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Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Silhouette Cameo 101: The Manual It Doesn’t Come With, But Should (MakerSpace)

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I have spent the last couple of weeks trying to figure out how to use and evaluating the Silhouette Cameo for our Teen Makerspace at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County (OH). You can read my initial thoughts here:

MakerSpace Mondays: The Silhouette Cameo – a review

MakerSpace Mondays: The Silhouette Cameo – Vinyl 101

I’m just beginning to tap the surface of how to use the Silhouette Cameo and what types of things we can do with it. The biggest drawback for me has been the lack of a manual or handbook, so I’m in the process of putting one together for myself. I’ve collected and organized a variety of links which I am sharing with you below.

Silhouette Cameo 101

Using you’re Silhouette Cameo comes in 3 steps.

1. Designing your project

2. Cutting your project

3. Finishing your project, which involves applying your vinyl to some type of surface

We will discuss the Silhouette Cameo focusing on these three steps. But first, an introduction to the Silhouette Cameo and what you do with it once you get it out of the box. We’ll end with some hacks, project ideas and instructions, and an additional resource guide including free files and great blogs to consult for additional information.

What Can You Do with a Silhouette

Silhouette America – What Can You Make?

20 Things I’ve Made Using My Silhouette Machine

I got a Silhouette. Now what? Cameo Help, Tips, Tricks, Project Ideas

Silhouette Terms to Know

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Getting Started Out of the Box

Silhouette 101: How to Set Up Your Silhouette CAMEO

Downloading And Installing Your Silhouette Software

How To Use Silhouette Cameo 3: A Beginner’s Guide

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Step 1: Designing Your Project

Images

10 Genius Ways to Use Clip Art with your Silhouette

Silhouette 102: How to Make Print & Cut Files, From Scratch!

See all using the Trace Tool below

Trace Tool

Using The Trace Tool In Silhouette Studio

Transforming Image Files Into the Correct Format

The Silhouette Cameo requires a specific file format known as an SVG.

How to Turn Any JPEG Into a Silhouette Print and Cut

 

Working with Text

All Things Text Tool | Silhouette Studio® Tutorial

How To Use the Text Tool in Silhouette Studio

How to Make Text Curve in Silhouette Studio

Silhouette Studio Word Art Tutorial

Silhouette Studio Word Art: How to Have Text Form a Shape

How to Use Font Glyphs in Silhouette Studio

2 Ways to Thicken Fonts in Silhouette Studio

How to Create “Outlined” Text with Silhouette Studio (Underlay)

How to Turn the Shape of a Letter or Word into Script in Silhouette studio

 

Using Specific Tools and Functions

Every Silhouette Tool: WHAT it is & HOW you use it!

Grouping and Compound Paths

What are Compound Paths and Grouping

Silhouette Studio Compound Paths: Explained! – Silhouette School

Divide Tool

How to use Divide in Silhouette Studio

Make Any Design a Split Design in Silhouette Studio

Knife Tool

Silhouette Studio Knife Tool: How to Use It To Its Full Potential

Silhouette Studio Knife Tool: How to Change the Thickness

Weld

Silhouette: How to weld (joining letters and numbers)

Text Won’t Weld Correctly in Silhouette Studio? Here’s The Fix

 

Step 2: Cutting Your Project

Silhouette Blades…Which Blade to Use When, Why, How?

The Silhouette Cameo Mat: All You Need to Know (and more)

Making the First Cut with your Silhouette CAMEO

Using the Print & Cut Feature Successfully

4 Easy Steps to Cutting on the Silhouette

11 Reasons Your Silhouette Is Not Cutting

Cheat Sheet: Settings for cutting various materials on the silhouette

Silhouette 101: All About the Blades

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Step 3: Finishing Your Project

Applying the Vinyl

Applying Vinyl to the Back of a Surface

How to Put Vinyl On Painted Wood Signs

Applying Heat Transfer Vinyl on Glass

How to Use Vinyl Transfer Paper (Vinyl Transfer Tape)

Hack: Use Contact Paper to Transfer Vinyl

Layering

Silhouette Layering Vinyl Tutorial (The No-Fail Method)

Vinyl Layering 101 | A Silhouette Tutorial

T-Shirt Information

Please note: When you send a project to cut you must specify what type of material you are using. If you are using heat transfer vinyl it will ask you if you want to mirror your image and you should choose mirrored.

