The Bubbler

Tell us about yourself and The Bubbler.
The Bubbler at Madison Public Library is a maker-focused program for all ages. We offer hands-on workshops and events from community experts. We have set our priorities for our maker space around people, not stuff, hiring local artists to come and share their craft with the Madison community. I joined Trent Miller, the head Bubblerarian, as a project assistant in January through our new funding grant from IMLS. With a two person team, the Bubbler is running on all cylinders, expanding our maker-focused workshop offerings to all the neighborhood libraries in Madison while continue to host workshops and large after hour Night Light events at Madison’s Central Library.

As a second year masters student at UW with a focus in youth services, working at the Bubbler has been an incredible experience so far. I have not only increased my skills in budgeting, scheduling, and logistics, keeping the Bubbler running efficiently behind the scenes, but have also had the opportunity to be a more active maker myself. With the guidance of local artist Karen Corbeill, I have learned to solder, creating the traveling Bubbler kid of circuit blocks. And with the help of Media Lab instructor Nate Clark and Teen librarian Jesse Vieau, I have had the chance to become a digital maker running workshops in basic video game design on UDK software and stop motion animation on the library’s fleet of animation stations. I am looking forwards to another year of Bubblerarianing.

The Bubbler

What are you presenting at Maker Faire Milwaukee?
We will be bringing out circuit blocks and animation stations with us to the Maker Faire to highlight some of our most popular (And STEM based!) programming kits. Participants can experiment with basic electricity or create their own animated movies.

Why is making important to you?
Before coming back to library school, I was an educator for six years in the Houston and Chicago public school districts. Engaging my middle school students in critical thinking, problem solving, and creative solutions was always a challenge in systems that rewarded “right answers”. I see making in libraries as a low stress, accessible way for youth to build confidence, inspire creativity, and build literacy in ways that will make them more successful in all areas of their life.

What was the first thing you remember making?
The first thing I remember making was a cardboard sewer system for my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action figures. My mom took my brother and me to Toys “R” Us to look at the fancy sewer toy advertised and she was disappointed to see if was made of cheap plastic and printed cardboard. This was the first of many times where I remember my mom decidedly pointing out “we can make this better ourselves.” We went home and collected cardboard boxes, Pringles cans, and Quaker Oat containers and duct tape, lots of duct tape, to make our own. It took up a whole wall of our bedroom for several years with consistent renovations and additions.

The Bubbler

What have you made that you are most proud of?
After looking everywhere on the internet for a “Hobbes” tiger for my fiance for Christmas one year, I gave up and made my own. It only make sense that Calvin’s one of a kind side kick couldn’t be available for mass production, he’s just too unique. Hobbes got to enter the library world this summer too as my mascot for Book Baby story times at the Alicia Ashman neighborhood library in Madison.

Given an unlimited budget, what would you make?
A BIGGER BUBBLER. With the funds and incredible opportunities we have had, we have done great work with our Artist in Residence program and community workshops. With unlimited budget, the Madison making community would thrive with designated free studio spaces in our neighborhood libraries, printing presses, and workshop opportunities. We could pay more artists for their time, expertise, and chance to share their craft. We could expand opportunities to after school programs in the Madison school district and hire the staff to promote community outreach. Right now, the Bubbler’s biggest obstacle is time and space, not enthusiasm or participation.

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