Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Dear Lego, we want building bricks not beauty tips

In my home and in my libraries I am a huge champion of Lego. They are, to me, a great STEM/STEAM tool that make for a solid foundation for my Mobile Makerspace. I was, personally, a little dismayed when they introduced Lego Friends “for girls”, because Lego was the perfect gender neutral toy. But honestly, we do have some Lego Friends (they were gifts) in my home and if you mix them up with all the other Lego blocks it really isn’t a big deal, just a wider variety of colors. But I was dismayed to learn that Lego was including “beauty advice” for girls in its Lego magazine, which is targeted towards 6 to 12 year olds. Rather than writing up a post about how disappointed I am with more traditional gender messaging creeping into the Lego brand I thought I would share several tweets shared yesterday on Twitter that highlight how off brand this messaging is.

I did get a response from Lego on Twitter:

App Review & Lego MakerSpace Fun: Giffer – Using Legos to tell stories and learn how to make Gifs

Because of time, space and money, my library MakerSpace is primarily Lego based. But that’s okay, there is a lot you can do with Legos. Last night I met with a group of Tweens and we used our Legos and an App to create Gifs.

Most of the Tweens there didn’t know what a Gif is, so that was the first thing we covered.

Then we had to storyboard an outline for our Gif. We chose animals because you could move them and show that movement pretty easily. They tend to want to build houses, which are stationary and not the best for telling a story of this kind.

So a variety of animals were built, including penguins, a zebra and a lion. A few other animals were attempted and then scrapped. Simplicity is what we needed.

After we created our animals, we started playing around with placement and movement, taking still photos along the way. Similar to an old fashioned flip book, we knew that if we did small movements and then put the still frames in a Gif maker we would get a pretty cool looking Gif.

The Gif maker we ended up choosing was Giffer. It is available in the iTunes store for $2.99. There is a pro version for an additional dollar. Please note, there are a variety of Gif makers you can choose:

Make an animated GIF in Photoshop Gickr Picasion GifBoom (app!) Cinemagram (also an app!) Gizmodo: How to Make a GIF in 5 Easy Steps Free Online GIFmaker Make a GIF Mashable: Make Reaction GIFs with These 7 Tools Mashable: How to Make GIFs 8 Free GIF Maker Apps 

My favorite part was that after we made our first Gif, one of the Tweens present decided we had to do it all over again because he needed to add blood – which of course was some red Legos. So here’s our Gif . . .

Karen’s Thoughts:

Overall, I liked a lot of things about the App and would give it a 3 out of 5 stars. There are a few things I would like to change:

1. You can add text, but you can’t change the color of the text. It is white, which was problematic for us. There are font choices, but no color choices to which I say boo.

2.  I’m still looking around, but it looks like they have easy sharing capabilities with Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook but I can’t find an embed code. I really wanted to easily be able to copy and paste an embed code for the above Gif to show you what it looked like but the only way I could figure out how to do that was to tweet the gif to myself and embed the tweet, so in this aspect I couldn’t use this gifmaker to make and use gifs in the way that I wanted to. So I’m going to keep researching that aspect. If anyone has an answer for me on this problem, please share it in the comments.

As for the process itself, it was really quite easy. The Tweens and I had a lot of fun trying to figure out how to make our story work. They did wonder why there were penguins on our Serengeti, but the answer is because I adore penguins. Penguins should be in all the things. Also, they were easy to make. We had fun and we learned some new things, not just tech things – which were awesome – but some things like storyboarding. I call this day a win.

So here’s the big question: What is your favorite Gif maker and why? I am particularly interested in something that gives you more freedom with how you share your gifs.

More Resources: 
15 Sexy, Easy-to-Use Multimedia Tools to Up Your Visual Content Game

LEGO and the MakerSpace Movement: Writing Prompts, Avatars, and More (a guest post by author Lyn Miller-Lachmann)


Last year I researched and wrote a proposal to create a mobile MakerSpace for my library branch, which was approved.  We now have the Mobile MakerSpace in two of the three branches of my library.  Because of our space limitations, it had to be mobile so it could easily be moved in and out.  And I decided to feature Legos because of the versatility the medium provided and because you can add tech components.  You can read about my Mobile Makerspace here.  Today author Lyn Miller-Lachmann is talking about Legos and MakerSpaces.