Chart re sizing of decals for shirts

HTV Shirt Decal Placement and Size Tips and Resources

How to Align and Size Heat Transfer Vinyl (HTV) Designs

What Size of HTV Do You Need For a Shirt?

Heat Printing Placement Tips | Stahls’

A Beginner’s Guide to Using Heat Transfer to Create T-Shirts

 

Additional Information and Resources

Using PixScan

Silhouette America – What is PixScan™ Technology?

Silhouette PixScan Tutorial for Beginners: Part 1 of 2

Beyond Cutting: Using Your Silhouette Cameo to Draw

Your Silhouette Cameo can be used for more than cutting and it has special markers that you can purchase. Here is some information on that.

How To Use A Silhouette Cameo: Silhouette Sketch Pens

Silhouette Sketch Pens Tutorial for Beginners

DIY Art Print {Silhouette Pen Holder Tutorial}

Hacks

12 Silhouette Hacks You Shouldn’t Craft Without

Doodlecraft: Dollar Store Hacks: Silhouette Cutting Mats and DIY

Tips and Hacks for Saving Money on Cricut, Cameo, and Silhouette

Genius Freezer Paper Hack for HTV Design Placement!

Simple Silhouette Hack for Saving HTV or Vinyl

Heat Press Hacks for Silhouette Users

Project Ideas and Instructions

Silhouette media you didn’t know existed (and fun projects to do with it)

Engraving with Silhouette: 7 Tips to the Perfect Engraving

How to Host a Christmas Ornament Making Party

Secret to Easily Designing Subway Art in Silhouette Studio

How to Screen Print Using Vinyl: Silhouette Tutorial

How to Create a Simple Vinyl Monogram

How to Put Vinyl on Cups and Tumblers So It’s Straight

Silhouette Vinyl on Canvas: 6 Tips to Success!

DIY Stickers Using a Silhouette Cameo/Portrait

DIY Temporary Tattoos: Silhouette Tutorial

Cutting Cardstock with Silhouette CAMEO

 

Resources

Free Font Resources

DaFont – Download fonts

Most Popular Free Fonts – FontSpace

Free .SVG Files

Free SVG Files for Silhouette Cameo and Silhouette Studio Designer

Free SVG Files & SVG Images For All Cricut Projects

10 Places to Find Free Cut Files (more of a tutorial then a listing of sites)

All Encompassing Silhouette Cameo Blogs

The Official Silhouette Blog

Silhouette School Blog

The Pinning Mama

Please note: This is just the tip of the ice berg, there is a lot more out there. This machine is very complex can can do a lot of things. I mean, a lot. This is just to get your started with the basics. Having said all of that, please share your favorite posts, tips, project ideas and resources with me in the comments.

View from the Director’s Chair Part II: Narrative Filmmaking by Lynette Pitrak

Since its inception in the fall of 2014, Downers Grove Public Library’s teens have been busy creating in our Media Lab! Teens have created documentary films in our Viewfrom the Director’s Chair workshop, photography in our Viewfrom Behind the Lens workshop, and music demo recordings in View from the Sound Booth. The creativity, passion, and talent of the participants has been so inspiring each time! In response to requests from teen patrons, IT staff member and filmmaker Ed Bromiel and I created a new filmmaking workshop, focused on narrative films. This workshop began in June and has continued for ten weeks this summer.

View from the Director's Chair Part II, Myself and Instructor in Media Lab-1

Throughout these ten weeks, Ed and I have taken the teen filmmakers through the steps involved in creating a narrative, fictional film from start to finish. We began with camera basics such as aperture, shutter speed, and ISO settings and artistic concepts such as rule of thirds, horizon line, and contrasting colors. We then moved into lighting and sound; Ed had each student practice setting up three-point lighting and camera microphones while I sat as a practice model and interview test-subject. That was a fun exercise, because I was able to answer questions about my favorite Harry Potter character and go-to meal to cook while the students set up lighting equipment around me!

