After planning several events at the library for the school holidays, several years ago, I was left with the impression
that the events were fun but lacked depth and focus. I led a stop-motion movie workshop using green screens and iPads with mixed results. I realised that a creative project like this would be better served over multiple days. This was the germ of inspiration for the Junior Librarian Programme, a paid school holiday offering operating out of Auckland Central City Library. This camp is a chance for kids aged nine-13 years to make the library and the greater CBD their holiday playground. We ran one programme with 17 participants in July 2021 and will be bringing the programme back this October.
I wanted to create experiences that a young person wouldn’t find anywhere else and give them agency over a complex creative project. I reflected on all the unique stuff that my library could deliver and was able to quickly provide some special activities and field trips. We have a maker space, a two-floor basement to explore, a book preservation lab, and our Special Collections team has lots of interesting taonga. Most libraries do not have these same facilities, but this is the type of programme that is successful and what our community could provide. Partnering with groups that make the community vibrant is what creates success.
With my experience in the science classroom, the library, and at summer camps in California, I knew I could make a special programme. I imagined what I would want to see as a kid exploring the library. All in all, we were able to create a really rewarding experience for all participants. Some of the things we did over four days:
- Bookbinding workshop
- Basement scavenger hunt in the dark
- Design and 3D print bookmarks
- Old manuscripts presentation from Special Collections team
- A Behind-the-scenes tour of the Auckland Civic Theatre
- Spoken Word workshop with Action Education
- Paid trip to the arcade
- Programming the Edison robots to sumo wrestle
- Photo mission in the park
- Storyboarding workshop
- Making and editing a green screen movie
- Tour of the Auckland Art Gallery
COSTING THE PROGRAMME
I was initially sceptical about charging a fee for a programme like this, but the scope of the vision demanded a cost input above a simple koha. I realised that I could charge less than the average school holiday programme, $30 per day, and also provide some ‘scholarships’ to subsidise the cost for three children to attend that would be unable to otherwise. I would like to expand this scholarship opportunity in the next round and ideally support all attendees.
I was surprised by how smoothly this programme went. We had to design and order teeshirts, build a website, do promotions, handle cash intakes and payments, and set it to fit into the tight schedule, in addition to the logistics of supervising 17 tweens. I was originally going to debut in April 2021, but the central library building ended up closing to fix the roof days before we were set to start. As a result, I had to issue numerous refunds.
The programme was able to run over July last year, though many of the kids didn’t get to finish their stop motion films. The biggest disaster was probably the Whānau Showcase. Here we invited whānau to see their kid’s movies, share some kai, and give out awards. The movies wouldn’t render in time, so I had to stream 17 successive iPads to the projector. All lessons learned and not that bad in retrospect.
As we move forward, I want to develop some modules with different themes. Last July’s theme was movie making, but I could just as easily do one focused on art and design, photography, architecture, and urban mapmaking. This programme takes a huge amount of development time and does require staff to be around kids all day. If you can devote the resources to something like this, the payoffs are awesome. The feedback from the kids was that the programme was spectacular despite the random hiccups. I look forward to making this an ongoing and sustainable offering at the Central City Library.
Sammy Yu is the Youth Librarian at Auckland Central City Library. He was born and raised in San Francisco and has spent the past five years around NZ with his partner and three children. An educator and food scientist in a past life, he strives to bring science and serendipity into the library.