Youth Creativity Flourishes at FCPL
The Fulton County Public Library is a place full of possibilities. It has always been an important place of learning and is quickly becoming a unique place of creating. It is a safe space where one can disappear into themselves, have at their fingertips tools to engage their minds, expand their understanding of themselves, explore, and create.
One of the many definitions of “creativity” is “perseverance in the face of the persistence of conventionality.” In that regard, FCPL has led its patrons by example during this difficult past year. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the library has had to be creative when it comes to its many programs. FCPL brought story times to patrons via Facebook live and Zoom, the team put together individual “grab and go” craft kits for patrons of all ages, and planned additional programs (such as the first annual Halloween stuffed animal sleepover) that revolve around the concept of social distancing. Simply put, FCPL had to get creative in order to promote the creative.
When it comes to promoting creativity in the minds of the library’s young patrons, the Children’s Department’s main focus is often the building blocks for creativity. Story time expands imagination through story, teaches children about the general composition of an entertaining narrative, exposes them to the importance and variety of visual art through illustrations, and teaches them empathy and understanding. Crafts not only promote the making of actual art projects but encourage them to use everyday materials (paper, paint, paper towel rolls, plastic cups, clothespins, etc.) to spark their creativity. The craft kits which help teach kids fine motor skills (coloring and drawing, cutting with scissors, etc.) needed to be creative and help kids succeed academically. “It’s our ultimate goal that, with these building blocks, these children can go on to create even bigger and better things, whether that be in the arts or science and engineering. It’s a rather lofty and philosophical goal, but an important one nonetheless,” said Morgan Herrold, FCPL Youth Services employee.
FCPL has a room next door to the Children’s Department dedicated to teens. Kelsey Foreman oversees the Teen Oasis, oftentimes called the Teen Room. While the Teen Room is often a study space for teens, it is also an outlet to allow the teens to decompress. “It is my mission,” Kelsey said, “to create a safe space where I encourage the teens and pre-teens to do crafts, color coloring pages for managing their sometimes stressful days or to make Tik Tok videos together. I do what I can to assist them however I can.” Some of the previous crafts the teens have done that are noteworthy have been spray paint canvas art, tie-dyed t-shirts, origami, and even a paper airplane build and competition. Kelsey also encourages the Teens to help decorate the space. “It helps them feel a sense of responsibility for their area,” she said.
A new way to be creative at the library is currently in the works—a Makerspace! A Makerspace is like a community workshop - lots of tools and space to work, staff who are there to help patrons use those tools, and a community of people interested in making things together. The library is preparing to offer (and teach) electronics and soldering, basic sewing with a brand-new Brother sewing machine, photography, and coding. All ages will have access to the Makerspace, although a parent or guardian will have to be present for children to access power tools and other riskier equipment. This project will be overseen by the Makerspace Coordinator, Quenton Oakes. He has previously worked at libraries in Michigan and Colorado where he helped build the Makerspace at a branch of the Denver Public Library. As he gets underway building the Makerspace, he hopes for active feedback. “We’d love to hear your suggestions and are excited to begin working with you!” Quenton’s library email is email@example.com.
The future of libraries is virtual creativity. One of the library’s new and exciting offerings is Virtual Reality. The project “Virtual Reality @ Your Library” was made possible by a grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services, administered by the Indiana State Library. “One of our young patrons named Kevin kept onto me about getting a VR system. I wrote the grant with him in mind, so while the VR system is for all library patrons, the target is pre-teens and teens,” said Andrea Stineback, Library Director. The project was rolled out to the public in November 2019. All three Branches received VR systems. “If you slip on a VR headset, you are swept into a new world where anything is possible,” Andrea said. Studies have shown that participating in VR increases aspects of creativity, including problem-solving skills and the ability to remain focused. Many games allow participants to paint, sculpt and create 3D models, all in a virtual space. Just when VR at the library was picking up speed, COVID-19 happened. “I was severely disappointed that the pandemic stopped our VR project right in its tracks. As soon as it is safe, we are planning to start up the VR systems again. We have a number of new games ready and waiting for the slowdown of COVID,” Andrea said.
Jennie Calvert is currently a full-time Youth Services Librarian and the Youth Services Department Head for the Rochester Branch of the Fulton County Public Library. She has worked for FCPL in various capacities since March 2009.
Kelsey Foreman works part-time as a Youth Services Assistant at the Rochester Branch of the Fulton County Public Library and has been with the library since August 2014. More specifically, she works in the library’s Teen Room and coordinates programs and services for teenage patrons.
Morgan Herrold has been a part-time employee in the