April 20, 2018

Seth Ciotti | Movers & Shakers 2015 — Digital Developers

Seth Ciotti


Teen Technology Librarian, Kitsap Regional Library, Bremerton, WA

MLIS, University of Pittsburgh, 2012

Photo by Adam Beasley

A Passion To Surpass

As teen technology librarian at Kitsap Regional Library in Washington State, Seth Ciotti wants to provide homeless and at-risk kids with the same comforting, inspiring library environment he enjoyed throughout his childhood and in college. His BiblioTEC program enables him to do that.

BiblioTEC engages participants—often teenagers and young adults—by educating them on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) topics. “The goal of the program isn’t to teach technology,” Ciotti says, “it’s to understand how technology can be utilized for someone’s passions and interests.”

The initiative was implemented in October 2013 after the library received a Paul G. Allen Family Foundation technology grant to promote technology to youth. Enter Ciotti, hired to create the program’s 100-hour curriculum—a task he completed in about two months. His manager, Leigh Ann Winterowd, says, “[Seth] took a basic program idea and created something truly innovative that has had a profound impact on the Kitsap community.”

Initially, seven students participated and four graduated. They met for four hours a day, five days a week over a five-week period at a café run by the Coffee Oasis, a shelter and case management service for homeless and struggling youths. There, the kids learned about coding, 3-D printing, robotics, and more. The course culminated with a showcase in which students presented independent projects they created during the program. In one particularly memorable final project, two kids partnered to produce a chess board and game pieces using a 3-D printer. The clear board sits atop lights that can be programmed to turn any colors a player wants.

Since that small first class, Ciotti has hosted more than 151 events and attracted over 3,000 participants. Now that grant funding has ended, the lessons take place in the library and former students serve as instructors and mentors.

“Because of his work, seriously struggling young people are completing their GEDs, enrolling in community college, getting jobs, cleaning up problems with the law, and rebuilding their faith in themselves and their community,” says colleague Audrey Barbakoff (a 2013 Mover & Shaker), who nominated Ciotti. Three of the program’s graduates, for example, were hired to work at the library as interns. Another is considering engineering classes.

Now, Ciotti is working to strengthen the offerings, bringing in community partners to expand STEM programs. He also wants to add digital badges.

However enticing the future of BiblioTEC itself, it pales in comparison to the future Ciotti has made possible for his BiblioTEC students. “The depth and meaning of his accomplishments surpass anything I have seen,” says Barbakoff.

This article was published in Library Journal. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Empowering Teens: Fostering the Next Generation of Advocates
Teens want to make a difference and become advocates for the things they care about. Librarians working with young people are in a unique position to help them make an impact on their communities and schools. Ignite your thinking and fuel these efforts at your library through this Library Journal online course—April 24 & May 8.