Astronomy 101

The FFL's Telescope

Last summer, the Fayetteville Free Library acquired a telescope: a Celestron NexStar 8 SE. We used the telescope once during the summer for a program called Daytime Astronomy which unfortunately happened on a rainy day so we weren’t able to view the sun through the solar filter. For the rest of the summer and into the fall, I eagerly anticipated that days when the sun would set early enough I could run a night-time astronomy program during library hours.

On January 20th, 2015 I finally began a 5-part Astronomy series for teens and families at the library. The purpose of this program was to introduce members of our community to the technology available in the library and to give them an introductory understanding of astronomy. I began each meeting by introducing a concept in astronomy. At the first meeting it was the names and orders of planets in our solar system followed by a description of how telescopes work. We were favored with a clear sky so we took the telescope outside to look at the stars despite the bitter cold. For every day that we had clear skies, we took the telescope outside for at least half an hour. That was usually enough time to set it up, focus on something, view it for 10 minutes, and then go back inside because our fingers were numb and our noses frozen (the average temperature was around 10 F). We got some very nice views of Jupiter and counted at least 5 of Jupiter’s moons.

Here are some of the activities we did:Measuring Craters

Observing Jupiter through the FFL TelescopeThere were at least 9 and as many as 19 participants at each meeting. Everyone participated with enthusiasm and curiosity and worked together for the activities. They all asked questions that I answered as best as I was able, sometimes writing them down so I could research the answer and give it to them at the next meeting. All of the parents who came were just as interested in the activities as their children, participating alongside them instead of the usual passive observation that you get from parents in most family library programs.

Because of the interest in and success of this program, I will be running it again in late October when there is at least an hour and a half of night before the library closes.

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STEAMPunk Club!

Steampunk Digital Sign

The inspiration for this club is an indirect demand in our community for more STEM subject programming for teens. The community that supports us is home to one of the highest scoring school districts in the state for the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects and we have seen a push to promote STEM subjects through the adoption of Common Core standards in schools New York. In the Fayetteville Free Library, we like to add the A for art and make it STEAM instead. We have had success with programming for teens based around our maker culture and using the materials for our Fab Lab. We have also had outstanding response to our LEGO robotics programs. So, we decided to put some of those ideas together to create an ongoing afterschool club that will touch on all of these things while still involving literacy and reading.

The STEAMPunk Club gets its name from the steampunk YA genre and from STEAM subjects. STEAMPunk Club meets twice a month and every month is inspired by a steampunk YA novel. There are discussions relating to the book and then there are hands-on projects based on the book.

For example, our first month is inspired by Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld:

Description from Goodreads: Prince Aleksander, would-be heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, is on the run. His own people have turned on him. His title is worthless. All he has is a battletorn war machine and a loyal crew of men.

Deryn Sharp is a commoner, disguised as a boy in the British Air Service. She’s a brilliant airman. But her secret is in constant danger of being discovered.

With World War I brewing, Alek and Deryn’s paths cross in the most unexpected way…taking them on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure that will change both their lives forever.

In Leviathan, there is a girl masquerading as a boy so that she can be an airman and you have a princeling who has lost his kingdom. You also have world powers who use Darwin’s theories of evolution to engineer living creatures who can be used as war machines (Darwinists) and you have world powers who rely on engineering and physics to build mechanical wonders that are used as war machines (Clankers).

In our first meeting, we examined the creations of the Darwinists, specifically Leviathan itself, a massive air-beast that is reminiscent of a whale but flies through the air like a zeppelin. Obviously, we are unable to genetically engineer a Leviathan for ourselves in the library in 90 minutes, we we did discuss how it is that Leviathan and other flying ships work. After doing an experiment with water to illustrate clearly how hot water/air rises and cold water/air sinks, we then applied this principle to making hot air balloons from tissue paper. Unfortunately our hot air balloons were less airworthy than Leviathan, but we did enjoy making them nonetheless. My coworker and I had so much fun trying out the water experiment in advance, if you have any jars, I highly recommend it.

In our next meeting, we will discuss the meaning of bravery and compare Deryn’s definition with our own. And then we will go the Clanker route and build mechanical Walkers using LEGO Mindstorms. Our walkers will have four legs instead of two, but they will still give the club members an opportunity to understand how a simple walking machine works to give them an appreciation for the engineering involved.

So far, we have met only once and there were 4 teens who showed up. I hope that those who come will have so much fun they will spread the word among their friends and classmates. My goal is to have a core group of more than 10 teens show up to each meeting by May.

Halloween! (And Internship Day 17)

Every year, the Fayetteville Free Library throws a halloween fundraiser called CarniFFaLl. There are games, crafts, a haunted house, and a costume contest. Last year, Katie asked me to volunteer to help her at the photo booth/costume contest and I did. This year, I helped her plan, set-up, and take down the photo booth. For the costume contest, we take photos of all of the children who enter, print them out, and display them on a board for the judges to evaluate (that way they don’t have to be present to win). Parents who like the photos, are able to purchase nice large glossy prints of their children’s photos.

So, Katie and I made the coolest backdrop possible. We put it together on Friday night after the library closed. On Saturday, the day of CarniFFaLl, Katie set up the computer and printer and her boyfriend manned the printing station while we posed the kids for their photos and Katie shot them (I arrived at 9:30, CarniFFaLl started at 11). I tried to make sure that the list of names and the photos taken were matched as accurately as possible. However, due to printer problems, we were unable to have all of the contest photos printed by 3pm when the event ended, so the costume judging was held on Monday instead. In fact, most of the printing wasn’t finished until almost 5:00. But while Katie was putting the photos to rights, I took down the backdrop and cleaned up as much as possible.

