The County of Los Angeles Libraries in partnership with LA Makerspace presents workshops for young children interested in learning subjects in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). LA Makerspace is an educational organization dedicated to providing professional workshops developed in STEM areas to help inspire young children to become innovative learners.
Since the organization began, LA Makerspace has worked with over 160 librarians, trained specifically in areas such as robotics, electronics, and stop motion animation. Today, with the help of LA Makerspace, librarians in 21 different branches have started their own workshops to teach children how to build technology.
Pico Rivera Magazine had the pleasure of speaking to the Community Library Manager, Lauren Talbott about the benefits of these workshops and how they shape the lives of youth in this community.
Illustration: Max Moreno
Where did the idea to introduce a robotics workshop originate?
The County of Los Angeles Public Library, in an effort to offer more STEM programs, applied for and received a grant from Southern California Edison to fund these workshops. This funding allowed librarians to receive robotics training from LA Makerspace and made the workshops possible. Several libraries were selected to hold these workshops including the Pico Rivera Library.
Has the turnout rate met your expectations?
Turnout has exceeded our expectations. Each class is limited to twenty children and each class has been full with many waiting to join the workshops.
What has the response been like from parents?
Parents have been very enthusiastic and pleasantly surprised that the library would offer these kinds of programs.
Are there any requirements to join?
The workshops are free and are intended for children ages 5 – 12.
What is the ultimate goal for the library by hosting S.T.E.M. workshops for children?
To help facilitate kids to learn on their own and to teach kids how to learn. We want kids to develop self-motivation, improve their information finding skills and analytical thinking, and build their resilience and confidence.Our workshops are a non-judgmental space where kids can experiment freely and learn from their successes.We emphasize community learning and sharing information and concepts. We also use these workshops to introduce STEM concepts and careers to kids.
Have the students of these classes demonstrated an increased interest in these career fields?
Yes, these workshops have piqued the students’ curiosity and interest in computer science and engineering.
Approximately how many classes and workshops do you offer in total?
We offered a series of four robotics classes this past spring and summer: Artbot, Shybot, and two Roboclaw classes.
What is one of your most popular classes?
We are not sure yet as we still have one more workshop to go. However, interest in the workshops has grown over time and we don’t have enough spots in the workshops for all the children who want to participate.
Do classes like these help attract people that wouldn’t normally visit the library?
Yes, most definitely.
What other classes has LA Makerspace offered in the past? What kind of classes will they offer in the future?
We are happy to report that LA Makerspace offered a series of coding workshops for children over the summer at the Pico Rivera Library; and a series of robotics workshops in September.
What other programs do you offer?
The Pico Rivera Library offers a wide range of programs for children, teens, and adults. For very young children and their parents/caregivers, there is a baby/toddler weekly story time. Parent-Child workshops include speech and language development, nutrition, and early literacy education. For older children, the library alternates Family Storytime with our Young Explorer’s Program where we offer STEM activities for kids. We have various activities and clubs including a Teen Manga Club, video gaming, poetry workshops, an adult monthly book club, and a weekly knit/crochet group. Throughout the year, we program a variety of special events such as the Summer Reading/Discovery Program, Teen Tech Week/Teen Read Week, and more.
How has the role of the library changed in the digital age? Are eBooks available?
The County of Los Angeles Public Library offers a huge selection of digital resources including eBooks, music, audiobooks, and movies. We have Overdrive, Hoopla, and Biblioboard. Overdrive is our most popular service with eBooks and audiobooks for all ages. Free songs are downloadable each week from Freegal as well as unlimited streaming from the Freegal catalog. Hoopla is a streaming service that offers free ebooks, audiobooks, music, and movies. For magazines, Zinio offers full digital editions. These resources are free with a valid County of Los Angeles Public Library card.
According to Talbot, The Pico Rivera Library circulated 138,402 items in 2016, stating that the top three most popular areas of the collection are the beginning reading collection for kids, the audiovisual collection (movies and music), and new adult fiction.