Ready to introduce new technology, but uncertain about patron interest? Why not try what we call “byte-sized programming”? It introduces a variety of tech in a station-based environment. The more stations, the more entry points you have to engage your families with tech. You can introduce a variety of topics that appeal to all generations. Plus, these programs are easily customized to your space, patron interests, and budget, and are held on a come-and-go basis.
Interacting with dynamic technology builds skills like hand-eye coordination and visual attention. Working collaboratively teaches social interaction skills and problem solving. By providing free access, libraries bridge the digital gap. Come-and-go programming is a win-win, because programs are less staff intensive but still easily customized. Your setup should offer multiple stations for families to move between freely, so they can experiment and engage with what interests them most. If staffing is a concern, tech-minded teen or adult volunteers can answer questions and guide families. Or, look for community partners willing to support your programs. Ready to get started?
Host a Circuit Circus.
Have stations with paper circuits, squishy circuits, and brush bots. You’ll have different tech to explore, but you won’t need supplies for everyone. Use craft supplies you already have on hand, and reuse higher cost items like batteries for several programs. Paper circuits can make light-up greeting cards or origami. Appealing materials like play dough encourage scientific and artistic discovery with squishy circuits, but you can reuse the supplies for many families. Brush bots combine circuits and robotics, but don’t need much technical experience.
Adapt a coding program to any age, tech experience, or supplies.
Combine computers you have with free, online content to keep costs minimal. Try pairing lessons from Codecademy or Code.org with off-screen challenges to reach multiple learning styles. Adding LEGOs to coding is always a hit, too! Keep cost low with community donations – many families have unused sets they’re willing to share. Host a one-time coding exploration program, or dedicate more time to a weekly code club.
Get creative with Maker Mania.
Use supplies you already have. Design stations with things like LEGOs, LEDs, old electronics, straws, or egg cartons. From wearable tech to functional projects, engage at any level. Crafty projects like DIY cord keepers or DIY smartphone cases are also options. Chances are, you already have supplies on hand for a ton of creative projects. Limit the number of participants to manage supply budgets.
Visit the World of Robots.
Include robots for all ages! Try Bee-Bots and Code-a-pillars to reach your littlest patrons. Cubelets and Spheros work well for older patrons. Add an EV3 robot or LEGO WeDo kit for an additional challenge, or demonstrate how a 3D printer works. Tech is available at many price levels, starting around $50. Because it’s come-and-go, you don’t need to have a robot for everyone. Buy one or two to start. It’s a great way to see what products are popular with your patrons before investing in a complete set.
Come-and-go programming introduces a variety of tech without a huge investment. Explore your community’s interests, find out what works well in your space, and customize to your participants. Connect families with tech in a low-key, fun environment while encouraging exploration at their own speed. Byte-sized programming is just the right size for everyone!
Jaime Eastman is a Public Services Librarian and the Family Place Coordinator at the Harrington Library, one of the Plano Public Libraries. She can be reached at email@example.com. Photo courtesy of Plano Public Library.
This post addresses the following ALSC Core Competencies: II. Reference and User Services and III. Programming Skills.