One of the most fun and inspiring classes was our scriptwriting session. Ed and I created three short exercises which would allow the students to practice scriptwriting:  writing dialogue; writing a one-paragraph scene from either a horror, romance, or comedy movie (complete with lighting, sound, and stage directions); and writing character descriptions as if for a casting call. The teens were so inventive and their writing absolutely came to life on their pages. Once this session was finished, it was time for students to get into groups to begin writing their own final scripts. The class divided into four groups of three to write and then storyboard their own original film scripts. The result has been the following amazing scripts: an action-comedy, a horror-comedy, a science fiction thriller, and a psychological mystery. These scripts are unique, imaginative, and polished—more amazing examples of the talent middle school and high schoolers have for creating works of art!

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The groups had the last three weeks of classes to shoot and edit their films; all put in a tremendous amount of work both in and out of classes. At our final class, we screened their rough cuts, discussed as a group, and gave the teens one more week to make any final edits. Then, four films were screened on our library program room’s big screen. We had food, drinks, and a fun photobooth complete with props such as feather boas and fake moustaches. Best of all,  the audience was given a chance to ask the filmmakers questions at the end of the screening.

The students have shot all of their films on Canon EOS Rebel DSLRs and are using iMovie, Final Cut Pro, and Adobe Premier to edit their films. For a full list of our library’s Media Lab equipment, please see our website. To view all teen Media Lab projects, visit our YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/DGPLnews. For any libraries interested in creating a workshop like View from the Director’s Chair, please feel free to contact me at lpitrak@dglibrary.org at any time. Thank you for this opportunity to share!

Lynette Pitrak is the Teen Services Coordinator at the Downers Grove Public Library. Reach her at lpitrak (at) dglibrary.org

MakerSpace Mondays: The Silhouette Cameo – Vinyl 101

Earlier today,  I talked about the Silhouette Cameo Vinyl Cutter: MakerSpace Mondays: The Silhouette Cameo – a review. So if you buy a Silhouette Cameo, you’ll probably be making a variety of vinyl projects. Not all vinyl is the same, so here’s a little Vinyl 101 brought to you by high school librarian Dani Fouser.

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Oracal 631- Semi-Permanent

Use for walls, windows and anywhere you want to eventually remove your vinyl.

Oracal 651 – Permanent

Use for car decals, cup decals, etc. This is water proof.

Transfer Paper/Tape

Use to transfer an image onto a surface. In a pinch you can use clear contact self-adhesive shelf liner, though it doesn’t work as well as the Oracal Transfer Tape.

How to Use Transfer Paper with Vinyl | The Pinning Mama

Oracal Transparent Vinyl

Use to get a stained glass look. Best prices at www.craftvinyl.com

Heat Transfer Vinyl/Iron On Transfer Vinyl

Use this to do things like making t-shirts. It comes with transfer tape and you need print it mirrored. There are a few exceptions to this rule (like patterned paper) so be sure and read the specific instructions for the vinyl you are using.

Easy Weed Vinyl

Use this for more complicated designs that will require a lot of weeding.

Easy Weed Stretch

Has a little give in the vinyl making this good for t-shirts.

Brand Names

Siser – Most people prefer this brand

Pro-Vinyl – Comparable to Siser

As always, if you have additional tips and tricks, please add them in the comments.

MakerSpace Mondays: The Silhouette Cameo – a review

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This past week TLTer Robin Willis came and spent the week with me and visited my library (The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County, Ohio) and the Teen MakerSpace. Her visit coincided with the exploration and evaluation of a Silhouette Cameo 3 machine which we are considering for the Teen MakerSpace. Here’s what we learned.

But first . . . here’s Robin with the Teen MakerSpace Manual (which you know I love) and her own Teen MakerSpace bag.

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The Silhouette Cameo is a cutting machine that you program using it’s software and it cuts a variety of things like paper, vinyl and temporary tattoos. It is similar to a Cricut machine which is popular with scrapbookers and t-shirt makers, except you don’t have to buy separate cartridges. This does not mean, however, that there aren’t additional costs, because there are. For example, you can purchase graphics and fonts, though you do so online as opposed to buying cartridges. You can also find a variety of free images and fonts online. In fact, there are Pinterest pages dedicated to this very thing. The initial cost of the machine itself is around $220 and there are some additional tools that you should purchase to help make your projects a success.

