library-488671_640As a GaCOMO first-timer this year, I must admit that I had no idea what to expect from the conference. I’d heard such wonderful things from people who had been to COMO previously and the innovative ideas they were able to take from the conference, but I didn’t know how COMO would inspire and motivate me. I couldn’t begin to think about the things that I would be able to bring back that would enhance and improve the department where I work (Nancy Guinn Memorial Library’s Youth Services Department) and I certainly couldn’t begin to say what I expected to discover and learn.

Enter STE(A)M. Science, technology, engineering, math and in some cases, the Arts. Although I attended some very brilliant and informational sessions, I attended two STE(A)M-themed sessions that really stuck with me: Getting “STEAM-y” in the library with Oscar Gittemeier, Elizabeth McKinstry and Elizabeth Puckett and STEM Programs for Girls: Planning Workshops That Rock! with Julia Huprich and Shannon Tyner. Both involved bringing programming into the library and making STE(A)M related resources available to the younger, school-aged public. The sessions were so informative, providing information to session-goers about what worked and didn’t work in the immersion of STEM and STEAM into public and school libraries. There was a wealth of knowledge from the sessions’ presenters, from materials to use for programs, to sites that gave points and helpful hints about planning them. This obsessively, literature-focused chick couldn’t help but leave with a new appreciation for STE(A)M programming and new outlook on how that programming would impact our patrons and the community.

Programming for Youth Services truly impacts the community and in understanding that, communities with very low STE(A)M school involvement (as the Arts are being removed from schools due to lack of funding) can benefit from a simple library program with STE(A)M themes tremendously. Also, where there is an interest in science-based information and activities, such as computer programming or Lego building, the library can utilize its programming to respond to such interests.

Both sessions that I attended at GaCOMO also did a wonderful job of providing materials and websites to enhance programming. There were wonderful options out there for younger patrons to tinker and experiment with as well as tons of websites with information. Little Bits were among my favorites as each piece is a reusable, color coded magnetic circuit kit that’s safe and perfect for smaller hands. There were also programs like the Georgia State University BioBus and Crazy 8s Math that were free resources just waiting to be used! Those resources, along with lists of project suggestions and websites full of “how-to’s” were such needed and necessary snippets of material. The sessions were only hours long, but the information they provided went such a long way!

The sessions also brought up a very important point when starting and planning STE(A)M focused programs: the importance of resourcing the community! Both sessions expounded on the importance of using community figures and also people in the community for volunteers and presenters for programs and also when looking for donations to use during programming. There were examples of using community “helpers” who worked in STE(A)M vocational fields every day. It’s so necessary for younger patrons, especially younger females with interests in science based careers, that there are tangible examples of people who work in STE(A)M careers in their own communities and that work in the field is realistic and achievable!

GaCOMO was a cultivating, constructive experience that will stay with me for awhile…or at the very least until next year’s COMO! Learning about the importance of STE(A)M programming, the resources that are available for planning and accomplishing impactful programs for youth, and using the community for volunteering and donation purposes for successful programs were new and needed information for my department and our library. There were wonderful connections to make and brilliant things about themes, such as STE(A)M to learn and apply and even months later. I’m beyond appreciative for the experience, even as I continue to access and build on the information that I took away from this year’s conference.

Ashley Pearson
Conyers-Rockdale Library System

 

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Editor’s note: this post is just one in a series of reports from attendees at GaCOMO. Find more information about GaCOMO here: http://www.georgiacomo.org/