By: Susan Fisher, Muncie Public Library—
Muncie, IN—It is official! Muncie Public Library (MPL) employees traveled to Chicago this past weekend to accept the Library of the Future Award presented by the American Library Association (ALA) and Information Today, Inc. a publisher of magazines and newsletters geared toward libraries and other data and information providers. The award honors an individual library, library consortium, group of librarians, or support organization for innovative planning for, applications of, or development of patron training programs about information technology in a library setting. The award includes a $1,500 donation to the winning library.
MPL was selected as winner of the annual award for its innovative Digital Climbers program for children. Digital Climbers is a self-guided program created by MPL Technology Coordinator Rebecca Parker, former MPL employee Drew Shermeta, and MPL Digital Mentor Stuart Cotton. The three wanted to encourage kids to do more than just play with the technology available at MPL’s Connection Corner and the Maker Loft in Maring-Hunt Library. They wanted to challenge young patrons to apply themselves to mastering the science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics (STEAM) skills to be learned through programs like Adobe Photoshop and Final Cut Pro, STEAM toys, and other technology equipment. The program includes a binder of activities for kids to master, and rewards them with small treats and recognition as they “climb” the mountain of success. According to Parker, “Kids used to come to Connection Corner, start a project, and give up as soon as they hit the first roadblock. Now kids have more choice in the projects they take on, and their learning is incentivized and celebrated. I love watching kids push through and overcome obstacles. These challenges help to teach and reinforce STEAM skills, but for me the most important benefit of Digital Climbers is the reinforcement of independent learning. There’s a lot of power in that.”
Parker has worked closely with MPL Digital Mentors Stuart Cotton and Dan Allen to create additional activities for Digital Climbers as new technology resources are added to MPL’s collection. Based on the growing success of the program, MPL employees have presented Digital Climbers as a program model to other Indiana libraries as they look for ways to help their customers become more digitally and computer literate. Carmel Clay Public Library in Carmel, IN has entered into an agreement with MPL to pilot an adaptation of the Digital Climbers program for their young patrons, which is being introduced this month under the program name “Questers.”
Parker, Cotton, and Allen were at the ALA Conference in Chicago on Sunday, June 25 to accept the award. “As we stood on that stage with our MPL Director Akilah Nosakhere, it was a bit surreal. I knew that the award was significant, but looking out at the huge crowd under those bright lights, it really hit home. Just minutes before we took the stage, Carla Hayden, the Librarian of Congress, was standing on it. For us to walk in her footsteps and the footsteps of all the other passionate, award-winning librarians before us was incredibly meaningful,” said Parker.
The prize money will be used to purchase additional technology resources for the Digital Climbers program. The framed award certificate will be displayed in the Maring-Hunt Library Conference Room in the MPL administrative offices along with other honors and awards.
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