I became a LEGO fan along with my son, but when he outgrew the little bricks, I kept playing with them. LEGO released the Modular theme the year he left for college (after he sold his elaborate pirate village and medieval castles to help pay his expenses), and I bought the first three sets. Seven years later, I have a built-up town called Little Brick Township and dozens of minifigures whose intrigues I chronicle on my blog and Instagram feed.
The center of Little Brick Township is Town Hall, which serves as the backdrop and sometimes the source of conflicts at the heart of the Bricksters’ stories.
Several months ago, I began using my LEGO setting and minifigures as writing prompts. I also created graphic short stories ranging from four to thirty panels, with the same characters appearing in multiple stories. The “regulars” have their own personalities, backstories, desires, and dilemmas, so much so that my Instagram followers have begin to offer them advice. The community approach represented by the MakerSpace Movement is well suited not only to the construction of objects but also to this type of storytelling drawn from participants’ imagination and experiences and events in the wider community and society.

At the end of November 2013, I gave myself a storytelling challenge using LEGO minifigures and their accessories. I’m Jewish, so I celebrate Hanukkah rather than Christmas. In 2013, a once in 77,798 years’ event put the start of Hanukkah on the eve of Thanksgiving—a juxtaposition of religious and secular events. To celebrate, I bought the City Advent Calendar (another juxtaposition of religions and cultures), split up the 24 days’ worth of small packages into three groups of eight for the “eight crazy nights” of Hanukkah, and each night when I lit the candles of the Menorah opened three packages at random. Then I created a scene with the three packages’ contents and wrote a caption tying them all together.
Thanksgivukkah Advent Calendar Challenge, Day 4: Because he’s the Man, Santa gets to chill under the menorah while Snowman does all the work. (This one was tied for the audience favorite.)
Thanksgivukkah Advent Calendar Challenge, Day 6: This is how the kids burn the house down. (Tied for my favorite.)
Thanksgivukkah Advent Calendar Challenge, Day 8: As Hanukkah 2013 ends, Lego Daft Punk, Mumfield & Daughters, and the little boy who nearly burned his house down wish you a Happy Holiday Season. (Tied for both audience and my favorite.)
I chronicle the eight nights of the Thanksgivukkah Advent Calendar Challenge on my blog at http://www.lynmillerlachmann.com/the-thanksgivukkah-advent-calendar-challenge-juxtaposition-and-a-writing-prompt/, where I also talk about using LEGO as a prompt for writing and storytelling.
While LEGO buildings, robots, and other constructions can be quite elaborate, containing thousands of bricks, even a small number of bricks and minifigures can bring people together to create objects and stories. Many of my own panels have come from what I can fit into a small sandwich bag. Minifigures can be posed and photographed in indoor and outdoor environments, as I did in creating a holiday card using a small shack, four minifigures, a handful of accessories, and a copy of my novel, Rogue
Kiara, Chad, and the Bike Boys wish you a Happy New Year. May 2014 be filled with joy and LEGO.
Because minifigures have a wide range of expressions, LEGO builders can endow them with character traits and emotions. LEGO minifigures can also serve as avatars. Many of the people I follow on Instagram have avatars made from minifigures, and even though I don’t know the people personally, I get a glimpse of their personalities and interests from the avatars they have constructed. For young library patrons, creating an avatar may serve as a way of expressing emotions that cannot be expressed directly. Many young people participate in online games, sometimes to the detriment of interactions in the real world. LEGO bricks and minifigure elements available in MakerSpaces evoke a pretend world, but one that involves real peers (and caring adults) in a community space.
If you would like to create a MakerSpace in the library using LEGO elements, here are a few tips based on my experience as a builder, storyteller, and photographer:

  • Buying LEGO kits new can be expensive. Put out a call for donations from families whose children have (unfortunately) outgrown LEGO. In many areas of the country, local LUGs (LEGO Users’ Groups) can take on the collection of donations as a service project. Absent donations, garage sales are a good source of inexpensive pieces.
  • Members of LUGs can also provide attractive displays for the library and advice for young builders. Join forces with these community groups.
  • The LEGO.com site has a Pick-a-Brick option that includes heads with different expressions (including two-faced heads), bodies, legs, hair and hats, and hand-held accessories. Have your teens browse the site and select their own avatars, which can be reflections of themselves or aspirational characters such as superheroes or space figures.
  • Use graph paper to plan models or to keep a record of models that have been built and then disassembled.
  • Don’t forget to take pictures! You can add these to the library’s website or post on Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, and other social media.
  • Look at models on Instagram and Tumblr for ideas. For instance, Leon Scopes, a builder on Instagram who goes by @leons_rotten_corner, is an expert at constructing trees and forests with LEGO pieces.
  • Share with each other. LEGO is a great way to bring people together to share building ideas and stories. There’s no “right” way to build, and the most important thing is to have fun!

