It’s really not as ominous as it sounds.
I ran a reverse engineering program two Saturdays ago. I was beyond excited for this program and had really high hopes. I had partnered with our local transfer station to get a whole bunch of electronics that I could let the kids take apart. I loved taking things apart to see what was inside when I was a kid, and I figured what kids wouldn’t like the chance to take stuff apart? And, I had the added bonuses that it wasn’t their parents’ stuff (and it was already broken) so they wouldn’t be ruining anything. Awesome!
I was looking forward to the kids getting to see the work that goes into the everyday objects that we use on a regular basis. The transfer station had collected hard drives, cell phones, keyboards, toasters, watches, fax machines, laptops, computers, radios, and a bunch of other objects for the program.
I picked up all the objects and I was ready.
During the weeks leading up to the program, I had parents commenting on how awesome this type of program was, how their child would absolutely LOVE it, how they loved to take things apart when they were kids. Our department was interviewed by the local paper about our programming which included my program. Long story short, the Children’s Department was getting awesome press (as it should). I thought my program would kill it.
But, the weeks rolled on…not many people signed up for my program.
After a week I thought: ok, that’s fine. We’ve got plenty of time. Families are checking their schedules.
After two weeks: Ok…there’s still time.
After three weeks: *frustrated noise*
After four weeks, when it was time for the program, I had 8 kids signed up.
Now, while 8 kids isn’t a bad number, it was definitely nowhere NEAR what I was hoping for. I was planning for upwards of 25 kids, shooting for more…and from my research, that didn’t seem like a stretch. If anything, it seemed like 25 an extremely conservative estimate. I couldn’t understand it. I kept hearing from families how awesome this program was, how much their kids wanted to participate, how much they loved the idea and couldn’t wait to participate.
On the day of the program, we ended up with only 8 people: siblings and fathers included. We had one twelve year old girl and the rest were boys ranging in age from 5-7. Of course, the kids were beyond enthusiastic, and they absolutely loved unscrewing, hammering, and wrenching the objects apart.
It was the best feeling when the kids would run over to me and show me what they found in their machine, radiating excitement.
“It’s a fan, Miss Molly!”
“Miss Molly, look! This is the magnet that spins the motor!”
“Miss Molly, there’s a DVD still in the drive! Look! What is it? Love Actually? Gross.”
“Ew…there is so much dust in here. I wonder if that’s why it stopped working?”
“Feel this part! It’s prickly!”
The kids all worked together and showed what they each found, all without prompting. Each of the fathers had some technological knowledge and explained the various parts of each machine to the kids gathered around the table. Each family stayed for the entire 2 hours. They would have worked, completely contented, for as long as I would have let them.
It was so wonderful to see these young minds having such a wonderful time. But, as I cleaned up, I couldn’t help feeling disappointment. I worked very hard, and for a long time organizing and putting this program together, not to mention publicizing it and getting cooperation from not only the library, but the town. And while the 8 people who came had a phenomenal time, I had hoped the program would have brought in more people, would have exposed more girls to this type of activity, and included more families.
I left that day feeling like I had let my department, the kids, and myself down. I was frustrated because I didn’t know what else I could have done to draw people in. I thought we had a perfect combination: Saturday morning, free program, taking things apart…But alas, something wasn’t right. I talked to my boss and she said sometimes it just doesn’t turn out as you expect, and that’s just the nature of library programming.
Then, one of the fathers who came to the program stopped me as I was leaving, and turned frown upside down. He showed me what he and his son had made with some of the spare parts he’d taken from the program–a few nuts and bolts, some copper wire, and a USB port. He explained that he had came across solar panels, but hadn’t been able to use them: until now. He used the library’s 3D printer to create a case to hold the panels, and used the salvaged parts to create a charging station. He was so excited to show me what they had made, and explain how they were using it.
I was floored, to say the least. It was an awesome bit of creativity, ingenuity, and upcycling, if I do say so myself, and it made fantastic use of library services. That one project got that family really excited about the library, which got me thinking about success. Why does success have to be measured by how many people a program reaches? I think that as long as I help one person, then I am successful. That one person can then go off and help someone else, who can then help someone else–you see where I’m going with this.
It’s an enthusiasm pay it forward.