The Mobile Technology Lab is rolling to a Cedar Rapids park near you this summer, and this is not your average library outreach.
Instead of a traditional bookmobile, the Cedar Rapids Public Library’s new van is fully loaded with all kinds of technology, from laptops to 3D printers to Ozobots – tiny robots designed to help kids learn coding.
“We didn’t want them to stay stationary in the Library,” Librarian Jen Eilers said. “We recognized that one of the best ways of getting people to use technology is not having them come to the Library but going to places that lacked those resources.”
The Library is partnering with Cedar Rapids Parks and Recreation’s Rollin’ Recmobile to visit four Cedar Rapids parks a week throughout the summer, along with the Ladd Library parking lot every other Friday. The idea will be to introduce kids and community members to the technology, which could include things like learning to design and print a logo on Cricut vinyl cutters or how to use dremels and soldering irons.
All of these skills could lead to future careers – or just give kids new ways to express themselves and explore technology.
“We can do something fun at the park and pique their interest and create that pathway,” Programming Manager Kevin Delecki said.
There is also room for book carts on the van, so it can be adapted to do all kinds of Library programming.
The van was made possible through community support. The Giacoletto Foundation helped purchase the van and all shelving and modifications, and additional support came from Collins Aerospace, the Alliant Energy Foundation, ITC Midwest, and the Cedar Rapids Public Library Foundation.
The van won’t stop rolling when summer ends. The Library’s programming staff are designing curriculum using the technology on board that can roll to classrooms and other community organizations this fall. Those programs could include things like taking a podcasting class to an elementary school or taking lessons on how to check out digital materials to a senior center.
“If we want to be a truly equitable, accessible library, we can’t expect, in a 72-square-mile city, for people to come to one of two locations,” Delecki said. “We will come to you with the van.”
Where can you find the Mobile Technology Lab?
Look for the van all summer long, five days a week:
• Mondays, except July 5, 1:30-3:30 pm, Jacolyn Park, 198 Jacolyn Dr. NW
• Tuesdays, 1:30-3:30 pm, Hayes Park, 1924 D St. SW
• Wednesdays, 4:30-6:30 pm, Cleveland Park, 1600 8th Ave. SW
• Thursdays, 1:30-3:30 pm, Greene Square, 400 4th Ave. SE
• Alternating Fridays, June 4 & 18, July 9 & 23, Aug. 6, 1-3 pm, Ladd Library parking lot
What’s on the Mobile Technology Lab?
Laptops and e-readers and tablets
The van will have different kinds of devices, from Chromebooks and iPads to Kindle e-readers, so people can get hands-on experience with different kinds of technology.
Learn the basics of computer coding with these tiny robots that use color-coded paper to follow the programmer’s directions.
Learn about electronic programming by plugging these tiny circuit boards into anything that conducts electricity – you can even use them to turn fruit into a video game controller!
Soldering iron kits
Learn the skills to repair technology.
Learn to use rotary cutting tools to sand, shape, and grind all kinds of materials.
Design logos on a computer and create them with these vinyl-cutting tools.
Microphones and headphones
Learn the basics of sound recording, editing, and podcasting.
This article is from the summer edition of Open+ magazine, available at the Library and metro-area Hy-Vees or online: fliphtml5.com/homepage/rofy.