As I’ve previously mentioned in other posts, my library had a major renovation this year. The renovation included a change in some of our services. At our department staff meeting yesterday, we were discussing the use of our new STEM room. We were trying to determine if we wanted to call it STEM or something different. I think it’s our version of a makerspace, but some people are reluctant to go there. Baby steps. In our discussion, I wanted to give everyone the opportunity to express what they thought about STEM vs. Discovery Room vs. something else. For a certain generation, they hear the term Discovery Zone and automatically think Chuck E. Cheese. The discussion continued around the table as to what STEM meant and the level of service we could provide. It was such a good moment for our staff, leveling with each other about our concerns and vulnerability.
In our STEM room we plan on offering open gaming on days and on other days, open science time — I’m calling it Discovery Zone (despite Chuck E. Cheese reference). The discussion that went around the table was varied. We see the room differently. Some want to just leave things out and let kids discover by themselves. Others want to be in the room and discover together. Side by side. The other part of the discussion involved people who were terrified of not knowing what to do. Not understanding the science behind things and not being prepared to teach kids these concepts. “I’m not a teacher” was the overwhelming concern.
I had a flashback to me in March when we were planning our project. And I told my co-workers that very thing. We aren’t there to teach. That isn’t the role we’ve taken as a public library. We’re there to lead. To guide. We’re there to open doors and discover together. Side by side.
I told them about the Makey Makey experience. That I didn’t know why things weren’t working. I panicked, and despite my need to fix things, even things I know nothing about, I sat back and watched them succeed. I shared that this was an eye-opening experience for me. And I told my co-workers that I think that is what our STEM room should be. We don’t have all the answers. That isn’t our role. Let’s embrace the idea that kids can discover things on their own, with each other, and with us side by side.
Now, I think my role as librarian means that I’ll have the proper tools they need for discovery. To have the various elements to make sure the Makey Makey will be conductive (or won’t be for that matter). I need to make sure my LED lights are working for the squishy circuits to work. In order for my Cubelets project work, I need to understand the various elements of simple robotics. But then, I will let them explore and come to their own conclusions.
This is a work in progress. I will not be able to assuage Children’s Services staff concerns over night. It’s in my goals this year to provide a culture of failing forward. To give the CS staff the opportunities to discover things on their own; and when they’re not successful, to help them do it again and figure it out. It’s a good model for our programs. We don’t have to present the perfect program, perfectly every time. It’s a radical idea for many of us in this profession
So, I’d like to continue with the staff true confessions. I think it is good for the soul of our department. Talking about these things and to alleviate their concerns. And, I know that if I can make this turn around in just six months, so can they. I’ll keep you informed.