Giving Teens Leadership Experience through Your Volunteer Program

My newest goal at the Chattanooga Public Library is to develop and new branch of our Teen Volunteer Program that’s all about leadership.  If you’ve ever met me or heard me speak in person about volunteer management you’ll know I’m very into creating empowering opportunities that translate well for teens onto college or job applications.  It’s that passion and the freedom of my new job which gave me a great brainstorm just before the holiday season:

I want to teach teens how to program for libraries.

I want them to choose whatever they’re passionate about, let me teach them how to run it as a program and then let them take the driver’s seat and actually run it.  I’ve figure out how to fit all of this into a two hour block of time so it’s easily adapted to school requirements and teenage lives.  Here’s how it works:

Step 1 – Come and tell me what you’re interested in teaching.  I’ll give you a volunteer application to fill out and explain how this works.

Step 2- We schedule a time to get together and I’ll walk you through “How to Run a Program” in a half hour.  We’ll also set up the date and time of your program.

Step 3 – Today is your program!  Work your magic and I’ll act as your helper for the duration of the program.

Step 4 – After your program we’ll take ten minutes to discuss whether or not your enjoyed leading a program and if you’d like to do it again or remain a mysterious one hit wonder!

That’s it.  Super simple.  And when kids are done they’ll have programming experience at a very recognizable nonprofit and I’ll even provide them with a one-sheeter of the kind of work they’ve done translated into “employment ” and “academic” terms they can plug into those applications.

Update, 2/26/2014!:  I recently wrote a piece for The Chattanooga Public Library on a similar topic.

The 3 D’s of 3D Printing – Necessity is the Mother of Invention

The 3 D's of 3D Printing - Necessity is the Mother of invention

It was a dark and stormy night. @justinthelibrarian was giving me a ride home as my car had been totaled a couple days before on the winding and treacherous mountain road that leads to my apartment. We were both feeling frazzled by our 3D printer.

Sure, it was a lot of fun but as tends to happen with many library services it was becoming a novelty that folks wanted instant gratification from. If any of you have played with 3D printers by now you know they aren’t speed machines. An object the size of your fist can easily take 3-5 hours to produce depending on what kind of meat hooks you’ve got and the specifics you put into the printer. This was resulting in a lot of “Make me this” and “I’ll be back in a few days to pick it up” which meant we were essentially a two man queue of constant printing. And not just cute little things, ridiculous 8-16 hour jobs of things that were gimmicky test runs.

It’s total human nature to want to make the biggest, craziest thing you possibly can get away with when it comes to cool, free technology but we felt the point was being missed and it was a drain on our time and resources. In short, it was totally bumming us out. Something had to be done and on that short car ride the idea of the 3 D’s of 3D Printing was born.

What we wanted people to be taking away from using this machine was inspiration and a desire to learn more about design and how it can affect our society, not just trinkets. But trinkets are cool too and we didn’t want to take those away either!

Now we’ve worked out a way for our patrons to have one on one time with a librarian who will teach them step by step how to use the websites and programs available to start by reproducing and designing their own small and trinkety objects. In each step they graduate into thinking like designers and learning about the social impact these machines can have.

Justin’s written a great piece on the plan we’ve developed for kids to earn their first 3D Printing License here. It’s kind of like working through the belts in karate, this lowest level license is the White License. With this license you’re allowed to print one object per day that takes 1 hour or less to print and you can ask a librarian to change the color of the filament before the print begins. This allows kids to level up and earn those big prints they really want while learning what is and is not going to work. It creates order around the printer since each person can print one item per day and allows a greater number of patrons access to the printer at the same time. It has provided an incredible transformation and the parents love it!

We’re still tweaking the next 3 challenges kids will need to complete in order to earn their Yellow License but we had to share what we’ve worked out because chances are if we’re experiencing these growing pains with our 3D printer so are you and this might just be an option that works for you as well!

Tell me if this helps you out or if you have other road blocks you’ve encountered so far in the comments!

Oh, and I’ve finally found a new car now and am back on the road in case you were wondering. Viva la VW!

Fighting Social Injustice by Honoring Childhood

Fighting Socail Injustice by Honoring Childhood

An old friend of mine recently became one of the Technology Engineering Directors for a super amazing school in San Francisco.  He’s a really cool guy and our personal history is hilarious.  He was actually my first fight ever.  We were in 5th grade and without getting too much into it or dragging either of our names through the mud he was doing something I perceived as a serious social injustice so I decided my best (and only) course of action would be to kick him where it would hurt the most.  I then proceeded (with my best friend) to jump up and down on him until our teacher separated us.

Later, my mom got a call from the principal and when I got home I was sweating bullets about what would happen to me.  I was definitely a good grades, bad haircut, straight as an arrow, full on dork and had never been in trouble before.  I had no idea what to expect.  Would she hit me?  Take away my flute practicing rights? Deny my current archaeology obsession by taking away my hieroglyphics books? She sat me down and told me that while my heart was in the right place my foot was not and she never wanted to get a call about me fighting ever again.  That was it.  I never got in a fight again.  (Despite my best efforts, but more on that some other time…)

Back to this friend of mine.  This new school is a microschool, meaning they only have 20-80 students at a time.  We all know that a smaller classroom experience is beneficial but it’s admirable to see a school making a go of small classrooms anytime, especially when it’s a for-profit school like this one.  Their focus on technology is not to get all the fancy new gadgets so they can have them on hand as teachers struggle to get trained in one more thing. Instead, they have this amazing team creating personalized experiences and education tools through technology for staff and students.  Finally, when describing themselves they state “We provide a personalized education that honors childhood…”.  Honoring childhood is such an art that can be lost in the struggle of day to day librarianship.  All librarians can get caught up in getting everything done but children’s librarians really need to perform those quantitative tasks as well as the qualitative work of playing with our kids, being silly with our kids, and truly engaging their minds and spirits.  It’s how we really honor their experience as a child and functioning human.

I give myself permission to a half an hour a day to remain inspired.  I’ll read an article I’ve bookmarked but didn’t have time for, I’ll surf Pinterest for strange programming or decorating ideas or I’ll peruse the books in our collection.  It keeps me fresh, keeps me current on what’s going on in my field and keeps me grounded in my collection.

Ultimately, the greatest gift I can give these kids is a refreshed, energetic and inspired me and that honors both their childhood and my continued one.  I still can get carried away by what I perceive as social injustices but now this is how I combat those injustices, one fart joke, book recommendation or shoulder to cry on at a time.

If you’d like to see more about his new school you can check it out here.