Dec 23, 2015

Hands-On Problem-Solvers: Libraries and Mice

When public budgets ratchet down support, the potholes that appear aren't just in our literal roadways. They also occur, and worsen, in the roadways to an educated, effective citizenry. That's the inevitable consequence of cutting budgets for schools and libraries, which has been happening for more than a decade.
Too many policy makers decided that education can be conducted online, eliminating the expertise and interaction with human educators. Some also foolishly decided that libraries are now obsolete because of search engines and wikipedia.

In addition to the details in this graphic, libraries are providing opportunities for the public to interact with the latest technology, including 3-D printers, which are well-beyond the financial reach of most individuals.

I've met (yes, in real life) and follow (digitally, not in real life) educational librarian Todd Burleson, who is helping to lead the field in converting segments of school and public libraries into "maker-spaces". He does a much better job of explaining what that means than I could in this article, complete with detailed photos and descriptions.

Frances Lincoln
Books for Children, 2015

Some mouse-y and other critter-y characters who would have a hey-day in Todd's maker-space can be found in two picture books. The first is a hard-to-categorize picture book, HOW TO BUILD A CAR: A High-Speed Adventure of Mechanics, Teamwork, and Friendship. Illustrator Martin Sodomka gets top billing, as seems fitting in this meticulously accurate "manual", showcasing his mastery of both mechanisms and mechanical drawing. The challenge in categorizing this as nonfiction is that a story, written by Saskia Lacey, surrounds the instructions for building a car. It's populated by charming and clever mice, deftly and expressively illustrated by Sodomka.  
Frances Lincoln
Books for Children, 2015

A picture book rife with rodent-y problem-solvers is THE WORLD-FAMOUS CHEESE SHOP BREAK-IN, written by Sean Taylor and illustrated by Hannah Shaw. In contrast to the sincerely earnest goal-setting of HOW TO BUILD A CAR, these rascals lead a riotous romp to relieve a cheeseshop of its nearly countless varieties of gourmet cheeses, (illustrated and accurately labeled on the endpapers). The story is rife with realistic physics and consequences of actions, presenting their mission in elaborate detail. This British author/illustrator pairing has earned a reputation for comic tales that are kid-favorites, and this one will do nothing to tarnish that standing.

My previous post described the fascination I (and many, of every age) have with field guides. They offer hands-on invitations to closely observe, analyze, and engage with the real world. Books such as the ones in this post, fiction, nonfiction, or a hybrid of the two inspire similar analysis, investigation, and hands-on pursuit of goals. 
That's what Todd Burleson did, providing an immeasurable benefit to the students and families in his school.
Here's hoping that more books like these find their way into the hands of young readers, and more maker-spaces emerge in libraries across the country.
Perhaps public-policy makers will visit those spaces and rethink the value of libraries and schools.


  1. Todd is awesome sauce. We blog together and we are both li-bery-ians. Me, retired. I am posting this over at our private GROG page for the 14 others who we blog with. TY for supporting education and libraries, Sandy!

    1. Kathy,
      TY for reading and sharing. The amazing power of books and libraries was always life-changing, but with cutting edge resources (material and personal) the power is magnified immeasurably.


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