Assistant Head of Youth Services, Indian Prairie Public Library, Darien, IL
MLIS, Dominican University, 2009
Photo © Max Herman
Starting from Scratch
As a youth associate at the Northlake Public Library, IL, in 2008, Tyler Works took a workshop on the programming language Scratch. “Looking back, the hour or two I spent learning Scratch was probably one of the most formative hours of my life,” he says. It sparked in him a passion for coding and STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics).
Now assistant head of youth services for the Indian Prairie Public Library, Works has been a force for change, writing proposals and grants for tech services and equipment (such as virtual reality gear), as well as developing ideas for programs and partnerships. He created circulating STEM kits for kids that include products like littleBits, MaKey MaKey, Sphero Robot, Scratch, and Human Brain. In 2015, he launched STEM Buddies, a six- to eight-week summer program that pairs 30 school-age kids with 30 teen volunteers to explore a STEM concept weekly, including strawberry DNA separation, rocket aerodynamics, and engineering for earthquakes.
“The teens were able to draw on and reinforce their knowledge while developing meaningful relationships with younger children,” he says.
Works also teaches pre-K–12 classes in technology, coding (including Scratch), and robotics, filling an education hole. He points to a Google survey finding that while 71 percent of teachers believe computer science is as important as other subjects, 39 percent of schools don’t offer classes. “It is a point of pride that my library is helping to address this gap,” he says.