November 10, 2015

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Written by David Hayden, Library Development Officer, City of Edinburgh Council

“You should apply for this –”.

This was how I found out about the Carnegie Library Lab programme, a suggestion in an email from a colleague.

I liked the look of the programme straight away. There was the chance to get funding to develop and deliver a project, the offer of online learning, support through other partners and a mentor. Of course, the Carnegie brand and the chance to be a library innovator appealed as well!

It was important to me that the Carnegie UK Trust didn’t require a fully formed project plan from applicants because although I had a sense of where I wanted to go, I didn’t quite know how to get there. Taking part in the programme was a journey. I started with a rough idea that – through the input of a mentor, online learning, interactions with my fellow Partners and developments in my own thinking and outside influences – became something much more focussed and deliverable.
The Project
My initial vision was to develop a citywide programme linking libraries into secondary schools by targeting young people interested in developing their skills and experience in new technology areas – coding, robotics, sound and music, video and animation. I wanted to produce mobile kits to increase the reach of the project as being mobile would mean that events could be delivered out in the community and kits could rotate around different libraries. Because of the delivery mechanism, I called the project ‘Digital Toyboxes’.
So far I’ve developed 3 boxes:

  • The Bot Box – Robotics box containing Lego Mindstorm robots
  • The Noise Box – Sound and music box containing Tech will save us Synth kits
  • The Hack Box – Electronics ‘hack your home’ box containing Little Bits kits

I decided on the overarching framework of the project, type of kit and themes for the boxes with my mentor, but the precise content for each box and session outlines were developed by a group of staff from across the library service in Edinburgh. Getting staff involved in this way meant that those responsible for delivering the sessions were engaged from the get go.
To help staff develop the boxes and sessions, each member of staff was given a loose brief: they need to provide session content and resources to deliver one outreach demo session (as part of a class visit) and then three subsequent sessions at a Maker Club in the library. These sessions are categorised as beginner, intermediate and expert. After successfully completing each stage, young people will collect badges. There are also badges for achievements like fastest robot, quickest to solve the maze, as well as for group work and problem solving.
There were also criteria for choosing equipment for the boxes. A key criteria was that young people should experience a sense of wonder as they open the box.
The Programme
The whole Carnegie Library Lab experience has been excellent. I’ve found the skills and knowledge I’ve gained from the online modules beneficial in managing meetings and staff. It’s also been invaluable in ensuring the project toed the fine line between being both ambitious and deliverable.
Being able to work with a mentor, Richard Clifford from MAKlab in Glasgow, was also really valuable and particularly crucial in the early stages of my project. I was able to bounce ideas off of Richard and use his experience to develop my own project.
It’s also been invaluable being part of a network of Partners – I haven’t ever felt I’ve been working on my own to achieve something.
Next steps
We’ve held pilots and rolled out three boxes and are in the process of developing three more boxes for rollout early in the new year.
Looking back there had been a few obstacles – procurement issues took a long time to overcome and involving other staff hasn’t always been easy (getting them to meetings or securing time for them to work on the boxes). But I feel pretty happy with where we’re at with the half way stage and pretty excited about what the next six months holds for the project as this is where it will really embed itself in Edinburgh Libraries as part of what we offer.
It will be challenging to deliver on the targets I’ve set myself but as my mentor advised in one of the early meetings we had: “If it’s all been too easy then you haven’t been ambitious enough!”


To find out more about how to apply for the second round of Carnegie Library Lab please clickhere.