Here are photos of the backdrop and the photo booth crew in costume!

On Monday, the FFL held the preschool Halloween party, which I got to help with as well. We started with a song led by Heather. Then, I read the story time book while Karen and Pete did the props. Next up was a felt board story with ghosts and counting that was a lot of fun. One more song and then it was time for crafts! I was in charge  of the goody bag decorating station. The kids could come over and decorate a paper bag with crayons, stickers, stamps, and foamies. Lots of creative kids in the group. The final activity was leading the kids around the library to nine different offices and desks to trick-or-treat. I had 5 kids in my little group: superman, super girl, two pirates, and a black cat. They were so cute.

(YS internship hours completed: 44.5 of 75)

Internship Day 16

 Next Monday is Halloween. In honor of the holiday, the youth services department throws a special preschool Halloween party complete with story time, songs, crafts, and trick-or-treating. I will be helping with the party as part of my internship: reading the book and running one of the craft tables before taking a group of trick-or-treaters around to different desks and offices in the library for candy and treats. So I went into the library today to practice with Karen for the story time. We thought it would be fun to read the book but also have props that show what’s going on. The book is titled Halloween Night and it’s by Elizabeth Hatch.

After deciding on the logistics of the story time, I set myself up at one of the work computers and began trying to transfer my hand drawn ideas for decorating the kit bags into Adobe Illustrator. I did a pretty good job on the illustration for the back, I think. But as I was finishing the front, I hit undo one too many times and the program crashed before I could save. So I lost all the work I had done on the front and got completely frustrated. I have to go back and try again next week.

(YS internship hours completed: 41 of 75)

Internship Day 14

I spent the first part of the morning doing some more board book evaluations (thanks to Heather’s guidelines), and looking for board books about baby sign language and bath time to fill in some gaps. When Storytime was over I shared with Karen all of the things I had done for the two weeks she was gone and she liked my ideas for the bag designs. I then sat down with Heather for a few minutes to find out about getting a set of bibliographic records from the cataloging office downtown so we could re-catalog our existing early literacy kits and have a record ready when the baby kits are done.

I had time for a little more board book research before a Youth Services meeting. I learned about some more programs coming up at the library. Penny took us around the children’s room after the meeting to show us what she and Heather had come up with for rearranging the children’s room. There’s going to be a board book corner, a nicely shaped picture books area, and some new technology like a DVD screening room and a listening station for CDs.

Then I joined Monica on the reference desk for two hours where I finished the last three pages of the continuing purchases list. I explained some of my recommendations to keep or cut titles and she said she’d use my suggestions! Then we had just enough time for Monica to explain what she wants me to do with the next set of titles. I’m going to be looking at each and every book in the library reference collection starting with the oldest. I’m going to be examining each title to determine if the information is dated, available online, and if the book is in a good condition. I will then be making suggestions for weeding. This is gonna be fun!

I am such a nerd.

(reference internship hours completed: 34 of 75)
(YS internship hours completed: 31 of 75)

Internship Day 12

I started off the morning by reviewing the music I had picked out last week and doing some more searching until I had at least one album for each category. Some categories have several to choose from. I then did some research and comparison for rewriting the early literacy page of the the Fayetteville Free Library webpage. I then spent some time thinking of the design for the early literacy kits. The packages will be the same as the current collection, but I want to make them identifiable as a different type. So I’ve come up with designs for both the front and the back of the bag. The back will have a stencil and the front will have a label with the kit category and contents. I’ll post those designs later when I’ve had some time to fancy them up a bit.

Then, it was reference project time with Monica! There are only about three pages left in my current list. I will be able to finish next time!

(reference internship hours completed: 28 of 75)
(YS internship hours completed: 25.5 of 75)

Internship Day 10

It was another full day at the library. For about three hours I researched children’s music to put in each early literacy kit. Normally, I’m not a fan of children’s music. Especially the kind that has children singing. But I had a lot of fun looking for good kids music that wouldn’t be annoying for parents. First I searched around on CDBaby, which despite the name is not just music for babies. They have independent music for all ages. I really liked listening to the previews for the albums, it gives you an opportunity to decide if the music is catchy, age-appropriate, and entertaining. I found myself making a mental list of music I can send to my almost one-year old niece along with the music for the literacy kits. I especially liked Sing Along! by Caspar Babypants. I also did some searching in the iTunes catalog for some ideas since you can usually preview the songs in iTunes as well. I really liked all three volumes of Music Is Awesome from the TV show Yo Gabba Gabba.

Then I had a few meetings before joining Monica at the Reference desk again to work on the reference and nonfiction collection project. I got through a few more pages of continuous orders (books we automatically order when there is a new one out). It took a little while to compare all of the Walt Disney World travel guides, but I now know which one I would want to take with me if I go back again. I am also making recommendations for which titles to continue and which to cancel. It’s more difficult than you might think. I’m comparing the catalog of how many copies of a certain title are in the county system, how often they circulate, how much they cost, how they compare to our databases and free web-based information sources, with how many other titles we have on the same topic. SO many variables. But it is interesting, I get drawn into the comparisons and am really getting to know the collection well.

(reference internship hours completed: 22 of 75)
(YS internship hours completed: 21 of 75)