In School, After School: What’s Hot For In-Library After School Programs

Written by Andrea Simmons

When the bell rings at 3:00 pm, it usually signals the end of the school day for most students. They shuffle out of class and head toward busses, take off for extra curricular activities, or head home to socialize with their friends. Increasingly though, larger numbers of kids are skipping hanging out at the mall and are instead heading off to the library to participate in after school programs.

Earlier this month, I attended the American Association of School Librarian’s conference (AASL15) in Columbus, Ohio. This is the bi-annual gathering of over 4,000 school librarians from across America, who met to share stories of activities, programs, tools and processes that have worked well for them and to learn from their peers. During my time at the show, I was surprised to hear how often the school librarian now plays a crucial role in the development and delivery of after school programs. I had several great conversations with school librarians who had recently taken on this new “hat” of planning and managing after school activities in their libraries.

These librarians shared their experiences in coming up with programs that would allow their students to grow their knowledge in key areas and would address any challenges they were experiencing in the classroom. If you think about it, librarians have a huge challenge as they need to offer resources that can help a variety of students, from different grades, on a number of different topics. They are looking to extend learning beyond the classroom, building on the core content and offering new opportunities that appeal to students’ interests. They also have a need for tools and resources that balance self-exploration and discovery, with the need for guided support.

Many of these librarians are exploring new and innovative ways to engage students. Some of the great take away ideas from the show included:  

Setting up makerspaces

One of the most popular stops in the exhibit hall at the show was the makerspace area. This was an open space, about the same size as most classrooms, that was set-up with a variety of different activity stations, each with a task and some limited instructions. Participants built their own light-up name badges, and also created some small lego-based robots. Participants stopped by to build, tinker and explore and to walk away with ideas of how to bring this hands-on model into their own libraries and host makerspaces in their after school programs.  

Offering “learn to code” programs

Another popular resource at the show was the growth in “learn to code” programs and tools. With models that span from building simple HTML apps to learning python and java programming, learn to code workshops are wildly popular with many kids. There are lots of resources for offering coding workshops, including guides for non-programmers to lead sessions.

Hosting workshops

Several of the sessions and discussions at the show also talked about the types of workshops that librarians were creating and hosting to help draw in students. Ideas ranged from hands-on workshops on video editing to sessions on online test prep, with all sorts of creative topics in between. Some of the most popular workshops that were brought up dabbled in mixing technology with teen culture, including sessions on mash-ups, remixes, glogsters, and more.  

Bringing in digital content and tools

Libraries are full of great resources, including many digital ones. However, many librarians are now looking for new sources of strong, school-appropriate digital content that is delivered in a way that they can easily use in an after school context. Many librarians at the show came by the Learning Bird booth for a demo of our solution that features curriculum-aligned, teacher vetted content, combined with the tools to easily leverage it in after school programs.

Tying it all together

AASL was a great resource for librarians and was an inspiring source of new ideas for in-library activities and afterschool programs. It was fun to chat with the show attendees about their unique needs and programs and to discover what works best for them.  

If you would like to learn more about how Learning Bird works for after school programs, please contact us at for a demo.

About the author

Andrea Simmons

Andrea has a lifelong love of learning and has worked in the marketing and communications field for over 20 years, helping organizations share stories and build compelling content. When not writing, Andrea can often be found weeding her garden, baking something decadent, or building new worlds out of Lego.

Leave a Comment