Children of any age can play and learn about electricity, robotics, art, music and more through the Sequoyah Regional Library System’s “Library of Things” kits.
The kits have grown from science, technology, engineering, arts and math, or STEAM, activities to include a wide range of subjects and materials for everyone.
“They’re opportunities to provide extra engagement for patrons, if they’re not looking to read, or they’re trying to explore interests outside of the library,” said John Rodgers, community engagement manager of the library system.
Anyone can check out the items just like checking out a book. Library staff report that families often use some of the kits together, and children might check out a kit just for fun or to use it for a school project.
Simple kits include a set of math flash cards in English and Spanish, as well as a spirograph, which allows people to draw geometric designs using STEAM. Those who want to explore their environment in a new way can check out a microscope kit, which can take digital photos of your findings. Cubelet robots have individual pieces that might have different functions, like a light or wheels that move with a motion sensor, and can be assembled together in different combinations.
A more advanced option, called Makey-Makey, allows children to learn coding by building circuits that can attach to a wide variety of common household items. Rodgers recalled that one young patron used the kit to connect a computer to pieces of celery, and played them like a piano.
“Basically, you can make electronics out of anything, hence the name,” he said.
One of the things that received a large response from people on social media is the library system’s sewing machine kit. The kit includes a machine, thread and materials. Parents have checked them out to sew with their children, and some patrons have used the sewing machines to create costumes for Dragon Con.
Some of the more popular items, including the sewing machines, the Cubelet robots and the microscope kits, are often completely checked out from multiple library locations.
“The demand to keep bringing in these experiences, and give our patrons the opportunity to explore and learn and create has brought about us bringing all of these in,” Rodgers said. “The more popular ones, patrons love them. The most feedback we’ve gotten that could be negative is, please, we want more, they’re checked out all the time. Please make sure that they’re checked in.”
The Library of Things has the following items for checkout. Most have at least one kit when checked in at each library location.
Assistive Tool Kit — for patrons who may struggle with standard print materials.
Abraham Lincoln Kit — a collection of multimedia materials about the life of Abraham Lincoln. These are only available at Ball Ground, Pickens and Woodstock branches.
Blocks Rock! — players get an even amount of blocks and build a structure based on the card they draw. Only available at Ball Ground and Pickens County libraries.
Chime Bars Kit — a music-teaching kit that includes bells, mallets, and a song book of nursery rhymes. Not available at Pickens.
Cubelets — Like Legos, a collection of robot blocks that can be assembled in a variety of different combinations.
Energy Efficiency Kit — calculates electric usage to help patrons understand and reduce their energy bill.
Kendama — a traditional Japanese toy that builds hand-eye coordination, balance, and reflexes. Only at Gilmer County Library.
LittleBits — collection of modular electronics that connect via magnetism and form circuits. Not available at Ball Ground.
Makey-Makey — invention kit available for patrons to practice coding while building circuits and sensors.
Marble Run Kit — a collection of plastic cubes and marbles which patrons use to learn about physics.
Math Flash Kit — flash cards in English and Spanish that help teach shapes, addition, and subtraction.
Portable Microscope Kit — a battery-operated microscope with LCD screen and digital camera for photos and videos. Available at R.T. Jones, Gilmer, Rose Creek and Pickens libraries.
Sewing Machine Kit — includes sewing machine, quilting guide, various accessories, and instructional DVD.
Spirograph Kit — a geometric drawing toy for patrons to create intricate designs using STEAM principles.
Starling Early Literacy Kit — a wearable word counter that helps parents set speaking and reading goals for their kids, as well as a children’s book and a book for parents.