Lyn Miller-Lachmann is the author of the YA novels Rogue (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2013) and Gringolandia (Curbstone Press/Northwestern University Press, 2009) and the builder of Little Brick Township, a LEGO city where stuff happens. You may see her LEGO creations and stories on Instagram (@lynmillerlachmann), Facebook (www.facebook.com/lyn.millerlachmann), and her website (www.lynmillerlachmann.com). 
About Rogue (Publisher’s Annotation):  
Kiara has Asperger’s syndrome, and it’s hard for her to make friends. So whenever her world doesn’t make sense—which is often—she relies on Mr. Internet for answers. But there are some questions he can’t answer, like why she always gets into trouble, and how do kids with Asperger’s syndrome make friends? Kiara has a difficult time with other kids. They taunt her and she fights back. Now she’s been kicked out of school. She wishes she could be like her hero Rogue—a misunderstood X-Men mutant who used to hurt anyone she touched until she learned how to control her special power.

When Chad moves in across the street, Kiara hopes that, for once, she’ll be able to make friendship stick. When she learns his secret, she’s so determined to keep Chad as a friend that she agrees not to tell. But being a true friend is more complicated than Mr. Internet could ever explain, and it might be just the thing that leads Kiara to find her own special power.

In Rogue, author Lyn Miller-Lachmann celebrates everyone’s ability to discover and use whatever it is that makes them different 

Makerspace Moments: Creativity and Science with LEGOs (TPiB Lego Challenge Ideas)

As you may know, Christie and I recently put together Mobile Lego Makerspaces for our library system – the Grand Prairie Library System in Grand Prairie, Texas – and we have recently had some of our first “Lego Clubs” at our libraries. If you don’t know, you obviously aren’t reading the blog enough- LOL (we’ve been kind of Lego obsessed). This is what I wrote about my first meeting on the TLT Tubmlr:

“So I had my first Lego Makerspace today and a funny thing happened; I realized that most of my participants didn’t actually own Legos and really had no real idea what to do with them.  I guess this shouldn’t surprise me, Legos are expensive, but it broke my heart a little.  Okay, a lot.  Like, I gave them a simple request: let’s build a car.  They couldn’t figure out how to start it.  So they started to just take the little figurines and tell stories with them.  Which, you know, that was cool too.  But then I got a book and sat down and tried to walk through it with them.  In the end we came up with a pretty cool vehicle.  It was basic, but cool.  They want to come back.  But you don’t think about the things that kids don’t have, that we take for granted.” – Karen

So buoyed by my first Lego Makerspace program, I have been further researching what to do and have some various ideas to share with you, from different challenges you can have in your meetings to how to incorporate technology.  As a side note, I would like to add, my kids (and The Mr.) have been helping me research this a lot at home and we’ve had to try our hands a lot at Lego building.  Sometimes all this family “research” is just so difficult.

LEGO Challenges:
Everyone gets an identical set of LEGOs (20, 50, or 100 pieces for example) and 20 minutes to create.  See what everyone comes up with and have them “judge”.  It can be open ended (no challenge theme) or you can give them a challenge theme to interpret.

Variation 1: Everyone gets only bricks that are 2×2, for example

Variation 2: Everyone gets a topic and a time limit, see how they interpret the topic.

Some topic ideas include:
Make LEGO animals
Make LEGO vehicles
Make LEGO Sci Fi scenes (I have done this for Star Wars Reads Day)
Make a scene from your favorite book using LEGOs
Make a scene that depicts a historical time period or 1 of the 50 states
Create an item you would like to see invented in the future
Make a word (or phrase) that means something to you, describes you, or describes whatever event you are promoting
Make a LEGO maze (see 15 Unexpected Ways to Use Legos) then see if the person on your left (or right) can get a car through it

Some Holiday challenge ideas:
Make a patriotic build using only red, white and blue bricks
Create a Halloween monster
Christmas trees, wreaths, ornaments, etc.
Valentines day: only use red, pink and/or white bricks
St. Patrick’s Day: all green

LEGOs and Tech

Legos in and of themselves may seem low tech, but you can combine them with current technology to help teach kids new tech skills while they explore creative avenues like storytelling.  When I had my first Lego club, I was floored to realize that they liked the storytelling component as much as they liked the building.  In fact, I had a group of boys who didn’t build at all but sat there and acted out stories using the Lego Minifigures.

