Tuesday, 21 March 2017

The Labs @ CLP: New Mentors and Training with Badges

In the last few months we’ve experienced a complete turnover of our team of Labs Mentors. Two have moved on to full-time Teen Specialist gigs at weekly Labs locations (Jesse as a Teen Specialist at CLP – Main, Teen Department and Sienna as a Teen Librarian at CLP – Allegheny) where their skills as Labs Mentors are still utilized on a daily basis, while the other two have moved on to new adventures outside of the Library. Patrick Coyle, a talented local musician and filmmaker, is one of our new Mentors and, as you’ll see in the following post, he brings a fresh perspective and a great energy to the gig. In our latest post to the LAIP blog, Patrick discusses being a new mentor and our current focus: tweaking the design of our badging system and model of staff training so both can be expanded across all CLP locations.

While we have experimented with training before led by myself and other Labs staff, we now realize it’s imperative to share the responsibility of teaching and learning across our team if we want it to be successful. By the end of May we hope to have a model for badging that can be utilized at all library locations (not just those with weekly Labs programming) as well as a model for peer-to-peer staff learning sessions that not only result in staff learning new skills, but in learning to facilitate informal, project-based learning programs for patrons, too. Enjoy!

(P.S. Check back in May for a follow-up to our last post by Tara Goe about lending music devices at our Main Library. It’s going great so far!)

~Corey Wittig, Digital Learning Lead Librarian, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

Patrick Coyle (center rear) leads CLP Teen Specialists in a “Photography 101” training at CLP – East Liberty (photo: Ben Filio for The Sprout Fund)

by Patrick Coyle

It’s been a little over a month since Flory Gessner, Hannah Thompson and I began our positions as Teen Mentors in The Labs program at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (CLP), and we immediately dove headfirst into establishing connections with youth at our assigned library locations. We were thrilled to get to know everyone and work to explore their passions. Since the start, this position has been a lovely sort of dance, one that involves the many movements and flourishes of both teens and staff alike, and I’ve enjoyed learning the steps and also having the space to come up with my own.

Vital to every routine is practice and preparation, and I feel like that aspect is most visible in the recent trainings that Corey Wittig, Digital Learning Lead Librarian for CLP, has implemented as part of a grant to flesh out the library’s system of badges that have existed in beta at just a few library locations over the last couple of years. These peer-to-peer staff training sessions just began at the beginning of March, but they already feel helpful and necessary for three reasons: they get us closer to having new and improved badges that will lend to more concrete learning for teens; they allow staff a time to share their skills so that we all have a wider breadth of knowledge; they provide the space for staff to get used to teaching workshops within the two hour time frame, very much like the time frame that the mentors have on their workshop days.

I got to lead one of these training sessions last week, a run through of the Point N’ Shoot and the DSLR badges so we could work on, and it had a similar vibe to a usual workshop with teens: we were learning things together, having hands on experience with the materials, and utilizing the library space to arrive at some sort of finished product. It was a lot of fun stretching our legs while we gallivanted around the first floor of CLP – East Liberty, using our phones to capture the various aspects of composition, then messing around with the DSLRs, achieving proper exposure, toying with depth of field, and adjusting shutter speed to create motion blur.

Photos: Ben Filio for The Sprout Fund

It felt very refreshing to teach in this environment, because at times I would be at a loss for words when describing a technical aspect of the camera, only to be saved by someone proposing an answer or asking a question that helped knock some of the terms loose, and it was also very nice to have Ben Filio from The Sprout Fund chime in whenever we needed a helping hand. Thanks for the photos and the help, Ben!

Photo: Ben Filio for The Sprout Fund

At the end of the session, we all felt like we learned something collaboratively, and after reflecting on these sessions as a whole and their continued implementation, I’m reminded that our mentor positions are in a state of transition. When August rolls around, The Labs mentors will move to new branch locations to establish brand new Labs locations, and since our time and attention will be spent expanding programming there, we must do as much as we can now to make sure staff at the existing Labs sites are prepared to continue providing guidance and access to these new resources for their teens. These badge-training sessions are a big part of how we’re preparing our staff to do just that.

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Patrick Coyle is a mentor in The Labs at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh – East Liberty. With a background in music and film production, he loves writing songs, collaborating with others on creative projects, and helping people discover their own passions.

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