Let’s Make & Inspire: Techy Creation in Libraries

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My library service is currently exploring the idea of making in libraries – specifically on the technological side of things – 3D printing, robotics, electronics, programming/coding.

We’ve run a couple of code clubs and have plans to run more. As well as this we are running our first Maker Day event this coming Saturday, with the help of Carlos Iszak, who I met at the City Mash event last summer. Carlos will be coming in with his Maker Cart kit and people will get the chance to try out 3D printing, paper cutting technology, robotics and electronics. We are also encouraging those attending to share ideas they have about making with technology, things they’ve made and their experiences around digital making in general. I’m really excited about this event and I’ll be helping out with the robotics and electronics side of things – Arduino, Makey Makey, Littlebits. It’s a hands-on event and we want to give people the chance to explore these new technologies for themselves.

The library service long term ambitions are to host a makerspace: “a place where people can meet to collaborate, create, learn, and innovate, using similar technologies to those available during our day of making.”

As well as this Maker Day event there are also 2 other events related to makerspaces in public libraries happening over the next couple of months in London that are worth attending if you’re working in libraries and want to find out more about makerspaces.

Making Library Makers: an intro (16th Feb, evening) – Carlos is also involved in this.

Code Green Digital Making & Learning Showcase (1st March, all day)

And finally, I wanted to share one of my favourite maker stories – one that’s especially relevant to libraries too. 14 year old William Kamkwamba’s electricity generating windmill in Malawi.

 

 

My Library By Right petition

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CILIP recently launched a new campaign (My Library By Right) in defence of public libraries. Full details of the campaign can be found on CILIP’s site, including details of how you can get support it. One of the key and very easy things you can do is sign the petition calling for MP John Whittingdale (current Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport) to “act now to protect my statutory rights to a quality public library service”, and also ask family and friends to sign it too. If you need to persuade them of the value of public libraries try this.

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Telling tales: Digital story workshops

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Yesterday I ran my last workshop of the year focusing on using digital tools for storytelling. In this case it was a family-friendly game making workshop with an Alice in Wonderland theme. It tied in with the Pocket Code and Scratch #AliceGameJam that begins tomorrow. My intention was to introduce attendees to Pocket Code as a tool that can be used to easily create interactive programs, stories and games and also encourage those attending to get involved in the game jam. Only a few people attended, but that did make it easier to run the session and help those that were there, and I received positive feedback at the end of the event.

I also ran a couple of sessions recently about creating interactive fiction using a piece of software called Inklewriter. I wanted to target creative writers who were interested in doing something new with their writing. That said, future Inklewriter sessions could focus on other topics eg local history, or personal biographies.

Both sessions were hands-on and gave those attending the chance to find out about the software and spend time creating something new with it.

If anyone is interested in finding out how I ran the sessions and the notes/handouts I used, please feel free to get in touch.

International Games Day at The British Library

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Last Saturday was International Games Day @ Your Library and I was lucky enough to help organise the free event at The British Library. We were going for an Alice in Wonderland theme in general (although we had many games that weren’t themed around Alice), as the Alice exhibition at the library had only opened the day before – it was a good tie-in and gave us a focus.

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The event included a huge range of tabletop games provided by board game enthusiasts, and computer games from both the British Library/Game City Off The Map competition (including Gyre and Gimble’s game) , and games from Alice Jam 150. We had planned to run a couple of Pocket Code/Paint sessions to show people how to create Alice game art and a game in an hour and to tie in with this Pocket Code Alice game jam in December. In the end we only ran the Game Making with Pocket Code session (lack of attendees) with a couple of people. Even though it would have been nicer to have more people attend, I still enjoyed running it and I think those attending enjoyed it too. Everything else went down very well – we must have had 100+ people come along on the day and many stayed and played for a while. Having tabletop game enthusiasts who could show other volunteers and anyone who came along how to play the games was important. Having Gyre and Gimble there to talk about their game was great too, especially as they received such positive feedback about it. It was also fun to watch other people try out the Alice Jam 150 games – again, all of which got positive feedback. The most popular was Down the rabbit hole.

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As well as the main event we also ran gaming sessions on Friday and Saturday evening as part of the Alice late event – again, the sessions were extremely popular and I’m sure we must have had at least another 100 participants across both nights too.

As well as having fun, it was a great learning experience for me in so many ways, and I had the chance to meet and talk to an interesting group of people helping out at the event – including sharing ideas about Pocket Code. It was yet another event that I came away from buzzing with ideas.

Well done to Stella Wisdom as the main organiser who pulled it all together, and to everyone else who played a part in helping out.

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International Games Day @ Your Library – 21st November

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I’m really looking forward to the British Library event as I’ve been helping organise it. It will also include a game making session using Pocket Code for Android to tie in with an upcoming Pocket Code game jam. Hopefully I’ll see some of you there – please spread the word that it’s happening.

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November 21st is International Games Day @ Your Library. As the name suggest, it’s all about libraries around the world holding game related events (table-top and video games). Any library can be involved – all you have to do is visit the official website and submit details of the event at your library.

The site includes some great ideas about what games you could play or make for the day, including Minecraft Hunger Games sessions and the Global Gossip game, which involves libraries from around the world participating in an event together. You can theme your game event if you want to. For example, the British Library is running a free event focused on Alice in Wonderland, as it ties in with the 150th anniversary of the publication of the book and an Alice exhibition that opens in the library on the same weekend.

So, why not organise some…

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Biographical Digital Storytelling

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Recently I’ve had a couple of opportunities to discuss ideas about digital storytelling in relation to libraries. I’m not thinking about stories in books or solely about stories as fiction, but other possibilities. I touched on part of it in a recent blog post about storytelling in games, but I’m thinking even broader than that.

Firstly, I attended an event at the British Library as part of meetup for people interested in interactive narratives tied in with Sherlock Holmes and the internet of things. This session divided those attending into small groups who had to build up a murder mystery using online media, linked to RFID tags and a hand drawn scene. Each team created clues from images/video/sound on the internet, gave them descriptions, drew a crime scene, added individual clues to each RFID tag, placed them at relevant points on the crime scene and then passed the crime scene to another team to figure out the crime based on the clues.
This was an interesting and fun idea in itself – the idea of being involved in creating, telling and discovering a story – all linked together in the process.

The discussion in the pub afterwards was interesting too. I met someone (a photographer and filmmaker) from my hometown and we got talking about various digital storytelling ideas we’d been involved in. I got thinking about a little digital project I’d put together a few years ago – a biographical map featuring key locations in my life and I wondered if there was any scope in developing this map and opening it up to others so they could add their own history to an area. A sort of very personal local and social history. Local history is often built on personal narratives and stories and it would be a way to build up a idea of the location, one that broader history resources don’t always cover. People could add their own text, videos, images, sound recordings and others would be able to access them too. Now I’ve managed to work with live data in Processing I’m thinking this might be possible.

Secondly I visited DOK Library in Delft. This made great use of 2 large touch screen digital tables. One focusing on local history maps and images and another focusing on multimedia stories created by library users – some of the stories created were fiction and some were focused on the importance of libraries in library users lives. These digital tables highlighted that some people want to and are willing to share their stories with people who have a shared connection, and that some people are interested in reading those stories. Using an interactive storytelling experience is also a fun way of drawing people’s attention to those stories.

Both of those sessions have given me an incentive to work at my original idea.