Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

An updated pop up mobile makerspace, what I know now and how I’m adding more technology

I recently began working at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County in Ohio and one of the things we are trying to do is really address programming, particularly including more technology into our programming with a limited budget and a tight space. I really like the basic framework of the Mobile Makerspace I had put together and used in my previous library location, but I now know some things I would do differently and have the opportunity to make some slight modifications. Today I am sharing some of my thoughts with you regarding the basic framework of my Makerspace. In the coming weeks I will be sharing some of my research and thoughts about purchasing some additional technology.

Things I considered when putting my newest proposal together:

Current space issues at the library, not only programming space but storage space. Like many libraries, PLMVKC was not built with the idea of having a Makerspace in mind. And storage is maxed out. So floor space and storage space are an important consideration for me, as it is for a lot of libraries.

The need to create regular, predictable programming with little to no preparation time. Regular programming seems to work best, but with more programming comes less program research and preparation time. So I’m looking to have a strong basis for programming that doesn’t require constant research, purchasing, and prep time.

Creating a programming outlet for tweens and teens that could easily be filled by other staff members in the event of a personal emergency. A lot of traditional library programming can be staff dependent, which can become problematic in the event of a sick day or personal emergency. I want to have some strong foundations in place so that other staff members can step in and sub in a pinch.

Including more technology for STEM/STEAM programming. This is a good goal and I like to do it in creative ways, like using apps and software to make memes, photos, GIFs, stop motion movies and more. In addition, I would like to have some tools available to get into coding and programming as well as some basic robotics. Many of these latter things are well over my head, but Heather Booth is a champion of the idea that you can get a group of teens together and learn together, which is definitely better than avoiding because you don’t know how to start.

Creating a base for programming that has built in versatility, room to add or incorporate additional technology components as they become available. Also, I need to create a Makerspace in stages since we don’t have the funding for a huge, up front purchase. I’m starting with a base proposal and have 3 additional proposals written to add more technology components as we progress.

Previous programming success, knowing what worked well and what I would like to change drives some of my new planning. At Betty Warmack Branch Library I tried to put together a Raspberry Pi Makerspace as part 2 of my proposal. Christie Gibrich successfully implemented this at her branch location, but I did not in part because I didn’t have the programming and coding skills necessary to really get it off the ground. In addition, because of budget issues, we tried to cut some corners that we probably shouldn’t have and we didn’t have a good interface for the Raspberry Pi’s. Heather Booth has done some good Raspberry Pi programming using her library’s meeting room overhead projector. This means teens have to work in groups, but it is a good work around if you have more limited funds and can’t afford a 1:1 tech scenario for your teens.


In order to meet a variety of these goals, I still want to keep my Makerspace primarily Lego based. There are so many elements you can add over time and yet the Lego components themselves can be quick and fun in a pinch. For example, you can use a Raspberry Pi to make a remote control Lego car. At the same time, on a day when you notice a lot of bored tweens/teens in the library you can roll out a cart of Lego with no planning or prep what so ever and get creative juices flowing with easy builds and challenges.

Some basic background information: Research has shown that the thriving cities are those that engage in and have space to participate in the arts (see Fostering Creative Cities commissioned by The Wallace Foundation and “Rise of the Creative Class” by Richard Florida).  This is why many libraries are creating Makerspaces: “Kids gather to make Lego robots; teens create digital music, movies, and games with computers and mixers; and students engineer new projects while adults create prototypes for small business products with laser cutters and 3D printers. Many libraries across the US have developed makerspaces—places to create, build, and craft—and they are experiencing increased visits and demand as a result. For public libraries, they are places to promote community engagement. For academic libraries, they are places where students and faculty feel welcome to do classwork and research.” (from American Library Association http://www.americanlibrariesmagazine.org/article/manufacturing-makerspaces)

In addition, research shows that there are many personal benefits for those that build with blocks, like LEGOS.  The benefits include the development of: Motor skills and hand-eye coordination; Spatial skills; A capacity for creative, divergent thinking; Social skills; Language skills; Practice science and math skills

For complete information, visit http://www.parentingscience.com/toy-blocks.html

And we know that when our kids succeed, our communities thrive and benefit.


