What’s new at the library? Ozobots, of course

Kathleen Tara Ahern, Neill Public Library

Growing up in a rural Illinois community (population of less than 100), the word “library” conjured up many images and experiences for me. First, going to the library meant a 25-minute drive to “the city” — such a grand adventure for this country girl. And each time I stepped foot in that beautiful Carnegie library, I was enchanted.

First, I made my way to the shelves and shelves of books, books, books. Yes. Yes. Yes. But my library offered more than books. Library cardholders could also borrow framed prints of famous paintings and music. Yes, I could take home records to play on our family’s phonograph. For this rural kiddo, that was pretty surreal.

In the past 60-plus years, much has changed in our world and that includes libraries. Yes, most public libraries are still teeming with books (much to my delight), but they also offer other amazing things that can be checked out, including fishing gear, memory boxes, animal skeletons, gardening tools, prom dresses and more. Why, here at Neill Public Library, in addition to books, DVDs and magazines, you can also borrow Legos, early literacy boxes and ukuleles. Really.

But if you want to be one of the first patrons to borrow from our latest collection, find your red pen and circle the date of Oct. 14. Are you curious what you’ll be able to check out? One word — Ozobots. Ozobots? Ozobots. And if you’re wondering what an Ozobot is, stay with me here or ask a child in your life — they will likely know. In a nutshell, an Ozobot is a robot that resembles a miniature version of R2D2 of Star Wars fame. Now that you have a sense of what they look like, you might be wondering what they do or how they’re used.

Ozobots can be a fun way for kids (and adults) to learn how to do basic programming or coding. These little robots have LED sensors that respond to the various patterns/codes they detect on physical surfaces like paper, as well as on digital surfaces like an iPad. These small but mighty wonders are being used at schools, libraries and homes to help our current generation of young learners get fun, hands-on technology experiences.

We have 10 Ozobot kits, and anyone with a library card can check one out. Each kit contains two Ozobots, colored markers, a charger and some basic how-to-instructions. And that’s just the beginning. Visit www.ozobot.com/lessons for tons of additional lessons and activities. And of course, you can create your own Ozobot experiences using your curiosity and imagination.

So, grab your Neill Public Library card (or come get one if you don’t have one — they’re free.) and let us know you want to borrow a kit. May the Ozobot force be with you.

Kathleen Tara Ahern is the children’s librarian at Neill Public Library.

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