badge proudly and talk about books and services when I’m out and about.  Stalkers be damned.  But my point is that if I spread my spending money out a bit, I would probably have a wider impact.

I don’t have to tell you that community is the lifeblood of public libraries.  Some libraries get sleepy, though.  They forget.  They serve the people who come in their doors with excellence, but don’t take the extra steps to bring in more (and yes, even when we have more patrons than we know what to do with, we need more advocates, more users).  What do you do to entice people through your doors?

I started my Teen Advisory Group last year after looking at several options and talking to a friend about her group. My branch had a lot of requests for teen volunteer positions and no history of regular teen programs.  When I came to work there, it was during a rather unsettling reorganization.  None of us was doing much, and I got a few extra responsibilities that put a serious cramp in my ability to plan anything for teens.  By the time I was able to train someone to take most of those responsibility off my hands, it was summer.  The time was perfect to plan… something.

I considered a couple of different things.  Weekly programming seemed like an option, but keeping things fresh could be a problem and we don’t house our region’s gaming equipment, so getting it regularly would require more driving than I wanted.  Then I talked to my friend in another system about her teen advisory board and it sounded like the right fit.  I didn’t have any funding yet, so I thought I would start with a once a month meeting.  Now that timing seems right.  We have supplemental meetings when we need to.  And now we have funding, at least for this year, so they get to have pizza.

For the planning, I asked the librarians at the Teen Center for the forms they use for their Teen Center Advisors; an information sheet and a contract with a place for students and parents to commit to the time responsibility.  I edited these forms and sent them to the local high schools and put them out in the teen area.  I offer service learning credit for participating. Despite the fact that all the forms disappeared, I still had that moment where I didn’t think anyone would show up.

Instead I had 12 teens at the first meeting, and all of them stuck with me through the first year (two sessions, Sept-Dec and Feb-May).  We planned an author visit, celebrated National Gaming Day and helped with an all ages winter family day.  In our second session we made two videos, one for the ALA Why I Need My Library contest, the other to support our Steampunk Summer theme, and planned a community scavenger hunt.

I realized very early that I had to have an agenda and that it helps to write it up on the white board where everyone can see it.  I have a couple of strong personalities in my group and I’m still learning the best way to channel their enthusiasm.  But having a clear agenda with a few ideas for projects helps a lot.  I try to make sure the ideas are the teens, but within the limits of what I can do at the library and as relevant to library ideals as possible.  I was amazed by how many of those ideals the kids got when they made the Why I Need My Library video.  When we planned the scavenger hunt, it came about because of a box of prizes that I had that should be used.  I asked them how I should give them away, we brainstormed and the scavenger hunt idea was born.  They created the posters, helped me with the clues and the structure and helped with the program itself.

I require them to communicate with me by email.  Otherwise I would have to make 12 phone calls every time I wanted to talk to them. They have to write a blog post every month.  I’d say that is the biggest challenge we have is getting those in from a couple of people.  In the new session that just started, I introduced a log sheet for each participant to keep track of their hours and blog posts.  That way they can all see what’s expected and how they’re doing.

In my next post, I’ll talk a little bit about TAG’s, programming and community and how the library can build stronger ties to it’s neighborhood through TAG activities.

Busy days!  I had a duct tape program yesterday and projects the kids made were just amazing.  We used Stick It for inspiration, which has some great projects and lays everything out in an easy to see way.  I also made a powerpoint with videos from YouTube on the history of duct Tape and how to make a duct tape sheet.  Some day I will remember to try out Prezi for this sort of thing.  As it was, I couldn’t get the sound to come on until I pressed a button on the top of the keyboard (user error).  Oh, and I made this:

What have I been reading?