The basic goals of my updated Makerspace remain the same, the difference is that this time I am trying to incorporate more technology. There are various ways that this can be done, some which can/will incorporate the Legos and some which will not. Some discussions of additional technology will be coming soon.

Materials and Cost

The basics of the new Makerspace would still incorporate the Legos, with the hope that we would additionally add some ways to incorporate more technology with the Legos. For example, we can use iPads and a variety of apps to do things like create art and stop animation films. Eventually, my goal is to add even more tech like Raspberry Pis or Mindstorms to do some Lego based robotics and programming.


Initially, I focused on purchasing large bulk loads of Legos to get a high number of bricks. What I learned was that this meant we had a large number of standard sized blocks. This time I am adjusting the order to include some sets that would include more unique Lego pieces. Less traditional block pieces help increase the variety and creativity of the projects you can create. For the best builds, you need a large number of bricks AND a variety of unique pieces.

Duct Tape and Other Craft Items

In my initial Makerspace, I included a large Duct Tape component. I would still include some Duct Tape, as well as a variety of other craft supplies including Rainbow Looms and other miscellaneous things. It’s nice sometimes to have a new, impromptu activity to change up your routine. Sometimes my teens would come in and ask to do something that would surprise me. Have a planned activity, but be open to letting teens dictate the ebb and flow of your programming. Have these types of activities also helps if you have to have a staff member sub for you. Have some basic books as part of your professional collection as well so they can be pulled into the program to give tweens/teens ideas. Have copies of the books in your circulating collection so that they can check them out, but definitely have some non-circulating copies so they are always on hand when you need them.

Other Elements You Can Incorporate:

Bristle Bot Kits (http://www.makershed.com/products/brushbot-party-pack) (Makes 12 for $34.99) : You can add the bristle bot motor components to small Lego builds, like cars or robots, to get your pieces moving in the most rudimentary fashion. Part of the challenge is allowing teens the ability to test what sizes and shapes work best.

Snapcircuits Electronics Kit (http://www.amazon.com/Elenco-Snap-Circuits-SC-300-Physics/dp/B00CIXVIRQ/ref=sr_1_1?s=toys-and-games&ie=UTF8&qid=1421259870&sr=1-1&keywords=snapcircuits) ($64.99) : These are simple kits that have up to 300 different things you can build. Great to have on hand to pull out as part of a stations based activity or on a snowy day when you don’t have a program planned.

In addition to some basic kits that you can have on hand, there are a variety of other tech elements you can purchase and include in a Makerspace. Later this week, I will share a comparison chart culled from the information at The Robot Test Kitchen regarding a variety of technology tools you can include. In addition, several of the people from Robot Test Kitchen will share their thoughts. Some of the elements we will be discussing include:

Makey Makey Standard Kit (http://www.makershed.com/products/makey-makey-standard-kit) (49.99)

Sphero Robot Kit (http://store.gosphero.com/collections/education) ($799.99)

Cubelets 6 Robotics Kit (http://www.amazon.com/Modular-Robotics-cb-kt-six-Cubelets-Six/dp/B00PAD96TS/ref=sr_1_2?s=toys-and-games&ie=UTF8&qid=1421260697&sr=1-2&keywords=cubelets) ($149.99)

A Sherlock Holmes Themed Community Reading Event, a guest post by Anna Behm

My library is abuzz with all things Sherlock Holmes, but it has nothing (well, almost nothing) to do with the premiere of the third season of Sherlock. We just launched our first independent community reading event, Westmont Reads, and The Hound of the Baskervilles is our chosen book. And while it might be too soon to evaluate the overall successes and failures of the program, I’m pretty excited about what the team at Westmont has created so far. These are a few of of my particular favorites:

The entire library staff is involved and on board. We’re a medium­sized suburban library with eleven full time staff members and twenty­one part timers. We wanted the whole staff involved in Westmont Reads, so the first thing we did was open the book selection up to a vote. Once The Hound became the clear choice, all staff were encouraged to join a committee ­ programming, outreach, or marketing. Not only do we have a large pool of talent to draw from, but getting all staff involved has given everyone a stake in the success of the program.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wukf8vo6us0]

A staff created video trailer for the program builds interest.

