Creation Club

Creation Club is an after-school club for middle schoolers who are interested in digital creation. At the FFL we have a room called the Creation Lab. In this room there are three desktop computers (2 PC and 1 iMac). On them we have audio, video, image, photo editing, and 3D modeling software. You can also find cameras, iPads, microphones, a green screen wall, and various other odds and ends relating to digital content creation.

Creation Club meets twice a month after school. There are usually short instructional workshops on how to do or use something in the Creation Lab at the beginning of the meeting and then the teens are given the rest of the meeting time to experiment with this new knowledge. Since spring of 2012, Creation Club has created stop motion videos, photoshopped themselves into their favorite movies/computer games, created 3D models, recorded podcasts, created original videos, and wrote and recorded an original song.

Starting in February of 2014, we changed it up a bit away from the purely digital and delved into how digital designs can be transformed into physical objects. The first week of February began with learning how to use the vinyl cutter in the FFL Fab Lab to turn line art into a decal. We used an image editing program they were already familiar with from the photo editing workshops last year  to create original artwork. Following that were two weeks of exploring 3D design using 2D drawings and the FFL Fab Lab’s laser cutter, and then a whole series on video game design (by popular demand).

Gamestar MechanicTo learn about video game design, we used Gamestar Mechanic. They actually provide an excellent set of teacher resources with lesson plans, so you can just jump right in with the kids having no previous knowledge of game design. For four weeks, the Creation Club played games to learn about game design and then had a chance to build their own games and have their peers playtest them and give appropriate suggestions.

Creation Club is now on break for the summer, but I look forward to starting back up again in the fall with some new and interesting projects.

Review of the Matched Trilogy by Ally Condie

I recently finished reading the third and last book in the Matched trilogy by Ally Condie. I began reading this series because it was described as a readalike to the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Well, it is…kinda. It is a YA dystopian novel set in a future where society has become corrupt and unreasonable. There is a lot that the Matched society has in common with Wells’ 1984. Society is always watching, listening, and controlling. Society tells you what your job will be, who you will marry, and when you will die. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that obviously the three main characters form a love triangle and succeed in overthrowing Society’s control by the end of the third book. That’s a common theme in dystopian YA. I will say that I enjoyed the first book much better than either of the two the followed. The second book indeed lived up to “second in a trilogy” stereotypes by being the least memorable. The conclusion was interesting, but entirely too perfect. All loose ends were tied up, all questions were answered, and everyone was happy.

I would recommend this book to people who found the romantic conflict within the Hunger Games trilogy highly interesting.

One Year

This month I celebrate one full year as a librarian. I officially began work as the Director of Innovative Family Services at the Fayetteville Free Library on September 1, 2012. Since then I have been involved in a great many things. I started two afterschool clubs for middle schoolers around STEAM subjects, I created LEGO robotics programs, I planned and ran the teen summer reading program at my library, I presented professionally on 6 occasions, was invited to join an ALA Committee, I pushed for a Minecraft server for the library, mentored an intern, was interviewed twice by MLIS students at Syracuse University, coached a First LEGO League team through our very first competition, managed 8 collections, and I can’t even remember what else. I could never have done these things if it wasn’t for the supportive and positive team environment at the FFL. Thank you guys!

I’ve done a lot, but it hasn’t been all work and no play. It’s been a lot of work and a lot of play (because who wants to plan a program for teens that won’t be fun to run). In fact, here you can see some teens playing video games at the Library Overnight end-of-summer-reading party. These boys were playing Let’s Dance and singing along to Katy Perry’s Firework.

Don’t think that I’m done yet! Oh no! I’ve still got a lot of ideas that haven’t been fleshed out yet and I am constantly being inspired to do more and better.

Summer Insanity!

There is one more week of Summer Reading to go. When I’ve had time to collect my thoughts and my sanity, I’ll be back to share with you my adventures in presenting, conferences, Minecraft, STEAM, badges, LEGO Angry Birds, and library overnights.  In the meantime… I give you a LEGO catapult..

School Visits

It’s nearing the end of the school year here in central New York and that means it is time for school visits. As the teen librarian at a public library, I reached out to the middle and high schools trying to arrange either for me to visit the school or for the students to visit the library to learn about what resources we have and to talk about the summer reading program. Ideally, I would love to collaborate with the local schools on our summer reading program. In all, I was able to arrange for four 6th grade classes to visit the library. That’s it. I will be trying harder much earlier next year. So anyways, at these visits, Heather gets up and talks about responsibilities of library card ownership and then together we talk about the fun and awesome things you can do in the library over the summer (and all the time).

The four classes that visited the library came to the library knowing about books and dvds and music, but they left knowing they can use a 3D printer, play video games, volunteer, borrow an iPad, and play Minecraft. Mission accomplished: 107 minds blown. I know this is a little weird, and a lot of other librarians and human adults in general will not believe me, but, I like middle school aged teens. They are so cool. They have so much potential for enthusiasm without being too weighed down with the politics of student social hierarchies.

They also really loved the idea of earning badges by participating in our summer reading program. More on that later…

Review of Girl with the Iron Touch by Kady Cross

by Kady Cross

And here we go with the third book in the Steampunk Chronicles, The Girl with the Iron Touch by Kady Cross. Not too long ago I read the first two books in this series and reviewed them. This one I received as an advance reader copy from the publisher.

Description from Goodreads:

When mechanical genius Emily is kidnapped by rogue automatons, Finley Jayne and her fellow misfits fear the worst. What’s left of their archenemy, The Machinist, hungers to be resurrected, and Emily must transplant his consciousness into one of his automatons—or forfeit her friends’ lives.

With Griffin being mysteriously tormented by the Aether, the young duke’s sanity is close to the breaking point. Seeking help, Finley turns to Jack Dandy, but trusting the master criminal is as dangerous as controlling her dark side. When Jack kisses her, Finley must finally confront her true feelings for him…and for Griffin.

Meanwhile, Sam is searching everywhere for Emily, from Whitechapel’s desolate alleyways to Mayfair’s elegant mansions. He would walk into hell for her, but the choice she must make will test them more than they could imagine.

To save those she cares about, Emily must confront The Machinist’s ultimate creation—an automaton more human than machine. And if she’s to have any chance at triumphing, she must summon a strength even she doesn’t know she has….

When reading the first two books in this series, I did a lot of ignoring the weird way the characters just seemed to take for granted the unusual things that happened around them and the baseless trust they showed in near strangers. The fast pace of the story and the intriguing plot do a lot to make up for the shallow characters, and the same is true in this book. Cross is an excellent storyteller, knowing just the right time and place to leave suspense and build tension. I might personally have been a little happier with a little less time devoted to the characters’ inner romantic turmoil, but I do see how the romantic developments helped drive the story along. I’m still not completely over the moon about the Steampunk Chronicles, but I will continue to read them just to find out what happens next.

Preparing librar* for the future.

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