Digital Experience and Youth Department Collaboration in the The Lab

In March 2018, West Vancouver Memorial Library opened The Lab – a dedicated digital learning space for learners of all ages.  In doing so our capacity to offer programs expanded dramatically – from a few programs a month to 1-3 programs per day.  It also marked the beginning of an ongoing collaboration between our Digital Experience and Youth Departments.

Digital Youth programs in The Lab are most typically offered Tuesday to Thursdays after school with some programming on weekends (and a lot of additional programs offered during Spring Break and Summer Reading Club). The programs we offer use technology such as: Raspberry Pis, computers, iPads, virtual and augmented reality, Circuit Playground Express, and robots. We teach coding skills, digital media creation, and help young learners explore big ideas around emerging technology.

When our Youth programs were introduced, we worked on a buddy system. One Youth staff member and one Digital Experience staff member planned and delivered each program.  This helped us cross-train and ensure that programs met the developmental ages and stages needs of our target audience while also familiarizing as many staff as possible with the new technology.

Once staff confidence was built, Digital Access Librarians began developing and delivering classes with Youth staff shifting to a support role. Both Digital Access Librarians have their own designated Youth Librarian acting as support for the programs she develops and delivers.  This builds on already strong relationships between the Digital-Youth pair and ensures that program developers know who they can consult with about their specific programs. Moving into 2019, we are slated to offer new programs for youth on topics such as digital music, app creation, ebook creation and augmented reality.

Having Digital Access Librarians who deliver programs to children as well as adults has been a very rewarding experience.  We often teach children in an after school program only to learn that we have already taught their parent or grandparent in an adult class.  

Our way of doing things is not without its challenges. We are noticing that adult programming that takes place in The Lab on a day when school is not in session tends to fill up with children even if the class or event has specifically been marketed to adults.  (Yes, we have had children register for and attend Excel classes.) There are also implications for collection of statistics. As a rule the Youth and Digital Experience Departments collect statistics separately, but we are now offering intergenerational programming – How do we capture these statistics? Which department ultimately oversees the development and delivery of these programs? In order to tackle these issues and ensure everyone has a voice, Youth staff attend the Digital Experience team’s monthly meetings The Digital Experience Coordinator and Head of the Youth Department meet regularly as well.

In short, the opening of our Lab space created an opportunity for two departments at West Vancouver Memorial Library to partner up to deliver collaborative, creative programming.  We help each other experiment, learn and innovate, and schedule regular communication between departments to help us identify and deal with any issues that arise.

Patricia Lesku is the Digital Access Librarian at West Vancouver Memorial Library