Blogger Alexa Newman

Not Just Tinkering Around

Tinker  verb | tin*ker   : to work in the manner of a tinker; especially :  to repair, adjust, or work with something in an unskilled or experimental manner

I had the opportunity to sit down last week with Alison Tseng, the Youth Services Technology Librarian at the Algonquin Area Public
Library District to talk about Tinker. (Full disclosure:   Alison is my coworker and sits at the desk right across from me, so it was an easy-peasy trip.)

Tseng is a facilitator for Tinker, a Chicago area technology networking group for library staff who work with youth. The group boasts members from 65 different libraries across the region from Crystal Lake to Aurora. “We try to travel all over the Chicago-land area. Part of the fun is getting a chance to see different libraries,” said Tseng. Founded four years ago, attendance at the bimonthly meetings now averages between 40-60 people.  All of the libraries are part of RAILS (Reaching Across Illinois Library System), and currently all are public libraries. School libraries are also welcomed.

The group’s motto is “Connecting library folks who work with kids and teens with STEAM and Maker program ideas.”  Each meeting, presenters share ideas and demonstrate a particular technology tool.  Afterwards, members have time to experiment hands-on with the technology.

You may have heard about the group: Tinker has presented at several conferences including ALA, PLA, ILA (Illinois Library Association), and IYSI (Illinois Youth Services Institute).

Tseng told me the first technology she experienced at Tinker was Squishy Circuits and Artbots. She said “Tinker meetings are a great way to get hands-on experience with technology that you might otherwise be too nervous to purchase and try on your own.”

“We’re always looking for new technology to bring in to the library, and Tinker is a great way to get introduced to what is working (and not working) in different libraries.  Tseng has since gone on to give presentations on Minecraft, e-textiles, spheros, and marble runs.

Tinker is a great way to make contacts with other tech-minded librarians.  Tseng shared with me, “Everyone that attends meetings are friendly and willing to help each other come up with new and exciting programs.” Other benefits of attending Tinker include learning about funding opportunities and how to best advocating for technology programming in the library.

If you’re interested in starting a similar group in your area, you can find more information on the Tinker website or Facebook page.

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