Public Librarianship

Technology in the Public Library

I have been in conversation recently with the children’s  librarians and a grant coordinator here about making this Summer the Summer of Technology at the Cypress Hills Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library. Some of the ideas we’ve had are:

Coding bootcamp – One for kids, and one for teens. The first will use Scratch, the MIT in-browser program for learning to code, specifically designed for kids. The second will focus on app design. There is a chance our TRS will be able to get them to install processing on the computers in the library, too. Plus, we are apparently getting laptops for programs! Hurray!

3D printing – Using a glowforge or some other consumer level 3D printer, as well as the free browser apps for design, we might set up a mini maker-lab.

Minecraft Modding!

Co-op gaming – Team gaming using the eight available desktop computers at our library.

Google actually offers a training for instructors on how to teach Scratch, and I’m going on Friday!

All of this is very exciting, both for us and for the kids, but you wonder where any of it goes, ultimately. Public libraries offer a range of great programs but they don’t yet offer a Coursera style experience — in two to four hour stints, you can dabble in something, but there’s as of yet no sound structure for doing some more comprehensive. What if you really wanted to learn how to code, like to build a portfolio? What if you wanted to work your way through Ulysses or say, get a good primer in postmodern fiction? What if you enjoy working on mid to long term projects with the same group of people? Why can’t the public library be a place for that, too? Like a “Library Meetup” program.

The importance, for me, and the relationship to technology, is that more often that not, technological innovation leads to physical absence. Librarians are constantly worried about getting the stats– getting people to show up to their programs. But that term “show up” has more than one meaning, and at a community institution, “showing up” could also mean nurturing lasting relationships with other community members and the library itself.