Learning through mimicking seems to be my first experience in interacting with the patrons and librarians. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but my coworkers are some of the most understanding, empathetic, compassionate, and determined librarians I’ve ever met. They are an integral part of these teen’s support system and the library staff as a whole. Each library personnel brings an important contribution that helps the library function. These are my reflections based on what I have learned while working with the Learning Experience and Young Adult librarians.
I first heard the phrase “fair is not equal” from a close friend of mine who works as a Special Education
high school teacher in the Chicago Public School system. This phrase makes sense to me because I work with teens and tweens at the Skokie Public Library that are in the 5th to 7th grade and are approximately 10-13 years old. Each of them experiment and tests their limits differently. Not all teens need the same type of attention because their home and school environments differ. As the third space, the library act as a supplement to existing needs and is hopefully an additional resource to their support system.
The Challenge Accept
ed segment has been an especially interesting aspect of my work because of the variety of activities we’ve been conducting. The Earth Science rotation has been loads of fun. We’ve experimented with light (solar panel cars), air (balloon rockets), water and earth (water filtration and erosion) or as I like to call it, “all Avatar bending powers.”
BOOMBox activities can be especially challenging when conducted by someone who loves to have control over all aspects of a program. For example, I am glad I had the opportunity to work in the space when we conducted workshops and drop-in activities. Additionally, I was able to preview the usual library programming in a different type of space.
The programming is run by high school mentors and librarians, depending on the activity it can be both. They are tasked with giving the patrons an inquisitive perspective so we always ask, “What are you seeing?” “Why do you think that’s happening?” “Did you expect that to happen?” and “What step should we change to get a different reaction?”. Challenge Accepted is different because its very nature is a challenge. The participants are told the challenge of the day and are given supplies and space to experiment. Their mission, should they choose to accept it, is to see what happens. In a programming aspect, I’ve learned that children and teens do not need a lot of direction to experiment and thrive. For example, during the drop-in activity, all I needed to say was, “we have some supplies for your to work on a personal project and experiment with new technology. Help yourself and let me know if you need help troubleshooting.” Most of the time, the teens conducted their own experiments. The Challenge Accepted brought some structure through a sense of competition. There were veteran BOOMBox users, explorers and new drop-ins. It brought its own challenges. For example, when the excitement is surrounding the digital camera itself instead of using it to document activity. However, I found that after a small tutorial, they took ownership of the larger challenge and became more engaged in the activity. Along with the “fair is not equal” concept, if I had applied the same treatment and expectations to the new explorers and drop-in group that I would a veteran group, I would have more then likely drove them out of the space and the chance to experiment and learn something new. Once the explorer group’s interest was sparked and their curiosity was challenged, they wanted more and became more engaged in the bigger program. The skills to recognize interest and answer it then redirect it back to an existing activity is something I hope to develop and expand. Librarianship is a public service field of going above and beyond the needs of the patrons. Satisfying curiosity and giving these tweens and teens a bigger space to explore are some of the pleasures I have found working in the Experiential Learning department at the Skokie Public Library.