Hellbent by Cherie Priest  This is the second book in the Cheshire Red Reports series (first book is Bloodshot), which features Raylene, a century old vampire.  She’s a thief for hire but has a soft spot for those who win her over.  So far she has collected a navy seal drag queen, two orphaned children and a blind vampire.  They all live in a brick warehouse in a Pioneer Square area of Seattle.  This episode (because I think this would make an awesome TV series) or perhaps I should say season, has Raylene splitting her attention between finding some magical artifacts and helping her misbegotten family.

This I love about the series:

How well Cherie Priest talks about Seattle.  I didn’t put the book down once to try to figure out how a person got from place A to place B without falling in a large hole.  Usually books set in Seattle bother me with holes in the geography (how does one walk from Wallingford to Capitol Hill in less than an hour?), but I know that’s just me.

Raylene is awesome with her OCD and constant chatter.  She’s a great character and I have come to realize that I am a character person.  Her chatter is all relevant and interesting and helps build the story.  Other characters are less developed because of her dominance, but you get just enough of them keep the flow.

The travel–while the home base is in Seattle, Priest isn’t afraid to take her characters all over the US.  How does a vampire travel?  By car and airplane of course–at night!  That timing can be a little tricky when you have to be in a dark room by the time the sun rises.  There isn’t a lot of sight seeing in some of these trips, but you do get a feel for the location, and certain places are more fleshed out.

There’s a lot of action and adventure in this series.  It won’t let pleasure readers down.  I’ll be recommending this book to adults and teens.  Officially out August 30th.  Bloodshot is available now!

One of the things I really enjoy about my job are all the opportunities to participate in events and projects.  In the last few years I have been on the Instruction Committee (creating policy around our computer classes for the public and laptop computer labs), blog committee (tech liaison etc), scheduling software committee (just wrapping up) and have helped coordinate a teen lock in/overnight, All Ages Art Night, Comixtravaganza, a regional gaming tournament and a reading marathon.  That doesn’t include the regular programming I have done at my branches and outreach to my schools.  I really love making my library a relevant and innovative space that is attractive to all ages.  Now that things have settled down with some of my other projects, I am taking some new challenges.

One thing that will take up much of my time is the formal mentoring program I entered into at work.  I am trying to figure out if management is the right direction for me–to make sure that goal isn’t sticking with me just because it feels like that should be my next step.  I love what I do, do I really need more?  One of the things I want to work on during this time is critical reading and analysis of management and library topics.  My mentor will assign me reading and I will pick something I find interesting and blog about it.  Not here–I have set up another wordpress blog and will use that.  I’ll update when I actually write something, probably in August sometime.  The other thing I will do is job shadow and interview current managers and assistant managers to see what they do and how they balance life and work.

In my own time, I also plan to submit a proposal for a presentation at WLA which is happening in Tulalip next April.  It is a small conference, close to home and a good place to try out my public speaking.  The worst thing about it is that I will probably know people there–bigger chance I’ll embarrass myself, right?  It’s a chance I’ll take.  My proposal entails building communities; how to make teen volunteers/teen advisory group ambassadors for the library and using programs to connect your library to the community.

Speaking of programs, I had a great time making books with Seattle Center for Book Arts:

Wow, the two weeks since vacation have been crazy pants.  I don’t know how I packed so many obligations into such a short amount of time, but I figured out yesterday just how much I had booked.  2 computer classes (one of them my first day back), 1 TAG wrap up party, 1 TAG video edit (coming soon),  2 training sessions, 1 school visit (with 7 classrooms and a lunch table), 1 scavenger hunt program–throw in a weekend Union conference, a general membership meeting and a few personal things–The Boy’s basketball tournament in La Connor!–and I’ve been one busy woman!

Of course, there are upsides and downsides to this kind of thing.  I got to do everything I wanted (everything!), and I get the second half of the month off for vacation and ALA.  The downsides are that I had to drive most days because of supplies and early mornings, I woke up at odd times from anxiety dreams, and I was a little high strung.

