April 2024: Serious Fun Stuff - Progressive Youth Services

Column Description: This column will attempt to demystify, and advocate for current trends in youth culture that may be incorporated into the library biome. Our goal is to provide enhanced services, better patron experience and engagement, and improved stats and circulation.

Huntington Public Library was just the recipient of LILRC’s Innovative Grant project for our Digital Music Literacy Project. In this, we received twenty Pocket Operators to run programs, share with zone libraries, and partner with local agencies.  There are many goals for this project, but mostly, it is about exploring sound through a digital medium, learning about music theory, making music, and having fun while doing so!

What are Pocket Operators?

Pocket Operators are miniature synthesizers produced by the Swedish electronics company Teenage Engineering.  They come in twelve different themes, each theme making a bunch of different sounds relevant to that theme. For instance, the PO-20 arcade model makes sixteen different arcade sounds. You can alter and expand upon these sounds, turn them into patterns, loop the patterns, and make music. You can record your music, upload it, or just enjoy it live. You can even link the units together so they play in harmony, or connect them to other devices. They come with their speaker (and some include a mic), but you can also connect them to an outside speaker. If you’ve never seen them in action, I highly recommend Googling them right now to watch and listen to all the amazing things these little devices can do!

This spring will kick off our new collection with two Meet the Fleet Night programs at both our Main and Station locations. For these events, we encourage patrons in grades five and up to stop by to try out nine types of operator and discuss plans for future programs. Parents are welcome to participate, to familiarize themselves more with digital music literacy, and to play with the devices themselves. In July, we’ll roll out the Pocket Operators 101 program, where registered participants will learn the basics of the unit, and then be able to take them home for two weeks to make and upload their own music.

Our twenty-unit collection is divided into two “fleets,” red and blue so that we can always have ten units out for programming at any given time. We already have two Zone libraries planning programs using Pocket Operators for May and June. We will continue to grow and adapt this process throughout the fall and winter. Ideally, we will expand upon the Digital Music Literacy Project with additional equipment and software, but for now we’re just experimenting with different program formats. 

If you’re curious about Pocket Operators, and you have the budget for them, they run around $100 each but sometimes go on sale. You can purchase them through their website store at Teenage Engineering, or their Amazon store.

Happy jamming!


James Richeson is a Youth and Parent services librarian at Huntington Public Library with over twelve years of experience. Providing teens with the best programs and materials they need. An advocate for tweens, teens, new adults, and parents.


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