By Sue Sowers, Hoyt Lakes Public Library

 First of all, thank you so much to Arrowhead Library System for providing funds to make attending this fantastic conference possible. The sessions were specifically geared to small libraries like ours, and were all presented by enthusiastic speakers who were passionate about their subject.

Several of the sessions I attended were based on STEAM. Maker Spaces were highly encouraged, whether you have a dedicated room, space, or just a table. They teach literacy in the forms of reading, writing, creating, coding, building, etc. They provide knowledge and innovation through participatory learning. Maker Space projects can lead to partnerships with businesses, schools, senior centers and others. Kids are given the opportunity to try a new idea without fear of failing or being graded.

All great theories, but personally, I’m not that great with science and coding. So where do we start? A small “Discovery” table can be placed anywhere in the library with one project at a time, such as a set of Brain Builder, a microscope with some items, or Squishy Circuits with some homemade playdough. Legos are always a hit and can possibly be donated by people in the community. Lay down a king size bed sheet on the floor, let the kids build, and you have easy clean up. Give them a subject, like the longest or tallest bridge to build. E-Origami using 3mm and 5mm LED lights emitting diodes, copper foil tape and origami paper are a fun project. These items are fairly inexpensive on Amazon. Other ideas were using Makey Makey, Sphero and Coding Mouse, duct tape projects, Magna Tiles, Toy Hacking, Google Cardboard Viewers and App, Electronic deconstruction (take apart old computers, radios, dvd players).

Here are some websites that are very helpful to anyone interested in more information: (Northern New York Library System’s traveling Maker Kits. Arrowhead will have some available soon)

Other ideas worth mentioning:

Kahoot – A free site where you can create your own trivia games, surveys, or use to spark discussions in a book club. There are over 11 million games already created you can use. You need to create a login to access the site. The players play on any mobile device, after downloading the free Kahoot app. Questions are read on one main screen, then the players answer on their device. The games can be played individually or with teams. This one is very fun to play.

Technology Training for patrons:

Here are a few free websites that can be used to assist in training, either individually or through a class: – Beginner level site that is mobile friendly, provides interactive videos, and you don’t need to login or have an email address. – Beginner to intermediate level that also has handouts that can be printed, and offers training on several mobile devices. – Learn how to navigate specific websites such as Twitter, Facebook, and Trip Advisor. This site is designed for Seniors.

All of the sessions were excellent, with ideas I could take back and implement in our library. Thanks again to ALS for the opportunity to attend!