Usually I don’t plan things so close, but a few weren’t my doing (training) and the others couldn’t be helped (without making the choice not to do them).  I had time for them all and planned really well, so they all came off without a hitch (except for Facebook class, but I blame Facebook’s ever shifting craziness for most of that).  I put the finishing touches on my Steampunk Summer display last night after the Scavenger Hunt and I like the way it turned out.  I talked up the teen summer reading program to teens at the local middle and high school and they seem pretty excited about it.  All of my hidden books disappeared pretty quickly and coworkers said that kids came in asking about it. (Click the link above for more info about Steampunk Summer).

What am I reading?  Still finishing up Fevre Dream by George RR Martin.  That books is long–but worth it, as Martin books are.

I just started an ARC that a local author gave me; The Jewel and the Key by Louise Spiegler.  She’s a history teacher and also wrote The Amethyst Road.  I like it so far, but I find that books set in Seattle unnerve me a bit.  Usually they use landmarks I know, but mix up their locations to fit the story.  I find myself wanting to look up every location on a map, which is distracting, but not the author’s fault.  The first scene of The Jewel and the Key is at Lincoln High School, which is a real place, but has not functioned as it’s own high school for a long time.  It is currently being used to house other schools while their school is undergoing renovation.  Right now, I think there are two elementary schools using the site.  Lincoln is in Wallingford, so every time the character turns a corner, I try to envision where she is.  I used to work in that ‘hood and know it fairly well.  I’m going to have to let this go to enjoy the story.  So far the writing is good and the characters are interesting.   More later.

I finished A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan–very contemporary.  I liked this book, but I’m not sure I loved it. I felt like I was reading several related short stories that eventually came together in one conclusion. I liked each of these individually–even (or maybe especially) the one done in power point slides–but overall it felt choppy and hard to follow. I did enjoy the characters; meeting each one, discovering their strengths and weaknesses and following them on their journeys. Egan creates a very in depth picture of each of her characters, and they are very interesting.

Yes, I did carry a towel around with me today.  Because that is the kind of nerd I am!  Yes I have read all the books, although it was later in life.  Before the movie. Yes.

Ok, so I’ve been talking to myself too much lately.  I was walking to the p-patch after I got home from work and realized that I left my dvds there.  Sadness!  And I said it out loud.  I heard a sort of snort behind me and a jogger went by.  All I could do was laugh at myself too.

I am going on vacation tomorrow and I will lose a week of check out on the videos.  There are two tv series in there. No way I am going to be able to finish them now.

The Mister bought me plane tickets to see him for my birthday.  Probably the best present ever (next to the very cool step stool I got last year from my son).  I can’t wait to see him and to spend a few days in the sun.  The rain today really clinched it for me.

My Teen Advisory Group worked on their video to promote the summer reading program this week and I think it is going to turn out wonderfully.  We’re editing it when I get back and it should be up in the first week of June.  I tabled at the local high school today and gave away copies of Leviathan and Boneshaker, along with candy for library cards and information on volunteering.  It was fun and I rarely felt like I was selling something no one wanted to buy ;)  It turned out to be good I brought the towel, because it started raining on my way back to the bus so I used it to cover up the box of goodies that I had with me and  I remembered not to panic.

Scavenger Hunt forms are flying out of the branch right now.  I’ve gone from worrying that there wouldn’t be any interest to worrying that there will be too much–but I doubt that will happen. Right?

What am I reading?  I just finished The Alchemist by Paolo Bacigalupi and it was worth the wait (the hold list is long for this one).  Magic both heals and hurts in this alternate world.  In a middle age-esc time the alchemist is racing to find a cure for the dreaded bramble that takes over land every time magic is used.  He wants his daughter healed, but only magic can fix her damaged lungs.  Magic that has been banned to keep the bramble at bay.  Finally he finds the answer, only to be held hostage by the lord he hoped to ally himself with against the bramble.  The ending isn’t all sunshine and roses, but it is hopeful.