Cutting Machine Basics: What You Need To Know To Get Started

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In addition to buying images and fonts, you will have the ongoing cost of what ever medium it is you are cutting. Paper, is of course, the cheapest. You can use paper to make things like cards, signs (for example, mod podge them onto a canvas) and more. Vinyl can be used to make a wide variety of things like window decals, drinking cups, and t-shirts. You can buy vinyl at local crafts stores or purchase it at a discount online. Depending on the project, the cost of consumables can get pretty expensive.

To begin with, I first tried cutting some paper projects. The first project I designed using the software. The second project, the Cheshire cat, I found for free online and used so that I could learn how to download a project.

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After this initial success, I then tried t-shirts and hit some snags. To begin with, I loaded my vinyl upside down and it did nothing. I found the instructions hard to read on the vinyl itself and had to call a friend for assistance. Then, because I didn’t have the proper tools, I tore my vinyl while trying to pull it off.

The next day we had more success. It helps that we stopped at the store and bought the tools we needed. When the machine cuts your designs you have to do a process called “weeding” to pull off the insides of letters and things like the Cheshire cat’s teeth. Robin turned out to be really good – because she is incredibly patient – at weeding. The tool you use looks like one of those horrible dentist devices that scrape your teeth, but it’s effective and necessary. Buy the extra tools.

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We then made a variety of t-shirts and book bags.

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I then designed my own t-shirt using the software and an image I purchased through the Silhouette store.

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Overall, I am in love with this machine. So here’s a look at some of my final thoughts.

Pros:

You can do a wide variety of projects using the Silhouette Cameo; it has versatility.

It does exactly what it says it will do very effectively.

There is a great variety of online resources and project ideas to get you started and keep you going.

The end product looks sharp and professional.

High School Librarian Dani Fouser made this great window display using her Silhouette Cameo

High School Librarian Dani Fouser made this great window display using her Silhouette Cameo

Robin and I made these vinyl window clings for the Teen MakerSpace

Robin and I made these vinyl window clings for the Teen MakerSpace

You can convert and scan in images and transfer them to an .SVG image to use them with your cutter, though I have yet to figure out how. But again, there are a lot of online tutorials.

Cons:

The initial cost of the machine itself is a bit pricey.

The ongoing cost of consumables is also a bit pricey.

The learning curve is a bit steep. I was initially told the design software was similar to Microsoft Publisher but I found it to be more similar to Gimp.

The Silhouette Cameo 3 does not come with a user manual so you have to use online help resources to even figure out the basics. If you know someone who can help get you started, put them on your speed dial.

The machine is definitely more of a one on one machine, similar to a 3D printer.

Some Resources for You:

Silhouette America – Silhouette America

Silhouette America – What Can You Make?

Silhouette CAMEO Project, Tutorials and Free Cut Files

Coconut Love: 43 Project Ideas for Silhouette Cameo

19 Amazing Silhouette CAMEO Print and Cut Project Ideas

The Mother Lode of Silhouette Tutorials for Beginners

Silhouette Cameo Projects | Made in a Day

15 Blogs To Find GREAT Silhouette Cameo Project Ideas

10 Best Silhouette Cameo Projects of 2016 – Simply Made Fun

50+ Silhouette Machine Projects to Try Now – MakeUseOf

Over 200 Free Silhouette Projects, Crafts and Tutorials at AllCrafts!

19 Amazing Silhouette CAMEO Print and Cut Project Ideas

Converting Silhouette Studio Files to SVG (Free & No Extra Software)

Silhouette PixScan Tutorial for Beginners: Part 1 of 2 – Silhouette School

34 Cool Things You Can Do with Your New Vinyl Cutter | Make:

Please share your thoughts, your favorite resources and your favorite projects with me in the comments!

SLJTeenLive: Building a Teen MakerSpace on a Budget

This summer I was honored to participate in the SLJTeenLive event (if you have never attended, you are missing out on a wealth of information so put it on your calendar for next year). I also wrote an article about it for SLJ which you can read here. Today I am sharing my slides with you.

