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Thinks Big Space! Library innovation in South Dublin County Council

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Students from St Killians NS try the latest tech at the Think Big Space launch in The Big Picture, Tallaght. Credit @SouthDublinCountyCouncil

Next up in our series of articles showcasing the latest local government innovation from the Chambers Ireland 2022 Excellence in Local Government Awards, South Dublin County Council tells us about Think Big Space in South Dublin Libraries.

Background

With Think Big Space, South Dublin Libraries continues its tradition as a national leader when it comes to library service innovation.

  • The first library authority in Ireland to offer eBooks.
  • Tallaght Library pioneered the use of self-service when it reopened after refurbishment.
  • The early year’s music classes, in partnership with Music Generation, are hosted across the branch network.
  • If you need to create a prototype for your latest jewellery design or replace a missing Lego piece, there’s a 3D printer in your local branch of South Dublin Libraries.

These are just some of the examples of how we have and continue to deliver library services that break with tradition. We have done this in the past and will continue to deliver for the citizens of South Dublin programmes and services that bridge the digital divide and play our part in delivering a future of greater equality of opportunity.

The importance of South Dublin’s libraries

Amazon Web Services have donated many Think Big Spaces across the world, but this is the first of its kind in Europe, not in Ireland, in Europe, and it’s here in South Dublin.

Libraries are a perfect example of what is called a third space. Somewhere that isn’t work and isn’t home. The library is a communal space where you can be yourself and be who you want to be without any expectations. It is not work and it is not school. This Think Big Space is also unique as it is the first AWS-donated lab not to be in a school.

Going to back when I was a kid, Lego was my virtual reality. It’s how I made the objects in my imagination appear in the real world. I never quite managed to create exactly what I was thinking of but learned so much along the way. Getting it wrong and starting again. I didn’t realise I was developing my mathematical skills and spatial awareness, learning how to problem solve and come up with new ideas because I was just messing around with Lego.

A partnership with South Dublin County Council

So, a bit more about Think Big Space. It is a partnership between South Dublin County Council and Amazon Web Services, aimed at providing a place beyond the standard classroom for students to explore and cultivate an interest in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) and STEAM-related careers. The space is a dedicated physical location that provides students, educators, and the local community with access to resources for learning about cloud computing and technology. The goal is to encourage a hands-on approach where students think big to solve real-world problems.

Think Big Spaces support technology curricula, student tech programs, adult education, reskilling, and upskilling programs for children and adults in communities closest to where AWS builds and maintains data centres. The partnership between South Dublin County Council and AWS brings together the expertise in cloud computing and technology of a global tech company and the intimate local knowledge and collaborative relationships of the library service with local schools and community groups.

Think Big Space has been thoughtfully designed to ensure that students and the wider community have access to high-quality resources to learn about cloud computing and technology in an equitable way. AWS has donated interactive screens, tablets, VR headsets, and other resources to furnish the labs and create an immersive, hands-on approach to learning. This initiative by South Dublin Libraries builds on its track record as national leader when it comes to library service innovation. They deliver library services that break with tradition and programs that bridge the digital divide, playing their part in delivering a future of greater equality of opportunity.

As mentioned, libraries are a perfect example of what is called a third space, somewhere that isn’t work and isn’t home. In Think Big Space, students are introduced to concepts that will shape their future such as robotics and virtual reality in a relaxed environment outside of the classroom.

The current program will support interactive hands-on learning and will be available for 4th class to 6th class primary school groups, and 1st year to 4th year secondary school groups. Since its launch in April 2021, the Think Big Space has hosted nearly 3,500 children at 130 workshops.

Over the last decade, AWS has invested over €1 billion in capital and operational expenditure in South Dublin, which has led to an increase in economic output of over €280 million, including direct, indirect, and induced effects. In the same year, investment in data centres in South Dublin supported nearly 2,500 jobs directly and indirectly, rising seven-fold since 2011.

Educational disadvantage is a real issue for our communities, so by providing additional STEAM learning resources as part of the AWS Think Big Space, facilitated by some of the best technical experts, we hope to help local students have equal opportunities to achieve their potential. South Dublin is the first location in Europe to launch an AWS Think Big Space, and this is because of the council’s focus on innovation and nurturing digital skills for the local community.

Final remarks

In conclusion, the development of the Think Big Space has been a significant milestone for the South Dublin Libraries, and as the County Librarian, I am delighted to have been part of this project. The space has become a hub of innovation and creativity, providing young people with an opportunity to access cutting-edge technology, develop their skills and pursue their passions. With the support of our partners and sponsors, we have been able to deliver a unique and dynamic learning experience to the young people of South Dublin. I am confident that the Think Big Space will continue to inspire and empower young people for years to come, and I look forward to seeing the many great things that will be achieved in this fantastic facility.

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Applications to the 2023 Excellence in Local Government Awards are now open! Click here to submit before 12 noon, Friday 5th May.



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