One LEGO at a Time, Long Beach Public Library Wants to Teach You How to Build

Long Beach librarian Francisco Vargas is no stranger to finding and implementing innovative ways of expanding youth’s access to knowledge—which nowadays, at least for librarians, is far more than just getting kids to pick up a book.

LegoConstructionAnd what better way to teach kids about engineering than through building with LEGO?

“Our Summer Reading program is STEM-themed this year so we thought it was a perfect collaboration to do LEGO workshops,” Vargas, Director of Programming at the Long Beach Public Library (LBPL), said. “We are hoping to spark the creativity in our youth through these interactive workshops and to get them familiar with building, tinkering and inventing.”

Kids (and any adult with enough imagination) are invited to various libraries throughout Long Beach [a full list of participating locations and times can be found below] to learn how to build and test various LEGO structures.

Vargas’s innovative programming and gradual conversion of the public library into a true maker space is reflected in one of his other programs, dubbed The Studio. The Studio is a space where the public is invited to create in a variety of ways, such as using Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere to edit their own films on one of four computers, or accessing the MarkerBot, a 3-D printer that permits users to take computer-generated 3-D models of objects and make them tangible.

Vargas opted to pair up with Shared Science, a local nonprofit whose main mission is to provide children access to equipment that assists them in STEM-related activities, complete with the guidance and talent of gifted engineers and instructors to help them. And it just so happens that Shared Science is also a participating member in the FIRST LEGO League, a robotics program for 9- to 14-year-olds that use LEGO MINDSTORMS sets to create robots.

“Shared Science is dedicated to bringing engaging, enriching science and engineering learning to all kids in our city—and one of the platforms we use for that is LEGO, who has also supported us with grants in the past,” said Jacqui Viale, Vice President of Education at Shared Science. “However our programs are independent of LEGO and we implement several other curriculums that we adapt to our mission.”

The following libraries will be participating:

Friday, August 1
Los Altos Library, 12:00PM
North Library, 3:00PM

Saturday, August 2
Harte Library, 12:00PM
Main Library, 3:00PM

Wednesday, August 6
Alamitos Library, 3:30PM

Thursday, August 7
Brewitt Library, 3:30PM

Friday, August 8
Bach Library, 3:30PM

Saturday, August 9
Bay Shore Library, 3:30PM

“We are so excited that the LBPL, under Francisco’s insightful guidance, is moving in this direction,” Viale said. “The youth of Long Beach deserve this kind of high quality experience in the sciences and creative endeavors.”

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Brian Addison has been a writer, editor, and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food and culture to transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 16 nominations and two additional wins for Best Political Commentary for his work at KCET and Best Blog for Longbeachize, a section of the Long Beach Post. Brian currently serves as a columnist and editor for the Long Beach Post.