Many libraries work with local cultural institutions to provide patrons with free or reduced-cost access. These print passes can be checked out in-house by patrons just like other resources, complete with circulation limits, due dates, and fines. Some software companies are simplifying pass management with web-based tools to help patrons discover and check out museum passes and event tickets or make reservations.
As community centers, libraries are always looking for new ways to offer educational programming. Some libraries have been fortunate enough to incorporate complete Maker spaces in their buildings, but for those that don’t have the funding or space, all is not lost. Using existing areas and the help of community members, libraries can easily host tech camps (coding, robotics, and more) for patrons.
Children are naturally curious about the world around them. Science programs and activities are a great way to capture their interest and encourage the development of early literacy skills. Many science activities and materials are easy to incorporate into library programs; you may find that you’re already including elements that increase STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) knowledge, for example, talking about color mixing or identifying and playing with shapes.
Last summer, Bloomberg BusinessWeek devoted an entire issue to “What Is Code?” a single article by Brooklyn-based writer and programmer Paul Ford. Ford’s breakdown of key concepts pulls back the curtain on the fundamentals of computer programming and makes a compelling argument that any smart person can learn the basics—and that the basics are worth learning even for those who aren’t planning to become professional coders. It is, in part, a case for coding as a new frontier in digital literacy. There’s a growing interest in this type of education among kids, teens, businesspeople, career changers, and the generally curious. And a growing number of public libraries are already responding to this need within their communities. Here’s a look at ways in which a few libraries have made their programs a success.
The maker movement and 3-D printing technology catalyze innovation and promote entrepreneurship by emphasizing “making” over “consuming” and facilitate experiential learning and rapid prototyping. To many, library Maker spaces are also often the only facility within their reach that offers open access to 3-D printing and scanning equipment. For these reasons, creating a Maker space for patrons is often an attractive project.
We knew there were problems with our library website at Fitchburg State University (FSU). Users either couldn’t find what they wanted or were unaware of the site’s existence. This was particularly a problem owing to the limited number of librarians available to assist. While there was some consensus among librarians regarding these design problems, there was little agreement as to how these problems could be addressed. We decided that usability testing was needed before making changes, but we didn’t have the budget to develop an expensive usability lab with one-way mirrors, sophisticated eye-movement testing devices and the like. Despite this, with a little creativity, we were able to design a solid and reliable usability study with limited resources.
Providing Internet access to the public has come to be an important service, but it can be quite a challenge to do so in a secure, cost-effective way. Maintaining patron privacy on a shared, public computer is one of the problems that librarians face every day. My solution was to switch to an open source (OS) platform for our patron computing.
Whether the topic of discussion is electronic resources, collection development policies, or patron-driven acquisition, academic librarians have a history of giving media and video short shrift, argues deg farrelly, media librarian and streaming video administrator for Arizona State University Libraries (ASU).
Managing library computers for staff and the public can be a daunting task. Keeping track of licenses and equipment and maintaining them can be difficult, especially in a ten-branch system with a couple of hundred machines. But smaller, less expensive computers have been coming on the market lately, and at the Somerset County Library System (SCLS), NJ, we have been using these solutions to assist our staff and patrons with daily functions. Whether it be a Raspberry PI for a digital sign, a Chromebook/Box/Base for the public or staff to use, or a ZBOX for checkout, they all cost less, run faster, and work just as well as their costly counterparts.