Editor’s Note: In honor of Teen Tech Week 2017, IMLS is spotlighting in a series of blogs five recent projects that we’ve supported which demonstrate how libraries are leveraging technology in service of teens across the nation.

Naomi Hurtienne Magola
Evan Williamson
Terrebonne Parish Library

MoboRobo: Robots on the Go! was established to evaluate a pilot program for lending robotics sets to library patrons, afterschool groups, and classrooms of the Terrebonne Parish Library System along with providing robotics programming at the library branches. With money awarded through the IMLS’s Sparks! Ignition grant for libraries, we were able to build a collection of circulating kits (for individual home use) and labs (for group instruction) that has received great response from our teen patrons, particularly the MacDonnell Home, eLearning and Montessori school groups.

MoboRobo: Robots on the Go Logo
MoboRobo: Robots on the Go is a Terrebonne Parish Library program funded through an IMLS Sparks! Ignition Grant for Libraries.

The MacDonnell Home is a teen group home for boys. Our library had recently reached out to the staff at the home to see if we could work with them in providing a book club for the boys. During the first visit to the MacDonnell Home, our Outreach Coordinator introduced the boys to the books that they would be reading in the upcoming weeks and afterwards demonstrated the MoboRobo program.

Staff at the home had warned her beforehand that the boys did not normally “play well” due to their transitional environment and this meant that they often do not work well with others and avoided forming close attachments. While exploring and building with the robots, though, the boys amazed everyone by working together to build and improve on each other’s designs. On the following visits, our Outreach Coordinator noted that they were benefiting from being allowed to explore, create, and work together. Because we were able to blend our book discussions with the exploration of robots, it allowed us to build a relationship with the boys and provide them a stable, steady (and fun!) resource.

K-12 students at eLearning (an Internet based homeschool program) and Montessori programs also benefitted from the MoboRobo program. Over the years, the library has created a relationship with these groups by offering library tours, database classes, and other programs. But, neither school has immediate access, or funding, for their own STEM robotics materials. MoboRobo afforded the teachers the opportunity to introduce robotics programming to their students by allowing the teachers to check out labs (15 individual sets bundled together) so that they could have extended learning experiences in their classrooms.

MoboRobo: Robots on the Go Kit
MoboRobo: Robots on the Go! kits have been used successfully by Terrebonne Parish Library’s outreach team in numerous settings.

During this time we saw an increase in requests for MoboRobo programming during library tours, in particular from the Montessori school. They were so taken with the program that they worked with the Youth Services Department at the Main Branch to provide monthly MoboRobo and Lego Robotics programming for their entire seventh grade class. Our Outreach Coordinator also saw an increase in requests for her to visit with the eLearning Center and ended up working with all age groups at that location, not just the teens.

When we began designing programming for MoboRobo, we built a monthly teen program based at the library with some supplementary outreach. The in-house program itself was not a success, but our outreach activities performed well above what we expected. This showed us that we could not wait for the teens to come to us in the library but instead we had to meet them out where they are. By doing so, we feel we have increased a love of learning in teens and strengthened our community with the library as its hub.

About the Author

Naomi Hurtienne Magola Evan Williamson
Naomi Hurtienne Magola, Youth Services Librarian, and Evan Williamson, Reference Supervisor, at Terrebonne Parish Library in Houma, Louisiana.
The library website is: http://mytpl.org/.