We created something unique for our patrons. The Hound of the Baskervilles is in the public domain and available for free as an ebook from sites like Project Gutenberg (and easy to load onto a flash drive and give to patrons), and inexpensive as a paperback. We decided to give away copies of The Hound of the Baskervilles for free. A local artist who happens to work in the circulation department (again, drawing from that pool of talent) designed a custom dust jacket for the book. She also lent her talents to the design of the Westmont Reads website, posters, bookmarks, and swag (I’m talking some of the COOLEST one ­inch buttons on the planet).

The library uses Facebook to interact and conduct trivia events. Showing the prize right in the post is a great way to build interest!

We planned tons of activities and events for all ages. Programming was by far the most popular staff committee, and it shows. From lectures and book discussions for our adult patrons, to mystery game nights and The Hound themed LEGO adventures for families, to special storytimes and tea parties for children, and forensics training and special volunteer opportunities for teens ­ there’s a little bit of something for everyone going on at the Westmont Library this winter. Many of the events have not taken place yet (Westmont Reads runs through February), but I’m impressed by the range of activities the staff has come up with. Staff even planned a Westmont Reads event for themselves ­ dressing up as their favorite character from the book on Halloween.

The community is involved in a variety of ways. The outreach committee solicited a variety of partnerships with local businesses and organizations. Many businesses agreed to hang posters promoting Westmont Reads. Some locations let us drop off copies of The Hound for their customers. Other businesses acted as destinations in our community scavenger hunt. We also fostered a relationship with the local humane society ­ they agreed to come to the library to give a talk about rescue dogs, and the library set up a donation bin so that patrons could help provide them with much needed supplies. The local community theatre group is even getting in on the fun ­ they are scheduled to perform a Sherlock Holmes radio play at the library after hours in two weeks.

Aligning Westmont Reads with the new season of Sherlock was just a coincidence (though if

anyone were to ask, I’d be tempted to say that yes, we really are that hip­ and­ with ­it at the WPL). Personally I am a big fan of the BBC series, and am thrilled to have an excuse to incorporate it into Westmont Reads. It’s certainly a testament to Arthur Conan Doyle and his work that Sherlock Holmes remains such an engaging presence in popular culture. I am more than happy to ride those coattails, and enjoy everything Sherlock Holmes, for a few weeks more. 

Anna Behm is the Adult Services Coordinator at the Westmont Public Library in Westmont, Illinois.

Doctor Who Library Programs, a guest post by Julia Hutchins

Made by Karen

My mother loves Doctor Who. Not just new, fancy special effects Doctor Who. She also loves original, black and white Doctor Who. How obsessed is my mother with the show? Not only is she the former president of a Doctor Who fan club, but the inside of her garage has been painted to look like the inside of the Doctor’s TARDIS (leftover from a fan video made back in the 90s). I realize that there are few people who have had this long running show as ingrained into their lives as I have; but whether you are new to Who, a classic Whovian who knows the difference between 4 and 6, or even just someone who thinks 10 is the cutest, you can easily add some Doctor Who to your library programs.
If you are new to Doctor Who, it can be overwhelming figuring out where to start. With 50 years’ worth of episodes to choose from, where do you begin? The most obvious episode is Rose, the first episode of “New Who”. However, there are many other great stories to choose from. I held a poll amongst the teens at my library to determine their favorite episodes. The winners were wonderfully varied. The top choice was Blink. This episode is great for teens because it stands alone (you don’t have to be a fan of the series to enjoy it). Also, Blink is somewhat scary, which the teens enjoy. This episode introduced popular The Weeping Angels, one of the most popular (and terrifying) villians in the Whoniverse. Another popular episode for the teens is Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, which features Mark Williams (Arthur Weasley from the Harry Potter films). Other episodes that the teens recommended were The Christmas Invasion, Girl in the Fireplace, and The Unquiet Dead.