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MakerSpace: DIY Iron On Patches

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Our newest MakerSpace station at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County was inspired by a teen I know in Texas, and it has proven to be very popular.

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Technique Used: Cross Stitch

Supplies Needed:

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  • Cross stitch fabric
  • Craft floss
  • Cross stitch needles
  • Small cross stitch hoop
  • Small scissors
  • Small cross stitch patterns (perler bead patterns work best for this)
  • Permanent peel and stick fabric adhesive
  • Iron

Step 1: Patterns

 

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We have found that perler bead patterns work really well and are plentiful on the Internet. They also have a lot of pop culture characters that the teens are interested in. All you have to do to find a pattern is Google “Character Name + Perler Bead Pattern”. We print off two copies, one for the teen and one to keep in a pattern notebook for future use. There are several good Pinterest boards out there with a large collection of perler bead patterns:

949 best Perler Bead Patterns images on Pinterest | Pearler beads

Step 2: Cross Stitch 101

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You will then follow your pattern to create your patch. Some teens pencil the pattern onto the fabric, but this is not necessary. It depends on your skill level. Our teens are using YouTube tutorials to help them learn how to cross stitch.

From WikiHow: The Easiest Way to Cross Stitch – wikiHow

  1. Cut your fabric and floss. The size of your fabric will depend on the size of the pattern you are using. …
  2. Thread your needle. Take your single thread of embroidery floss and create a loop at the end. …
  3. Begin your cross stitch.
  4. Continue stitching.
  5. Finish your piece.
  6. Wash your cross stitch.

Step 3: Cutting Out Your Patch, the First Time

After you complete the cross stich portion of your patch, you then need to use your little scissors to cut it out. Leave a little bit of a white edge around your patch.

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Step 4: Making it Stick

You then want to iron your permanent peel and stick on the back of the patch. Then you’ll have to cut it out again around the edges. You can fin HeatNBond Ultrahold in the fabric aisles of craft stores. You’ll want to by fabric sheets, not the skinny strips, so that you can work with any and all sizes of patches.

Step 5: The Big Iron On

You then iron your patch onto your book bag, jeans, purse, whatever. Just follow the instructions on the HeatNBond.

It’s a longer maker project, depending on the size and complexity of your pattern, but the teens are loving it.

Online Tutorials:

DIY Iron On Patches by PaulTheDIYGuy – Nerd Crafting

DIY Iron On Patch – YouTube

Make Your Own Decorative Patches With Cross Stitch – Crafts

I Went to a STEAMFest and This is What I Learned

Monday night our local school district – where I live, not where I work – hosted a district wide STEAMFest and I took my family, but I also went to scope things out – as one does. Overall, this was a well crafted event that I would love to host (on a slightly smaller scale) at my local library.

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The Setting

This event was set at the local high school so they had way more space then many public libraries would traditionally have, depending on the size of your library. They had hallways, cafeterias, band rooms and outside quads and they made really good use of this space. All in all they had more than 20 stations set up and sometimes what appeared to be one station was multiple stations in one station. For example, the band room was set up as a MakerSpace so there were several stations within this one room. Similarly in the gym, they had life size chess, cardboard city, and some exhibitors. So scale will definitely depending on the size of your library. But if you have the means, I highly recommend it.

Cardboard City at the beginning of the event

Cardboard City at the beginning of the event

Outside they had a petting zoo, water balloon slingshot, band performances and food trucks. The addition of the food trucks was a really great idea as people stayed longer and were engaged. They also had concession sales inside. My family was there for the entire 5 hours (though they ran out of supplies at some stations before we got to them).

The Stations

There were a large variety of events that appealed to multiple age groups. The organizers definitely made sure to address all of the community needs. Here is a brief listing of the many stations they had:

  • Water balloon slingshots
  • Petting zoo
  • Slime making
  • Learning about germs
  • Stained glass art
  • Fingerprint art
  • MakerSpace Fun including Ozobots, Kinetic Sand, Snap Circuits, and a couple of other building toys
  • Nanotechnology with the Ross Perot Museum
  • Face painting
  • Robot mazes
  • Lego building
  • Building bridges challenge
  • Giant Tetris
  • A giant green screen and overhead projector
  • Life size chess
  • Cardboard City
  • Escape the Bus
Giant Tetris

Giant Tetris

Organizing the Event

The district obviously spent some time in planning this event as it was well organized. They had great signage and clearly labelled maps telling you where each station was. Every volunteer had a coordinated t-shirt so they could clearly be identified. Volunteers had clearly outlined shifts to help cover throughout the event, which lasted from 4 to 9 PM. Various student groups rotated in and out as greeters.

