The Algonquin STEM Kit collection is still relatively new since it was launched in the fall of 2015. Right now we have 18 different kinds of kits circulating with 2 sets of each kit. The most popular are the Magnetic Stick N’ Stack tiles, Microscope, Snap Circuits, and Makey Makey. The least popular are the LEGO Education Duplo kits and the Geology kits. Check out the handout (STEM kit ho) for a complete list of our kits. Our kits are geared for ages 8 and up, but some like the Bee Bot, the ages are a little younger.
When selecting the kits I looked to neighboring libraries to see what kind of kits they circulate (shout out to Crystal Lake and Arlington Heights!) I purchase most of my items from Amazon. We wanted to circulate the kits in a clear backpack to make it easier for parents to carry and to allow patrons to see inside to get some idea of what they would be taking home. Our awesome graphic artist came up with a logo and the printing company took care of the rest. We order our bags through SilkLetter. They are the largest clear backpack that I could find for a reasonable price.
All our bags have a themed project. In the Raspberry Pi kit we have the CanaKit Raspberry Pi 2, the book Adventures in Raspberry Pi, and a laminated sheet listing all of the parts and items. I try to find a book to complement each kit, but I will admit the Strawbees Kit and Keva Contraptions one is sans book.
If you decide to start this collection here are somethings to think about.
- We put our kits in a prime, high traffic location. When I do programs and when I am at schools I mention them. I have a STEM kit handout at the Youth Services desk and tell patrons to try them all!
- Chat with Circ and Tech Services about how to make this easy on them. I got to know both departments very well. My wonderful Paige Supervisor counts all the pieces and checks each kit in for me. She then talks to me about any problems that arise.
- Collection policies. You can check out our kits for 3 weeks and you can renew them. If you do not have an Algonquin card you can place holds inside the Library. Cardholders can place holds anywhere. You can check out 1 kit at a time.
- Late fees and lost item costs. We put a big sticker on the front saying we check the kits and if parts are lost/damaged we will charge patrons. Our most expensive kit runs about $150, thankfully no one has had to pay for the full cost yet. We charge $2 for small, lost pieces or charge for the full price if we can’t easily replace a part. An example of this is Goldiblox. The book was damaged and we could not replace just the book, so we charged the patron to replace the Goldblox project. Our cardholders have no fines, but for non-cardholders they are charged .10 a day for late fees.
- Think long and hard what are willing to deal with before purchasing the kits. Do you want to count 200 pieces? How big or small of pieces do you want to risk patrons losing? Some science kits come with beakers and test tube, are you willing to circ these kind of items (I am not)?
If you have questions, don’t hesitate to send me an email.
-Alison Tseng (email@example.com), Algonquin Public Library.