Besides favorite fun episodes, Doctor Who can also serve to tie in with what teens are studying for school. Learning about World War II? The Empty Child  and The Doctor Dances (a two-part story) have the Doctor visiting England during the Blitz. Reading Shakespeare? Check out the tenth doctor story The Shakespeare Code.  Many other historical figures have been portrayed on Doctor Who including Hitler, Madame du Pompadour, Winston Churchill, and Marco Polo. The BBC even has a list on the Doctor Who blog. If you have the licensing to show Doctor Who in your library, any of these episodes would be a great place to start to introduce patrons (or yourself) to the show.

And here, here and here are some program pics
There are many episodes that tie-in with craft programs as well. The episode Partners in Crime featuring David Tennant as the Doctor includes an alien species called “Adipose” that teens (or even children) can easily replicate with marshmallows and edible markers. Plus, edible crafts are always popular with teens, since they can eat their creation when they are done. Directions are easily found online for the adipose, as well as sonic screwdriver crafts, tardis snowflakes, and even Dalek paper crafts.
One of the wonderful things that make Doctor Who programs simple to do is that Doctor Who’s travels take him throughout time and space, so it is easy to tie-in most space, travel, or historic crafts with the show. Want to make togas? Watch The Fires of Pompeii or go with the classic Black-and-White episode, The Romans. If your teens are interested in painting, the Doctor meets Vincent Van Gogh in the tenth doctor episode Vincent and the Doctor. A popular craft for the eleventh Doctor is duct tape bow ties. Our teens loved their bow ties so much that many of the guys wore them to their prom this year. As the Doctor says, bow ties are cool. 
Our most popular craft at the library were our life-size Daleks. These were loaned to us from a local Doctor Who fan club, the Guardians or Gallifrey. The life-size Daleks are homemade, and came to us needing makeovers. Our teens collected drink lids, which were then painted to be used as the domes on the bottom of the Daleks. The main body of the Daleks is made of cardboard and plywood, which roll on casters from a local hardware store. Other items that went into making the Daleks include a paint roller, pantyhose, and a metal mixing bowl. The Daleks proved a great group project, and the teens loved taking turns climbing inside of them and rolling around the library.
The Guardians of Gallifrey, the Central Florida Doctor Who fan club, also was a prominent feature in our annual “Sci-Fi Day” at the library. Other clubs invited to Sci-Fi Day included Starfleet’s USS Haven, the 501st Legion, and OASFiS (the Orlando Area Science Fiction Society). The clubs in attendance each got tables to promote their group. The groups provided impressive props that the library was able to use for a “Sci-Fi photo booth for patrons. We also had face painting and a costume contest. We gave away door prizes that were donated by a local comic book store, including Doctor Who comics. Children and teens made a variety of Sci-Fi crafts including pool noodle light sabers and duct tape bow ties. The event lasted most of the day and had over 300 attendees. It was enjoyed by young and old. Pictures of the event can be found on The Leesburg Public Library’s Facebook page.
Doctor Who programs can be fun and affordable for libraries. The show appeals to both boys and girls. Crafts, trivia, and costume contests have proven successful at past events for both young and old. Have fun with the programs. In the words of the Doctor “Do what I do. Hold tight and pretend it’s a plan!” (The Doctor, season 7 Christmas special)
About Julia “Sandy” Hutchins
Julia “Sandy” Hutchins is the Young Adult Librarian at the Leesburg Public Library in Leesburg, Florida. She is currently in graduate school at Florida State University. Sandy has a BFA in Technical Theatre from the University of South Florida. Prior to working in the library, Sandy toured the world as a lighting technician for Disney on Ice. Since becoming Teen Librarian, Sandy has hosted many successful teen events such as Zombie Prom, DIY Steampunk Goggles, and the Leesburg Hunger Games. Sandy hosts a monthly tv show on Lakefront TV to promote the library.