Libraries leap into the world of technology

The Benny Library, the Westmount Public Library and the Norman Berman Children's Library have all integrated digital tools into the learning experience



Jewish Public Library

Whether it is smart boards, laptops or tablets, the integration of technology in schools has definitely increased in the past decade. To help kids become comfortable with technology outside of school, several libraries have educational stations involving the use of technology.

The Benny Library in N.D.G. is home to the city’s first permanent Fab Lab. Formed from the words “fabrication” and “laboratory,” it is a digital workshop in which machines, such as 3D printers, are made available, allowing people to develop individual and collective projects. Kids can also program robots, attach components to circuit boards, and more.

The lab is the first of 70 projects set out under the Montreal Smart and Digital City Action Plan 2015-2017, which the city put in place to promote a ‘do-it-yourself’ and ‘do-it-with-others’ approach by encouraging knowledge sharing among citizens to create a more technologically advanced city.

Borough Mayor Russell Copeman says the opening of the lab also marks an important step in the process of transforming the city’s libraries into a new generation of modern facilities.

“The advent of the Benny Fab Lab illustrates exactly what libraries in the 21st century have become: incubators for creation where the values of innovation, sustainable development, collaboration and intellectual freedom come together,” Copeman said in a statement. “It also demonstrates our borough’s leadership in the area of new technologies.”

Activities began in September with original programming including occasional “Repair Cafés” where participants repair personal objects using the equipment available and with the help of an expert; free bi-weekly workshops where people put forward projects and receive support from a facilitator and peers; and special activities aimed at learning to use specific machines or tools.

The Westmount Public Library has two AWE stations (computers without Internet access) as well as iPads with educational games and apps designed for children. It is also launching a new project called Touchtable, which involves a large touch screen encased in a table (photo below), much like a giant tabletop iPad. Using software called Local Stories, teens can create stories of local history focused mainly on information and items found in the library’s archives and postcard collection.

On the multi-touch table, there will be images, videos, text, quizzes – all related and arranged to tell a specific story. People can choose the stories they want to explore and interact with the items on the table: enlarging them, moving them around, and pushing them over to share with others.

The Norman Berman Children’s Library has the Haim Kotler Genius Lab that is open to everyone and includes computer stations with child-safe browsers and literacy stations.

The ELF Child-Safe Browser allows young people to safely explore highly engaging educational resources on the Internet. Children can only visit sites that are appropriate and educational on a secure network managed by library staff.

The browser is free of advertisements and pop-ups and allows access to more than 100 kid-friendly websites including PBSkids, National Geographic for Kids, and Starfall. Any child can use the browser and, if you are a member of the library, you can download the browser at no cost from home.

The lab also features Early Literacy Stations, which are easy-to-use, safe and secure computer consoles that promote learning via age-appropriate, multi-curricular content. The computers have more than 4,000 multi-curricular activities as well as interactive e-books that engage and educate (in English and French) kids aged 2-8.

“Not only are they fun and interactive, they are also very educational in the STEM learning, which stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics,” says Andrea Ciurria, the children’s librarian.  “Kids are very engaged in the activities and having a lot of fun learning new subjects.”

Ciurria says this technological movement will help kids achieve success in the future. “Computers are becoming so integral to the success of young people and having the technology introduced to them early on will only benefit them in the long term.”

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