The J. Lewis Crozer Library in Chester and the Middletown Free Library are located just over six miles apart in southeastern Pennsylvania. However, the libraries’ service populations are very different. The city of Chester has an unemployment rate of 9% and a poverty rate of 33%, with almost half of those under the age of 18 living in poverty. The city of 34,000 is also among the most diverse in the state, with a population that is approximately 75% African American, 17.2% White, and 9% Hispanic. Middletown has a suburban population of 15,807, which is 93.7% White and 3.1% African-American, and a median annual income of $77,000.
However, the two libraries have a shared goal of expanding outreach and programming offerings for young people who are underserved by libraries. With the awarding of a “Light the Way” grant, the libraries are able to engage with young people in juvenile detention centers in the area. Unfortunately, these centers have an overrepresentation of young people from Chester.
With “MakerSpace Outreach and Programming Using Music,” the Crozer and Middletown libraries are launching a mobile Makerspaces program in 2017. Makerspaces provide opportunities for skills development, learning, and the design of tangible and useful completed projects. Well-funded organizations are most well-positioned to offer these hands-on engagement and learning opportunities. However, members of communities with economic and other challenges deserve equal access and the potential for developing skills and knowledge in technology, design, and collaboration, as well.
Young people in juvenile facilities are often hungry for engaging and exciting learning opportunities. They benefit from experiences that provide the tools to explore their thoughts and ideas, experiences that focus on the “how” of creating, and encourage them to explore using their knowledge when analyzing new information.
Making can transform learning and thus the maker through the hands-on, self-guided nature of making and maker projects. Students learn by employing not only hard skills, such as programming or sound creation, but also soft skills that are sought after, not only by employers, but which are necessary for navigating the world in the 21st century. A key example relates to the fact that Makers learn to collaborate with others. While the benefits of Makerspaces have been seen in more traditional school and after-school settings, this has not always been the case in less traditional settings.
This program is augmenting other programs offered for the juvenile detention center detainees, taking advantage of the dynamic nature of Makerspaces programs to engage the interest and attention of the participants, with experienced MakerSpace instructors and a sound engineer affiliated with the Middletown Library, using technology and equipment, including iPads, iElectribe and Arturia iMini apps, a digital audio workstation app, littleBits Synth Kits, and MakeyMakeys.
This project will allow the opportunity to introduce a Makerspace program focused on growing confident creators through hands-on maker projects, focusing on music in the Lima and West Chester juvenile detention centers, initially, and then expanding to two additional centers in the area.
Mark Winston, Ph.D., is the Executive Director of the J. Lewis Crozer Library in Chester, Pennsylvania. His library and academic affairs roles have included the positions of Development Officer and Head of Adult Services, Engagement Officer, Assistant University Librarian, Assistant Chancellor and Library Director, and full-time teaching faculty member. He believes in working to make sure that all community members have access to information and to library services and programs as part of his personal and professional philosophy.
Click here for more information on the “Light the Way” grant and access to the 2018 application. Submissions are due by December 1st.