Teen Tech Week is a national library initiative organized by Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA). At Pikes Peak Library District (PPLD), we participate in Teen Tech Week in a variety of ways: craft programs, displays, gaming and experience zones. Experience zone is the term I use to explain when patrons happen upon a program. Our experience zone for Teen Tech Week is Tech of Ages. During Tech of Ages we bring together old and new technologies for people to look at and touch.
We focus so much on new technologies in libraries. Sometimes I feel that we are in a rush to understand them all and stay on the cutting edge. But one effective way to connect with people is to remember the past together. With Tech of Ages, people of all ages are brought together by showing off those hot new gadgets and dusting off the old clunky technology.
The process we use starts with an email plea for help. We ask staff to be generous lending old technology that will really shock those young’uns! We typically define old as more than 10 years old (and that isn’t really that old!). Our staff has provided typewriters, Walkmans, Discmans, record players, cannon ball, ink and quill set, 1940s radio, Atari console, avocado green rotary phone, Super 8 video camera and floppy discs.
As far as new technology goes, PPLD is fortunate to have a very active information technology department with a Gadget Garage. The Gadget Garage is a traveling technology experience zone unto itself with a nook, Kindle, iPad and Android tablets, just to name a few. Patrons get to touch and develop a deeper understanding of new devices.
In addition to reserving the Gadget Garage and begging for people to clean out their basements to find their old technology to share, we also schedule at least two volunteers: one teen and one adult volunteer. These volunteers help make this a truly intergenerational program. They share their knowledge of the technology and chat with the patrons.
We have held this program twice at one of our main libraries, and each time more than 100 people have stopped to chat with us in the hour and a half we are set up. To make this program easy for other locations, we are working on creating a kit with old technology that can be transferred from location to location.
Encountering an avocado green phone that reminds you of your childhood, or seeing a rotary phone for the very first time sparks a variety of great reactions. Stories about how to use the devices pop up and are shared with staff, volunteers, and other patrons. Also, parents and grandparents have the chance to instruct their children and grandchildren about technology (for a nice change!).