Gimme a C (for Collaboration!): Tech Clubs

SPLC Wordly

By Alexa Newman

Technology Club is a partnership between the Algonquin Area Public Library District and local elementary schools. Our Youth Technology Librarian visits schools once a month, working with the school librarians to lead club meetings. Students have the opportunity to participate in STEM enrichment programs and work with other technology their schools may not own. Some of the different programs include squishy circuits, light painting, brush bots, spheros, ozobots, and coding.

Currently, 24 students from two district schools participate in Tech Club. In order to participate, students must be in grades 3 to 5 and fill out the school’s club registration form. The school librarian tracks membership. Tech Clubs meet once a month after school. Meetings take place in the school libraries and generally last for one hour. The library provides the hardware, supplies, and tech expertise and the school provides the meeting space, supervision, and school supplies like paper, markers and pencils.

Planning time for each month’s meeting is variable. Currently, our Technology Librarian plans the projects, but they are frequently programs we’ve already held at the public library, so planning time in those cases is minimized to gathering and preparing supplies. The school librarians are responsible for promoting the meeting and making sure the students attend. The cost to run the club each month usually runs between $0 to $50. This is for materials only, and does not factor in staffing costs. For the most part we reuse supplies that we already have. The collaboration between the schools and public library probably saves hundreds of dollars for the schools, since we bring fairly expensive tech tools that they don’t have to purchase. This frees up their budget for other needs.

Tech ClubThe Tech Club partnership is a symbiotic relationship–each side gains from the collaboration. The result is a connection to the school and the public library supporting our community’s education. One of the primary benefits for the public library is the fact we are able to provide support to our elementary school programs and build connections between the students and the library. One of the leading benefits to the schools is that the are able to offer free programs that supplement their STEM program.

What advice can we offer to librarians wanting to start their own Tech Club? Well, the most challenging part is getting your foot in the door. Reach out to your counterpart (whether in the school or public library) to see if you can get a meeting. Be prepared with ideas that can show them how easy and inexpensive it is for them. And remind them of the most important part–that the students benefit the most! 

Alexa Newman is a Youth Services Library for the Algonquin Area Public Library District in Illinois. She is a member of the AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School-Public Library Cooperation and regularly blogs for ALSC. 

Categories: Blog Topics, Community/Teacher Collaboration

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