This is a story about working within your budget and collaborating with other local libraries to maximize your investment in technology. Tech is fleeting- it is monumentally difficult to predict what is ephemeral and what is durable. What if you end up with devices with a short shelf life?
This past spring, using none of my budget, I facilitated a series of digital learning programs for elementary school students using Lego WeDo kits. WeDo projects are fun and easy to assemble- components are Lego-compatible, instructions are visual and very detailed- and the final build is something simple like an animal or vehicle. Downloadable software allows kids to learn about block coding, and basic sensors and motors then make the figure move.
So how did I run this high-tech project for free? I borrowed the kits from a nearby library.
Despite all of the sharing that libraries are built for, sharing equipment this way is a tricky business. A few years back, some colleagues and I put together a sharing program for non-book equipment among our Chicago-area libraries. We had a grant through the Illinois State Library’s ILEAD USA program and that allowed us to experiment with ways of sharing. We each got to spend a thousand dollars on a set of equipment that we would then swap among ourselves. The Lego WeDos discussed here were not part of the original experiment, but the concept endured. A partner library had upgraded to WeDo 2.0, and since they were through with the equipment, we were welcome to borrow WeDo 1.0 as needed. The kids in my community were able to enjoy a program for free that would have taken several hundred dollars to get up and running.
Do you have expensive equipment that sits idle most of the time? Do you have big dreams and a small budget? I encourage you to think about where you might be able to share the wealth. In our little program a few years back, we swapped sewing machines, ozobots, ukuleles, and GPS units. The first step is relationships. Where can you take your collection?
This post addresses the following ALSC Core Competencies: IV. Knowledge, Curation, and Management of Materials, and V. Outreach and Advocacy.
Deidre Winterhalter, Children’s Digital Learning Librarian, Oak Park Public Library, Oak Park, Illinois