The map of the event

The map of the event

Funding the Event

I had the opportunity to talk with the school superintendent and asked if they had a grant, which I was surprised to learn they did not. They had many local business sponsors, who had tables set up throughout the event. For example, the Slime Time table had signage that said they were sponsored by a local insurance agent and then across from that station the agent had a table set up with information about their business. I’m not sure of the overall cost of the event, though I do know that the Escape the Bus web page says the bus is $3,500 for one day. Many of the other materials they already had in the various schools. There would have been money spent on things like signage, the t-shirts and more, but with the local business sponsors they probably didn’t spend as much money as you would guess an event of this magnitude would cost.

Cardboard City later in the event

Cardboard City later in the event

Their Mission

As I mentioned, I did have an opportunity to talk with the superintendent and she emphasized that the reason they were hosting this event was to engage the community and raise awareness of and interest in science and the arts. We are a sport heavy community without a lot of local science and arts resources so our community really needed this event. I love the mission and feel that they really succeeded.

The Mr made a TV for Cardboard City

The Mr made a TV for Cardboard City

Final Thoughts

I took pictures throughout the day (until my phone died) and immediately went to my assistant director proclaiming that we could – and should – do a scaled down version of this event for our local community. I say scaled down because we are a much smaller facility with a much smaller budget. But with our Teen MakerSpace already in place, we have a lot of the tools we could use already in place. The staffing and space would actually be our biggest stumbling block.

Robot Mazes

Robot Mazes

MakerSpace: Outreach Activity – Book Face

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I can obviously not begin to take credit for the fabulous idea of Book Face as it is undoubtedly something that you have seen all over the Internet. What I want to share with you, however, is how we did our Book Face and why we chose to do it in the way that we did.

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In case you don’t know, Book Face involves taking a book with a partial face on the cover and holding it over your own face to complete the picture. It’s a pretty cool way to promote books and create fun art.

The Why

On the First Friday of every month the town where my library resides hosts a downtown event where local businesses promote their offerings to the community. It’s a type of music and arts festival with live music and food trucks. We do a monthly hands on activity to promote the Teen MakerSpace that has included things like making buttons and photo booths. They have almost exclusively focused on promoting the Teen MakerSpace and I wanted to do something hands on while also promoting books and reading. So we decided to use our mobile photo booth to do Book Face. My main goal for this activity was to do something hands on and fun to promote the Teen MakerSpace while also reminding the teens that we interacted with that we were a library and have great YA literature.

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The How

We already have a mobile photo booth, which you can read about here. So instead of taking regular photo booth props, we scoured the shelves for books with a part of a face on the cover. The books would be our props and we would be promoting books. It’s a win-win situation.

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What we took:

  • The mobile photo booth
  • 16 books with partial faces
  • A smart phone with an additional charger to take and post photos to our TMS Instagram account
  • A hand out explaining book face and a bibliography
  • The other regular stuff: table, table runner, chairs, etc.

The handout that we took had instructions for Book Face on one side, including the hashtag where they could find their photo on our TMS Instagram account and a reminder that they could come into the TMS and we would help them print off their photo to make it into a button or some other ways they could enhance their photo. The back side of the handout includes a bibliography of the books we had on hand.

BookFace Handout

Final Thoughts

This activity did achieve what we wanted it to. People browsed through the books and highlighted some titles. A couple of people asked if we were giving away the books for free, so we had to be vigilant around the table of books to make sure they stayed. One parent complained that the books were inappropriate for teens to even be looking at. But overall, the outreach activity was a success and helped us achieve our goals. We promoted the TMS AND talked with teens about books.

What I would do differently?

Although I would call the outreach activity a success, there are a few things that I would do differently.

