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All Hands on Tech: Exploring Technology in Kids Library Programming

Screen time, apps, iPads, oh my! In our world of constantly evolving technology and instantaneous access to information, the question of when and how to introduce technology in the lives of our youngest library patrons is a big one. At the core of this discussion lie some essential questions that educators and caregivers alike must consider: how much tech exposure is balanced, and how much is too much? What is the Library’s role in providing technology access to kids? What is our role in combating the digital divide in our communities and providing kids and families access to tech tools? How do we incorporate technology in ways which are intentional, balanced, engaging, interactive and developmentally appropriate for even our youngest library users?

Questions of this nature formed the foundation for Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s Children’s Technology Pilot, an ongoing project which began in May 2013. Recognizing that children are growing up with a wide variety of technologies that support literacy and learning, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh Children’s Services created a plan to integrate technology into children’s library services, with a specific focus on iPad technology. Essentially, we hoped to determine high quality, positive technology tools and resources that could be harnessed for good. Our goal is to provide our children and their families with beneficial library experiences that begin at a young age and continue with The Labs programming for teens and technology-infused library programming for adults.

Much research was conducted, asking critical questions such as: what makes an app great? What kinds of tablets and devices should we start with first? How can we connect what is happening with technology in Children’s, Teen and Adult services so that we foster a holistic continuum of learning for all? We brainstormed with local educators, librarians near and far, and consulted various resources such as: Cen Campbell’s blog Little eLit, the Association for Library Services to Children (ALSC) webinars, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at Saint Vincent College joint position statement, “Technology and Interactive Media as Tools in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through age 8.”


Using this information as our philosophical backbone for developing a long-term plan, technology pilot goals and objectives were created and shared. The process of planning, incorporating and evaluating technology integration in children’s services began with six Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (CLP) locations and the Library’s early learning and elementary outreach program, BLAST (Bringing Libraries and Schools Together). The pilot was a tremendous success, and because of good results and subsequent support, all Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh locations are now equipped with a set of iPads for children’s programming. We were eager to share our learning process and findings, including the Technology Pilot Report detailing this process, apps lists, lesson plans and surveys used to gauge the overall effectiveness of the pilot. To access all of this information, please visit Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s Children’s Technology page. In addition to this method of sharing and various presentations regarding this work, Pittsburgh Filmmakers Youth Media, The Fred Rogers Center and CLP collaborated to create a video that highlights our philosophy of technology use in Children’s Services and our role as Media Mentors.


This project has sparked fruitful conversation among children’s, teen, and adult services staff regarding technology use as a library system, striving to live the concept of a connected, unified continuum of learning among library users of all ages. Such brainstorming has allowed us to get even closer to turning this dream into a reality. Most recently, we have begun collaborating with The Labs to ensure that there is a seamless connection between children’s and teen tech programs. Under the leadership of Kelly Rottmund (Teen Services Coordinator) and Corey Wittig (Digital Learning Librarian), two new Labs mentors have been added to the awesome Labs team. One of these new staffers, Sienna Cittadino, will work specifically with kids and teens alike at two new weekly Labs locations set in smaller neighborhood library locations.


Thinking beyond the iPad, children’s staff have also received preliminary training using technology such as Little Bits, Squishy Circuits, and Makey Makey. The format of this experience was similar to the Learning with the Labs Professional Development series offered for all CLP staff, and has been critical in our decision to incorporate these technologies into our Kids Tech lesson plans and Super Science program plans.

On the busy road of rapid technology changes and the ever-evolving role of the library in our community, it’s a beautiful thing to know that there exists a budding intersection of learning initiatives for library users of every age and stage.

This was originally published on Library as Incubator Project on October 13, 2015.

Rachel is a Children’s and Teen Librarian at CLP – Squirrel Hill. She loves listening to stories, yoga, tiny pumpkins and mermaids.

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