Vegas, Baby! Or, My Trip to ALA Annual 2014

What does a weekend in Sin City have to do with our wonderful Maker class, you ask? When that weekend involves the crazy, overwhelming but ultimately inspiring time that is ALA Annual. I went with a group of LIS Katies, and while many of the sessions I attended focused on youth services and children’s/YA authors, a few also touched on making and makerspaces in libraries.

One session discussed the next iteration of teen spaces in the library (school or public) and actually ended up mostly focusing on maker labs. The session was led by Maureen Hartman from Hennepin County Library here in Minneapolis, and featured the Best Buy Teen Tech Center at Minneapolis Central, as well as a school library being built in Alabama, a teen learning lab in Memphis, TN, and the DreamYard Art Center in the Bronx, NY. I loved some of the points made during this session. For instance, the design of the newly constructed spaces was left pretty blank, letting the teens make it their own. Aaron from the Teen Tech Center talked about looking for activities “with a low floor and a high ceiling,” so that participants would not be intimidated by starting to learn a new skill, but that they could increase their skill level to a pretty high point.

As many of my classmates already know, I attempted to live tweet my final session from Monday. It was called We Make Everyday: How you’re (most likely) already doing the makerspace thing. Led by Amy Koester (a Children’s Librarian from the St. Charles City-County Library District near St. Louis) and Claire Moore (Head of Children’s Services from the Darien, CT Library), this “Conversation Starter” was designed to introduce attendees to ways that they could do the maker thing in a pretty low-to-medium tech fashion, using materials and resources that they already had or might need to repurpose. The program touted participation from one Mr. Justin Hoenke of Chattanooga, but alas, he was not there in person. However, thanks to the wonders of the internet, he showed up via YouTube and prepared slides. In between the individual presentations by Koester, Moore, and Hoenke, others were invited to come up to the microphone and share projects or initiatives from their own libraries or schools, including how they were able to collaborate with community partners. The back of the room had four stations set up for anyone to try to make simple paper crafts, experiment with LED’s, make a duct tape bow-tie, and build a structure out of marshmallows and toothpicks (sound familiar?).

While these sessions centered around maker spaces for youth, several participants reminded us not to forget about mid-life and older adults. Some libraries have craft time for older adults already worked into their programming, and some make sure to invite older mentors to their youth spaces for inter-generational learning.

If any other attendees want to share their experiences, I’d be curious to know what you learned at ALA Annual 2014! And if you weren’t able to attend, I’d encourage it in the future–Midwinter in Chicago is not too far away!

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