Inviting Creative Experts to the Library Mix

Librarians are always connectors. We see the intersections of subjects in the curriculum. So now that many of our schools are fully immersed in project-based learning, STEM to STEAM, Guided Inquiry, Design Thinking etc. we can take our role of finding authors and add a new spin to finding subject experts. This is a way to add curricular support to the kinds of programming that are happening in schools adopting creative commons, makerspaces, and design labs…

I was inspired by the Libraries as Incubator Project (LAIP) that guest-presented at our AISL Convention last spring; They highlighted library programs that bring artists, musicians, dancers to integrate with the collection and space of the library. I have begun to invite experts to work with teachers and students on the projects they are undertaking. Teachers have appreciated this addition to our collaborative relationship because it is often too time intensive for them to add this element to their courses. I have noticed the student engagement increases when they get to see someone share the real-world examples to the topics that are studying. Here are some of the experts I found in our creative city.

One of the first speakers I brought to our school was industrial designer to share about his profession and the creative things he has made. I choose him because at the time we were promoting our Makerspace. Chris Barrs of O8O Studio shared about the design process and showed the iterations of many of his products. I choose him specifically because I had learned about the NASA’s first 3D print in space challenge for students and knew that Mr. Barrs had designed for NASA when he was a student in college. Read more about his presentation here

The next speaker I invited to our school helped the second phase of our makerspace programming: curricular connections. Jon-Paul Taylor is part of the St. Pete Makers organization in St. Petersburg. When I learned from the technology teacher and art teacher in middle school that the students were designing games for their Spanish class I saw the opportunity to bring in a person with a passion for game design history and making. Mr. Taylor was a perfect match because not only does he understand coding for game design he also builds arcade style consoles to play the games on. This mirrored the work student were doing because they were coding in technology class and creating cardboard consoles in art class. See him sharing with our students here.

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to bring experts to the school related to a city-wide cultural event in our community- the SHINE Mural Festival. This was the most ambitious iteration of engaging local experts with our students. I had learned about this event at the end of last year and shared with the art teachers on campus. The middle school art teacher was excited to get involved with this city event and made a point to start her art classes with mural and street art concepts at the beginning of this year. Since international, national, and local mural artists were painting the town we took the students on a field trip to Bloom Art Center, an art studio covered in murals by our local mural artists. After the festival, mural artists visited our middle school art studio to help the students design a new mural for our school and brought an art car along for more examples of street art in our community. See more details here and here

In combination with procuring experts I make a point to pull books and materials from our collection to show our holdings in a new light. This way both traditional functions of the library and progressive educational trends are represented in the programming.

Some tips I have learned through the experience-

  • Often finding experts in community is a frugal route as very often they are willing to share free of charge or for a smaller compensation than an author.
  • Have informal conversations with your teachers to see what they are working on and offer to bring outsiders in.
  • Tap into your own personal interests and organizations that you are a part of- I joined with the St. Pete Makers to grow my own skills and now I know experts in several maker fields.
  • Volunteer outside of you school- I met local artists this summer when I volunteered to help with the educational side of a local arts programs.
  • Talk with your alumni departments as they have farther reaching contacts with experts across many fields and with a vested interest in your school.

Finally, I still look for authors to promote a love of reading, but I have enjoyed adding subject experts to the mix too. These are just some of my thoughts. I would love to hear if others have also brought in experts for the programs at their schools.


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