You can combine a love of LEGOs and storytelling and teach tech by having your teens create Vine videos using their creations.  Buzzfeed has put together a list of some amazing examples for you created by Mark Weaver.

Or you can have teens create longer video creations, like this kid who made his own Star Wars Lego movie.  And yes, I said kid.  In fact, you can have teens make their own Lego films and then host a teen Lego themed teen film festival in your community.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1lOPX13Hsbo?rel=0]

If you want to make it simpler, you can simply do Lego Instagram pics, which is combining basic technology – and readily available to most of your tweens and teens – with various forms of creativity.

Lego does have robotics kits that you can purchase.  They have an entire tech outline called We Do that you can explore and utilize.  Lego Mindstorms is a Lego line whose specific goal is to take Legos up to the next level.  LegoEngineering is a website devoted to demonstrating how Legos can be used to explore technology and engineering.  And this article is a great primer for using Legos to get kids interested in programming.  And this page shows how one individual combined Legos with the Raspberry Pi to create a remote control car.  So with a few add ons, you can incorporate some science and technology into your Lego fun; kids learn STEM skills and don’t even really realize they are doing it.

LEGO Reading Club Tower

I recently had a vision of creating an entire SRC Club theme around our Lego Makerspace.  My vision is to have a LEGO themed reading program that creates a visual represenation of how much the kids in our community have read.  First, we would create a sturdy base which would already be in place.  Every time a kid comes in with a reading log, have them place one new brick for each book read onto your tower.  Your goal is to create the largest tower possible.  Everyone can see the tower grow and we have this stunning visual representation of the sheer awesome number of books our kids have read over the summer.  I’m pretty sure I would have to buy some more Legos for this.  And the trick would be making the tower strong and sturdy without making it too wide so that the tower grows up instead of out which is an engineering question.  See, there is science involved in Legos. And math.

As a side note, there is a fun app called LegoMe that will turn your pictures into Lego block pics.

Here’s a Tip . . .

Even if I am not having a Lego Makerspace specific program, I still will pull my LM center out in my regular programming.  For example, I recently had a Doctor Who program and pulled it out so those who wanted to could make Doctor Who inspired themes or objects.  I have done the same for Star Wars Reads Day.  For my upcoming Sherlock program I want to ask them to create a “crime scene” for Sherlock to explore and investigate.

Additional Resources for More Lego Activities

LEGO Family Time Activity Guidebook
Easily adaptable.  My favorite activity is involves storytelling.  Everyone has 30 minutes to create.  Then you pass your creation to the left (or right) and the next person has to make up a story about that creation.

20 Fun Activities for Learning with LEGOs
This includes things like making a LEGO periodic table of elements, a catapult, and a balloon car.

50 LEGO Learning Activities from Discovery School
Some great ideas including LEGO Hangman, parachutes, and make your own flags.  Also, make your own LEGO board game.

LEGO Engineering: Science through Lego Engineering
Design a structure (architecture), design an instrument (music) and design a people mover (simple machines)

Examiner: LEGO Homeschool! Oodles of lesson plans and more for every grade and subject
There are some good science related projects here, including chemical reactions and skeletons.

Some Additional Ideas

Amy at the Show Me Librarian has a great resource guide for starting a LEGO club at your library.  I also love her idea of putting the creations in acryllic display cases in between meetings to decorate the library.

Star Net also has a getting started guide.  I mainly include it here because the accompanying picture is a Doctor Who themed LEGO piece.

School Library Journal: Block Party, Legos in the Library (from 2009)

More Lego Mobile Makerspace at TLT:
Original Proposal and Outline
Some Clarifying Remarks
From Tumblr: Lego project pics 1 and pics 2



My MakerSpace Journey at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County

Small Tech, Big Impact: Designing My Maker Space at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County (OH) (School Library Journal article, February 2016)

1 Year Later, What I’ve Learned

The Very Beginning

Previous library locations

My Original Mobile Makerspace
My Updated Mobile Makerspace

Getting Started, Research and Proposals

MakerSpace: The Proposal Stage

Research: A Look at the Akron Public Library Mini Maker Faire

Research: A Visit to the Cincinnati Public Library Maker Space

A Test Run: Maker Mondays

Evaluating Potential Technology for a Makerspace: Cubelets, Little Bits, MaKey MaKey, Raspberry Pi, Sphero