Oddly enough, when I went to try to get The Scar again, there were 33 holds on it.  That’s from none when I randomly chose to download it 3 weeks ago.  What is going on?  Is everyone going China Mieville crazy?

Biking and running have worn me out this month.  I was just about half way through and felt like I hit a wall with both.  Like I couldn’t improve no matter how much I tried.  It’s been a little better since I lubed my chain and made a few other adjustments to my bike and took a couple of days off from running.

I was also convinced that a week in May wasn’t there.  I had superimposed this week with last week.  I told people I had meetings I didn’t have, gave the wrong days off to one of my TAG kids when he wanted to come in and meet with me.  Luckily I realized in time and was able to rectify my mistakes, but I felt silly.  Otherwise I felt pretty sharp, conversing with colleges and getting things done.

I didn’t feel much up to blogging, which is why I only posted the lame one before this.  I am in a reading funk–trying to finish The Scar before it’s due in a couple of days and failing miserably.  Usually I can read a book in a day or two, a week sometimes for adult fiction, but here I am at the end of a 21 day check out less than half way through.  This would make sense if I didn’t like the book, but I do.

***

In Libraryland I posted a link to a blog post by Seth Gobin at work, hoping to start a discussion, pulling this quote for the headline:

mere clerks who guard dead paper

We did have a good discussion about the post, and a good response by another blogger was posted.  It wasn’t until later that night when I went to Facebook that I found out that some had taken the quote too literally and hadn’t clicked through to read the article.  Sometimes circulation staff are referred to as clerks and so some of them took this as a personal affront.  I am not sure if I should feel bad about the misunderstanding.  I do regret that feelings were hurt, but I also wonder why they didn’t click through and see what the post was all about.  He isn’t insulting clerks, he’s telling librarians to get off their asses and get with the times.  And even though the post contains quite a few misconceptions about what libraries and librarians are doing and how easy it is to find information on the internet, he is entirely correct on that point.

In other library news, as you may have seen in the paper we have a new City Librarian.  He was the best of the three candidates, in my opinion and I’ve decided to be optimistic until he proves me wrong.  Ha, that doesn’t sound very, does it?  He has a good attitude, is a great public speaker and doesn’t seem to be bringing any baggage with him.  Long live MT.

Ooh, and we teen librarians have a pretty awesome summer reading program planned.  I can’t wait to start!

There was actual sun today!  It was bright and shiny and it was still out when I got off work late.  There’s a kitty keeping me warm.

I’m back to riding to work and have added in most of my errand running (40 miles this week!)  I’m looking for a running partner to keep me on track with that.  Can I just say that trying to find a person to run with on CL is a pain in the ass?  I’ve gotten several responses to my ad.  Two of them send fragments that I can’t quite decipher.  We’ve sent several emails so I can try to figure out what they mean.  Another person sent a short but promising note, then never responded again.  The last one, that I got today, actually wrote an understandable email.  And is actually what I asked for in my ad.  I hope that one works out.

Work is going great.  My area looks awesome–weeded and tidy with display books everywhere.  My instruction team is creating new curriculum–Facebook and Word classes.  We are leading the system in classes.  My teen advisory group made a wonderful video about why they need their library.  They did the whole thing themselves, and I am so proud of them.

What am I reading?  I just got Red Glove by Holly Black in and I am so excited, I started reading it at work.  I am still reading Anna and the French Kiss at home.  Red Glove is everything I hoped it would be so far.  I like that the stories aren’t all tied up in a nice little contained package.  The writing is neat and tidy, but the story is gritty and messy, just as a gangster story should be.

I don’t know why this thought just ran through my head, but I am so thankful to the library.  If not for them, I could never afford the number of books and movies that I consume on a daily, weekly, monthly…you get the idea.  Not to mention all the articles I access through the databases.  Even if I didn’t work here.  Ok, I might not read as much…  Maybe only one book a week instead of 3.