As the landscape of academics and the rapidly growing world of technologies continue to change and demand more of young people, it is nice to explore educational options that allow some flexibility to both instructor and student. Children learn through play, and one can arguably state that we all learn best through experimenting on our own–developing complex knowledge on subjects that interest us personally. "Your library may not be an actual playground, but there is a place for play in any library" (Johnson, 2015).
As mentioned in a blog post for Teen Services Underground by Beth Saxton, "[t]his is an exciting time for geeks of all kinds to be involved with libraries as today's savvy libraries have begun to embrace new ways to engage library patrons such as fandom events, comic book and graphic novel collections, comic cons, cosplay events, and more."
Libraries are fully stepping into the pop culture society, knowing that it is necessary to keep patrons of all ages interested and excited to come to their local library. Pop culture– and comic culture more specifically–can easily span multiple generations of fans and help promote multigenerational programming at any library that hosts a large scale event. "[L]ibraries are striving to develop entertaining and educational new programs and services that will appeal to not only children but young adults as well as 'kids at heart' of all ages" (Saxton 2015).
Why might I be recapitulating on a subject that so many, including myself, have written articles about? Well, simply put, we are coming into the age of libraries now needing to fulfill the need for young and old alike to become more capable in technologies. Libraries and librarians are at the forefront in developing the creative minds of the future, right alongside educators at all levels.
But how do we establish this in the library? We play!
"Playtime offers an excellent opportunity for librarians to model play techniques with children and for patrons to interact with one another. Learning how to interact with other children and practicing concepts such as sharing and taking turns are school-readiness skills that will help kids succeed" (Johnson 2015). These types of programs even extend past childhood and into adulthood. The library offers programs that will make you more capable in handling the daily interactions and tasks you may deal with in a job or workplace.
New programs are being created every day at libraries, and some are growing more advanced in scope. With the introduction of makerspaces, 3-D printers, Raspberry Pis, Arduinos, etc., libraries are preparing the creative thinkers of the future by offering "students [and patrons] affordable access to expensive tools such as laser cutters, sewing machines, and virtual reality technologies. Workshops are often offered to teach users a new craft or how to use a piece of machinery" (Brewer 2015).
How do you bridge the gap of pop culture and learning strong skills in the primary fields of education? Offering really cool S.T.E.(A)M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics) programs to the patrons you serve. The young people who follow comic culture, or pop culture in general, already have been practicing this through cosPLAY. Through their interactions and learning of how to produce the best costumes with varying types of materials to find the best fit, the young people have already explored the world of S.T.E.(A)M. and have learned some fundamentals that they may have otherwise not been able to fully grasp in a classroom setting.
Offering "[c]osplay-related events such as armor building workshops, 3-D printing sessions, and associated technology instructions, and so forth" is "sure to attract enthusiastic cosplayers and makers" to the library (Kroski 2015). These programs are neither that expensive nor difficult to plan out. Most do not require much more than the materials you already may have at your library. "You don't need a huge budget to provide play activities at your library" (Johnson 2015).
If libraries begin, or continue, to open their doors to makers of all ages, then we are sure to continue the growth of patrons in the library seeking the opportunity to play with new technologies, play with learning new ideas and concepts, and play with things that they may not have ever had a chance to experience in their lives.
1) Brewer, B. (2015, September 1). Making It in the Academic World. American Libraries, 20.
2) Johnson, A. (2015, September 1). A Place for Play. American Libraries, 66.
3) Kroski, E. (2015). Cosplay and STEM Skills. In Cosplay in libraries: How to embrace costume play in your library (p. 4).
4) Saxton, B. (2015). Retrieved September 28, 2015, from http://www.teenservicesunderground.com/author/bethreads/
Justin Switzer is a Young Adult Librarian at the Enoch Pratt Free Library and volunteer at the Community School in Baltimore, MD. An avid fan of pop culture, particularly comics, he organized and ran the library's first comic con in June 2015.