MakerSpace Tech Tools Comparison Chart

5 Ways Maker Spaces/Days/Labs Can Trump “Traditional” Library Programming

The Unboxing and Learning Curve

Circulating Maker Kits

Exploring Circulating Maker Kits and Circulating Maker Kits part 2 with a Book List

The Maker Bookshelf

The Maker Bookshelf/Collection (with a book list)

Various Components, Stations and Technology


Strawbees part 1 and part 2

3D Pens: Reviews and Tips and Tricks

Osmo review

MakerSpace: Tech Take Apart

Sharpie Art! Quick and Easy Programming and MakerSpace Ideas

iPad Lab

MakerSpace: Unconventional Printing and The Ongoing Quest for iPad/iPhone Printing, Or, How I Fell in Love with a Printing App

Creating and Using an iPad Lab in Your Library and Mistakes Were Made: What I Learned About Installing an iPad Lab in a MakerSpace

Button Making

Things I Learned Visiting the Cincinnati MakerSpace: Fun with Buttons! Edition

MakerSpace: Button Maker Challenges

MakerSpace: Thumbprint Art Buttons

Digital Media and Photo Manipulation

Green Screen Photo Booth

How Did You Do That? Photo Apps Version

App Review: Prisma

App Review: Aviary

App Review: FotoRus

App Review: Image Chef

Tech Talk: App Review – BeFunky

Generate Marketing Creativity with iPhone Apps

Meme the Apps

Movie Making

Take 5: 5 Tools for Movie Making in Your MakerSpace

HUE Animation Studio review

Making Movie Magic with Tweens and Teens at Your Library

MakerSpace: Stop Motion Animation 101

Quick and Easy Stop Motion Movies

MakerSpace: Green Screen Tips

Take 5: Stop Motion Animation Hacks for a MakerSpace

Putting it All Together

Sunday Reflections: Reflections on Making While Sitting in My Teen MakerSpace

If you build it, will they come?

MakerSpace: The Making of a Manual

Outreach and Promotion

Teen MakerSpace Outreach at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County, Day 1 – Getting Organized

Building Our Portable Photo Booth – Outreach at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County, Day 2

Making Photo Booth Props: Outreach at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County, Day 3

Making Text Transfer Chalkboard Speech Bubbles: Outreach at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County, Day 4

Teen Coloring Postcards: Outreach at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County, Day 5

Books for Makers

YA Lit Titles for Makers and MakerSpaces

Additional Resources

Take 5: The Robot Test Kitchen Reading List

Is It Time to Rebuild & Retool Public Libraries and Make Them “Tech Shops”?

The Library as Incubator Project posts tagged “Makerspace”

ALA: Manufacturing Makerspaces

The Makings of a Makerspace

Library as Makerspace

Teen Makerspaces at Your Library

Making the Case for a Public Library Makerspace

Library Makserspace on Pinterest

Libraries Embracing Makerspaces: http://makezine.com/2013/07/01/check-it-out-libraries-embracing-makerspaces/

Maker Stations Popping Up in Libraries Across the Country | At Your Libraryhttp://atyourlibrary.org/maker-stations-popping-libraries-across-country

A Librarian’s Guide to Makerspaces http://oedb.org/ilibrarian/a-librarians-guide-to-makerspaces/


You can also click on the tags “Tech Talk” and “MakerSpace” to read more posts.

My Mobile Makerspaces in Action

Heather Booth and The Robot Test Kitchen

As part of her ILeadUSA experience, Heather Booth has been blogging about her experiences incorporating more tech into her library teen programming. Take a look at her posts here:

What’s Your Library’s Story? A Robot Test Kitchen Guest Post

Review: Squishy Circuits

True Confessions: My STEM program failed and it was not fun (but I still learned something)

Review: Racing Robot Learn to Solder Kit 

True Confessions: I Want This to be Easier

Touch Screen Gloves (from the Robot Test Kitchen)

We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Instructions

We’re Not Faking It, We’re Making It

Check out more at the Robot Test Kitchen:

“We are the Techno Whats, a group of Youth Services and Teen librarians. We believe that when imaginations play, learning happens. We aim to use simple robotics as a means to expand our learning experience for other new technologies. Our goal is to provide an entry point of simple robotics in a way Youth and Teen Librarians can understand.”

Follow the Robot Test Kitchen @RobotTestKitchn (https://twitter.com/RobotTestKitchn)
Contact the Robot Test Kitchen:  RobotTestKitchen [at] gmail.com
Sometimes we Tumbl too: http://techno-whats.tumblr.com/