All posts by Ben Rearick

Ben’s Summer Reflection

I always feel a distant sort of sadness when I see Buzzfeed style list posts about the dozen most beautiful libraries, or other such lists because they reinforce the idea that books and buildings are what make up a library. It’s completely true that a physical space and a collection are necessary for a library to exist, but the context (community, history, overall setting) and the people (librarians, community organizations, patrons) make up much more of the library-as-imagined.

With all that said here’s a list of seven lessons (to represent the seven different places our team went this summer) I learned from traveling all over Michigan, focusing on the context and the people:

  1. There are smart, very active librarians all over Michigan who are deeply in touch with their community. They are running programs and regularly adjusting for needs that come up within their communities.
  2. Librarians are interested in reaching out to the people in their community who aren’t there. They are reaching out and doing the work to identify the people who aren’t coming through the doors.
  3. Librarians love to tell stories — about their impact, their patrons, successful programs they’ve run. Our workshops were heavily seasoned with these stories, and of course we repeatedly shared the ones we heard!
  4. Community members can be spark plugs for change, and librarians can identify these people. The community members we met through our workshops were dedicated to improving their communities and many of them have the time and commitment to make change happen.
  5. The Maker Movement is defined by the people who are doing the moving. In the rural setting, we’ve seen the physicality and creativity shine through over technology much of the time. Librarians learn from teachers and are able to implement learning activities that teachers don’t always have time for.
  6. People of all ages hunger for programs emphasizing making, creativity, and agency. While following a set of instructions can be great, injecting the stale directions with a bit of individual flair, or better yet, having a challenge that can be solved in a multitude of ways can be extremely empowering for people of all ages.
  7. Librarians in conjunction with communities can solve many problems, including small scale economic development. There’s much more thinking to be done on this topic, but we think that libraries in rural settings can be agents of change for younger entrepreneurs to take their first steps. By combining the impact of fellow entrepreneurs, Kristin likes to say that they can be “amplifying” forces.

That’s all from me on the topic of the summer. Thanks to everyone for their hard work this summer! It couldn’t have happened without all of you! Stay tuned for more events this fall, including time at local Ann Arbor schools!

Workshop in Houghton Lake: Creating Design Challenges

We had a great final workshop in Houghton Lake by learning more about the usefulness of Design Challengs for libraries and schools.

We started by introducing our design thinking game. We then explained the design thinking cycle and had the participants complete one iteration of it. We finished by exploring other subject areas and how they can use design challenges as well.

Check out our folder of resources here. More pictures can be found here on our Flickr. Stay tuned for more events in Benzonia and around the state this fall!

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Workshop in Coopersville: Selling Handmade Goods Online

Our final workshop in Coopersville was on how libraries can amplify the work of beginning or intermediate sellers of online arts or crafts. Here are our resources from the workshop.

We taught the participants of the importance of photography, and SEO, as well as brainstormed potential ways the library could help surface sellers from its own community.

For connecting sellers, we including several examples of ways that other libraries have been able to amplify the sellers in their community.

Finally, we included a brief overview of several sites that stock inventory and can be used especially with budding entrepreneurs or artists.

Check out our Flickr for photos of the event. And let others know about our remaining events in Coopersville and Benzonia.

Workshop in Coopersville: Creating Design Challenges

Our final day in Coopersville started off with everyone showing up early (including us!), and learning about how to balance open-endedness with structure to increase creativity among students or people at our programs. Here are the resources from the day.

We started by introducing the room to Strawbees, and had some fantastic responses to our first challenge.

Then we broke down the design thinking cycle so participants could implement it. They went outside in the sprinkling rain and research each other’s vehicle dashboards.

Eventually, after going through the steps of the design thinking cycle, they made prototypes with cardboard (and junk box materials — and Strawbees) and Make-Do screws.

Finally, we introduced the idea of a challenge not simply based around technology, but rather drama, with our paper puppet people. After getting used to the movement, participants did short skits.

Check out more photos on our Flickr. And let others know about our remaining events in Coopersville and Benzonia.

Workshop in Coopersville: Fashion Hacking Full Day

We had a lot of fun learning about fashion hacking today in Coopersville! Here are our slides and other info from the day.

Due to the high amount of knowledge in the room we tweaked our usual run-through and covered some of the theory behind fashion hacking.

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We discussed different uses for a t-shirt, including costumes for kids and dog toys. Yarn from t-shirts was another topic.

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It wasn’t long before our participants were making some pretty amazing things. We even had several finished pieces before lunch!

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In the afternoon, we were able to teach the participants about making stencils using a Silhouette machine. Additionally, we taught them about how fun kids find the button-maker.

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Hope you can join us at some of our remaining events throughout the summer. Check out the rest of our pictures at our Flickr album here.

Workshop in Coopersville: Introduction to the Maker Movement

Our first workshop in the new, lovely, expanded library in Coopersville was a hit. Here are the resources from the day, including slides.

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We started off with a notecard activity to get the participants thinking with their hands. We then dived into the history and aspects of the maker movement, along with our experience.

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After asking participants to think about their own communities, we made a flashlight and hacked it into some pretty unbelievable things. (With a junk box that’s been whittled down, even!)

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Finally, we had a lightning round of game design followed by tools time where participants got to check out our tools.

Here are all the pictures from the day. Be sure to check out our remaining workshops!

Workshop in Alpena: Creating Design Challenges

Our third workshop in Alpena was a morning of discussing and participating in design challenges.

After discussing the balance between open-endedness and structure we dove right into a design challenge using Strawbees. Even with this new (to most) material, our participants were inventive and thoughtful.

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We then had participants go out in pairs to observe and research their car dashboards as part of a hands-on experience with the design thinking process, from which we get design challenges.

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After following the steps to the design thinking process, the participants had Lego prototypes of their dashboard solutions.

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We rounded out the day by sharing our puppet paper people, and using techniques such as breath, focus, and weight (these were our materials for this final design challenge!) to perform a skit. Design challenges can be used for any subject area!

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Thanks to all who registered! You can find our presentation materials and resources here. If this interests you, sign up for our future workshops!

Workshop in Alpena: Introduction to the Maker Movement

We arrived in Alpena and so did 115% of our registrants! Wow!

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We did started off with a notecard activity with lots of creative objects resulting. After going over the history and theory behind some of the maker movement, we moved into forming community Maker Visions.

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We continued in the afternoon with more hands-on activities, including hacking a flashlight with our trusty junk box. Our participants loved the junk box and we had more ideas that surprised and delighted us all.

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After an enlightening discussion about how assessment in makerspaces can be useful for gaining support in public libraries, we moved into board game design and a brief tour of tools we like!

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Here’s our presentation and other info from the day. Find more pictures in our album here.

Be sure to come later in the week or to other events down the road!

Workshop in Frankenmuth: Fashion Hacking Full Day

Our last workshop in Frankenmuth was dedicated to hacking, sewing, knotting, artistry, and re-using old clothing! Check out our presentation from that day here.

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We started with t-shirt bags, but that was just the beginning. After some of the reasons behind just why we fashion hack, we listed numerous ways we could hack a normal t-shirt, of which Goodwill Outlet has an almost limitless amount.

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We spent some time learning about the Silhouette Portrait machine from our gracious host, Pam.photo3

After lunch, we had a lesson on the anatomy of clothing, and plenty of exploration time to hack to our hearts’ content. We closed with a discussion of how to best implement similar programs in different communities and what the challenges would be.

Check out more pictures here!

And if this interests you we’re doing it again a few times this summer!