One, I would have example pictures on display somewhere. It was kind of a hard concept to explain and although a lot of people found it fun and interesting, we had a lot less buy in then we did with photo booth props. I think display photos and buttons would have helped a lot.

Two, better signage. Bigger and better. Especially near the books.

Three, we just needed more books. And I took exclusively teen books, but since this is an everyone event I would take some picture and adult books as well.

If you have a portable photo booth, I definitely recommend doing this as an outreach activity.

A Book Face photo gallery:

Please note, this is also our current teen book display which is why you will see various backgrounds. We also have taken some in front of our green screen in the TMS.

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SLJTeenLive: Teen MakerSpace On a Budget Preview

On Wednesday I am honored to be a part of this year’s SLJTeenLive event. I will be talking with several other librarians about library programming “On a Budget”. I, specifically, will be talking about creating a Teen Makerspace on a budget. You can find a preview of my presentation here at SLJ.

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You can register FOR FREE to be a part of SLJTeenLive here.

MakerSpace: Legos! The one tool every makerspace needs?

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I maintain that a genuine staple of a good MakerSpace can be found in Legos. Make no mistake, Legos are not cheap, but they have a versatility about them. And you can get around the cost of Legos by buying random bulk packages off of Amazon. You have no idea what kinds of pieces you will get, but they are significantly cheaper. And occasionally you can find a good sale. Wal Mart, for example, occasionally has a case of 500+ Legos for around $30.00. It’s a good starting place. You can start small and keep adding to your collection over time. You need a good amount of standard bricks, but you also need unique pieces to really build a variety of projects. Some libraries successfully get donations from the community, but I have tried at two different libraries and have found that people really like to hang on to their Legos.

In addition to just doing regular Lego builds, you can combine Legos with things like LittleBits and a Hummingbird Robotics Kit to take your Lego creations to the next level. If you are really advanced, you can even combine them with a Raspberry Pi to make a remote control car. Below we adapted the idea behind brushbots to make vibrating Lego cars. All you need is a vibrating motor, a coin battery and an adhesive to attach it to your Lego car.

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Here are some of the ways we use Legos in our Teen MakerSpace at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County.

The Lego Wall

Inspired by all the great Lego walls we kept seeing online, we too wanted to created a Lego wall, but we simply didn’t have the wall space in our area. So we made a portable Lego wall using a piece of plywood and 4 10×10 Lego plates. We can set the Lego wall in one of our windows and take it out whenever we would like. We can also take it with us on a stand for outreach events.

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This is a Lego maze that was built by multiple teens on our Lego wall. One teen started it and as teens come in they continue to make it grow. At this point about 4 teens have had a hand in building this maze.

The Daily Lego Challenge

We put out a daily Lego challenge as one of our regular Teen MakerSpace stations. A large number of our ideas come from the book 365 Things to Do with Lego Bricks.

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Lego Challenge Cards

There are a variety of Lego challenge cards that you can find online by doing a Google search. We have a deck of cards – laminated for longevity – that we keep out and teens can randomly choose a card and take the challenge.

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The Lego Challenge Game

We took the idea of the Lego challenge cards one step further and created a Lego challenge game. Again, this idea was inspired by things I found online. I created a numbered game sheet and a teen created our dice using Sculpey clay. You simply roll the dice and complete the challenge that matches the number you rolled. You can make multiple game boards and rotate them out to keep it interesting.

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Rube Goldberg Machines

A Rube Goldberg Machine is a type of chain reaction machine where one action leads to another. You can make one using Legos. In fact, there is even a book about it called Lego Chain Reaction. After teens get the concept down, it’s fun to challenge them to make a design of their own.

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Stop Motion Animation

We regularly use Legos in our Stop Motion Animation station. The minifigurines are great cast members and you can build your own sets.

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Lego Books

We have a HUGE collection of Lego books in our Teen MakerSpace and they are some of our highest circulating items. No Starch Press has a great collection of Lego books.

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Although our books are always available for check out, we do keep the Legos locked up when no staff is in the room to help prevent theft.

And no, Lego didn’t pay me to write this post. I have just really found Legos to be a useful MakerSpace tool.