At the end of October, the PLIX team went to Akron, Ohio to host the first-ever PLIX Workshop in collaboration with our friends at the Akron-Summit County Public Library (ASCPL) and with support from the Knight Foundation.
The Public Library Innovation Exchange—a.k.a. PLIX—is a project of the Learning Initiative at the MIT Media Lab. Since 2017, PLIX has been collaborating with public libraries across the US to develop creative STEAM learning experiences—based on MIT Media Lab research and designed for the public library setting. As part of this work, we started a residency exchange program, created a website to freely and openly share our PLIX activity materials, and launched PLIX kits to help new librarian facilitators get started offering creative learning programs in their libraries.
The PLIX@Akron Workshop represented the first ever in-person gathering of the PLIX community, bringing together 38 library professionals from Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, and North Carolina. Our participants were adult librarians, teen librarians, children’s librarians, technology specialists, branch managers, and makerspace coordinators. Together, we spent two days in hands-on, interactive sessions that introduced the ideas behind creative learning and how to get started building a personal facilitation practice.
As more librarians are asked to lead educational programs with emerging technologies, we think it’s important not just to get technology into the hands of patrons, but to cultivate an environment for patrons to experiment and create with technology. With this in mind, our PLIX workshop was designed to have four main components:
As the designers of this event, we worked hard to model the ideas of creative learning in each of these workshop components, following the very facilitation tips that we include in our PLIX kits!
Drawing from our existing collection of PLIX activities, we offered breakout sessions on our Paper Circuits, Urban Ecology, Space Food, DataBasic.io, and Scratch+micro:bit programs. Each session gave librarians the chance to participate in a hands-on training workshop for a particular activity. At the end of Day 2, librarians were able to put all that they’d learned into practice at our Spooky Maker Night (on October 30th!)—a science fair style, Halloween-themed event for the Akron community.
Working in small teams, our PLIX@Akron participants adapted and remixed the PLIX activities they learned about during the workshop to suit a drop-in style, maker night format. We added the additional constraint of a Halloween theme, and the PLIX team provided a variety of spooky and fun materials for inspiration 👻🎃.
We really love the idea of pairing a training workshop with a public maker night. It’s a great way to both engage the local community and also give librarians the chance to implement the things they learned right away—making it easier for them to go back to their own libraries and get started!
Many of our participants said that that this workshop helped them to get back in touch with their spirit of creativity, and they felt excited to get back to work and start planning new programming for their patrons. “Rejuvenating” was a word a few librarians used! One librarian even described it as the “highlight of their career.”
So, we’re doing it again! This March 30 — April 1, 2020, we are hosting a second PLIX Workshop—this time at the Media Lab. Register now on the event website, and feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions in the meantime.
We’d like to thank our amazing collaborators and co-hosts at the Akron-Summit County Public Library, without whom we would not have been able to make this workshop a reality. Thanks especially to Monique Mason, Michele McNeal, Stephanie Jolliff, and Pam Hickson-Stevenson for all of their hard work and support.
This work is supported by the Knight Foundation.
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This post also appeared on Medium.
PLIX is a project of the Media Lab Learning Initiative. Learn more about our work at learn.media.mit.edu.