Competencies for Librarians Serving Children in Public Libraries

Library Lab STEM Program at Brooklyn Public Library

Slime is having a moment at Brooklyn Public Library!  It’s one of six new experiments we are offering through 2019 Library Lab STEM programming for children ages 6-12.

All Library Lab experiments are designed to give children the opportunity to have fun with STEM topics.

Cover image of Calling All MindsI was inspired to develop three of the new units by Calling All Minds: How to Think Like an Inventor, by Temple Grandin which will be available in paperback from Puffin Books, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group, in April 2019.  In the Levers and Pulleys unit, children can explore the mechanics of force by making a small model of a wishing well and a jumping jack puppet that has moving limbs. In the Bird Kite experiment, kids can learn about the forces of lift and drag in the exploration of flight.  And in the Optical Illusions unit, we explore how color, light and patterns create images that can be deceptive or misleading to our brains. Three additional units include the exploration of balance by making mobiles, a type of kinetic sculpture; water filtration; and forms of matter.

Materials such as saline solution for the slime, baking soda, vinegar and craft supplies for all six experiments were purchased by our Youth & Family Services Department, then sorted into kits with materials for about 20-25 participants. The kits were sent to 21 libraries, about one third of BPL branches.

Library Lab logo
Library Lab logo

Library Lab started in 2016 at Brooklyn Public Library as a grant-funded program led by part time facilitators in weekend programs and evolved to an after school program run by children’s librarians. A two year training program offered by the New York Hall of Science (NYSCI) provided the opportunity librarians needed to feel comfortable leading programs about electricity, engineering, light, sound and aerodynamics. Many of the experiment guides were inspired by the Learn X Design site, founded by a consortium of six science centers led by NYSCI to create and share resources to support design-based informal learning for the after-school community.

During the past three years, I have collected approximately 30 Library Lab experiment guides, available via a newly-designed Wikimedia platform only available to staff. The wiki is a space for collaboration and sharing of photos, videos and best practices for the experiments.

One of the best things about Library Lab STEM programming is that it provides an opportunity for fun, indirect hands-on learning as children dive into the process of the scientific method. And as Temple Grandin writes, “There is no substitute for real world experience and working with your hands.”


This post addresses the ALSC Core Competency: III Programming Skills.


Headshot of Kimberly GradToday’s guest blogger is Kimberly Grad.  Kimberly is the Coordinator of School Age Services at Brooklyn Public Library in Brooklyn, NY.  She currently co-chairs the ALSC Quicklists Consulting Committee which produces lists such as the annual Día and Summer Reading booklists and new this year, Tough Topics: Inspiring Conversation in Difficult Times. She is standing for election to the 2021 Caldecott Committee on the 2019 ballot. Please contact her at kgrad@bklynlibrary.org with questions.

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at alscblog@gmail.com.

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