July 23, 2017

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How One Library in Illinois is Using New Technology to Engage (and Inspire) Patrons

Early Literacy Coordinator, Heather Hageli with her supercharged “Grab and Grow PLUS Packs.”

Meet Heather Hageli. Heather is the Early Literacy Coordinator for the Vernon Area Public Library (VAPL), serving the village of Lincolnshire, Illinois, and parts of neighboring municipalities. The VAPL’s 50,000 square foot building is full of excellent resources found in most libraries. But, Heather just brought in an exciting new tool that is showing her patrons the true power of words, and is making her library a pioneer in early education preparedness.

The Starling is a small wearable device that counts the words a child hears throughout the day. The device pairs with a smartphone app, which not only shows parents (and the organizations they work with) meaningful data on their interactions but prompts them to speak more with daily tips, guidance, and weekly challenges. The result is that parents read, speak, and even sing more to their children, increasing their children’s potential while having a blast doing it.

Paired with its free smartphone app, the Starling gives parents interesting feedback on their early education efforts throughout the day.

“Our library doubles as a community center, and we support the needs of our families,” Heather explains. “We have story time and early-literacy programs that start at birth.” When Heather’s colleague returned from the ALA Midwinter Meeting this January, buzzing about the cute, little Starling wearable she discovered at the conference, they knew they had to have one for their library.

The Starling seemed like a perfect fit for families who wanted to give their little ones a head start in life. The library spent a few weeks working with the Starling’s co-founders, testing out a trial Starling and getting parent feedback. After seeing the enthusiastic reception from their parent patrons, VAPL decided to order more devices and become an official Starling Partner. Their strategy? To circulate their Starlings as a part of their new “Grab and Grow PLUS Packs.”

“We curate different Grab and Grows with different themes, anything from dinosaurs to manners,” Heather says. “The Starling is featured in our PLUS packs. We include the Starling, a children’s music CD, an interactive toy, a copy of 30 Million Words by Dana Suskind, and a short info sheet from the Starling Team about the power of words.”

The library is also boosting their story time sessions with the Starling. “We are having the librarian wear a Starling of their own while running the program and then showing parents at the end how many words their children have heard during the session. It’s a great way of reinforcing that message about the importance of talking, reading, and singing with babies and young children!”

Patrons can get familiar with the Starling in the Grab and Grow PLUS Packs, and if they love it, they can purchase one with the VAPL’s special discount code. “Parents get to check out the Starling for three weeks, but for a lot of them this is just a teaser. They want to make this device a fixture in their lives.”

Download this free PDF guide to adding technology to your programs.

With one little star-shaped device, Heather boosted her community programs, invigorated her storytimes, and inspired her parent patrons to begin their children’s education early through the power of words. Heather isn’t alone. Libraries across the country are working with the Starling Team to find unique applications for this kind of technology. You can meet the Starling (and it’s creators) in-person at the upcoming ALA Annual Conference in Chicago, booth #4155. You can also click here to download a free, helpful guide to adding technology to your early development programs: Using Technology to Measure (and Boost) Your Programs.




Empower Your Community with Coding
Launch a coding program in your library that will promote digital literacy and impact your community. You’ll learn how to run computer programming courses that will introduce your patrons to new career paths and technologies. We’ll explore all facets of building coding programming for your library such as making your case for funding, hosting Code Clubs and Hackathons, and curating free resources and technologies available online.
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