By Michael Cimino, Technology Integration and Innovation Specialist, Fayetteville Free Library
STEM and Maker programming can be found in so many library programs around the country, and the Fayetteville Free Library (FFL) is certainly no different. Kids from elementary school to high school can learn about coding, robotics, 3D design, game design and more. But what about the parents? What about the adults in our community? What about the STEM and Making for them? Well… many of them don’t have time for these interests. Parents and adults have bills to pay, a lawn to mow, those squeaky bedroom doors to oil, that leaky kitchen faucet to fix, that really loose electrical outlet that nothing stays in to replace…oh and that weird noise in the basement every time the furnace turns on. Adults and parents love STEM and Making programs just like kids, but those darn grownup responsibilities often get in the way. So, when a community member came to the Fayetteville Free Library with the idea to hold a Home Repair Series, we jumped at the opportunity.
Our homes are becoming ever more energy efficient and smarter as in the ways devices like thermostats, and light fixtures connect with each other (Internet of Things). The Home Repair Series that began last summer at the FFL, aims to inform homeowners of these new technologies, while providing hands-on practice to fixing and understanding the most common home issues. The program emphasized the importance of knowing your limitations and when to call a professional. Remember, this is a program where the community experts lead the program, not the librarians. By seeking donations from local hardware stores, both big and small, we have been able , with the help of those community experts, to construct portable non-electrified wall sections that provide a true to life “canvas” for program participants to work with. So you might be saying to yourself “That sounds risky and expensive”. Remember, these supplies were donated, so ask around in your community and reach out to hardware stores. Heck, maybe someone there can even volunteer to come and cover a home repair topic! With regards to the risk and liability, these classes were to simply understand how your home’s systems and hardware work. By no means is this a training or certification for patrons to do their own electrical or plumbing repairs.
So what does the actual program look like? Well, the Home Repair Series was a five part series covering: electrical, plumbing, drywall repair, interior home maintenance, and exterior home and garden maintenance. With the donated supplies and 2’x3’ wall sections/cutaways, the FFL had enough material to have 7 groups /couples attend each class. We quickly discovered the popularity of this program when over 40 patrons went on the wait list. This happened again when we offered the program a second time in the fall.
For the sessions about home electrical, drywall and plumbing, wall sections were designed with three wall studs positioned 16 inches on center, just like a wall in a house. The front side was left open to show off the electrical wiring, which included a switched outlet and a three way light configuration. It is important to seek community assistance or experts if you are constructing similar wall units. The backside of the wall was then covered in drywall. This multi-use wall section, which we have since used four times; albeit with quite a few drywall holes and botched repair jobs, provides a great representation of a home’s wall. Using these wall sections and the donated PVC scraps and plumbing fixtures, attendees were able to get their hands dirty with some real-life home issues. For instance, while learning how to identify poorly installed electrical switches and outlets, patrons took their hand at replacing and wiring outlets in their own wall sections. Patrons also learned tips and tricks to stop leaky faucets as well as replace “p” traps and join pvc pipe fittings. In a “demonstration only”, attendees watched a community expert sweat solder copper pipes so they could see what it should and should not look like if they needed to call a plumber for a repair. My favorite point of this program series was during the drywall repair session. Attendees were invited to put a hammer through their drywall and then learned how to repair it!
In addition to all of the hands-on demonstrations, the group compared costs and advantages to smart thermostats, learned about energy efficient lighting, as well as proper maintenance schedules for furnaces, AC, and water heaters.
So, while kids and teens have a plethora of fun STEM and Making programs available to them at their libraries, don’t forget about their parents. Homes are full of their own technologies and more and more is available to making those homes smarter and more efficient. So hurry, and find some community experts in your community and get a home repair series started at your library!