At The Seattle Public Library, kids use BB-8 robots to compete in a sumo wrestling-styled tournament. The people who designed the program? The kids playing with the robots!

It's a type of interactive learning called "participatory design," where the users help staff design a product or program. The Library has begun creating digital learning programs for kids through this co-design process, and we're going to teach other libraries across the U.S. how to do it, too.

Thanks to a $353,000 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the Library will collaborate with the University of Washington Information School to create digital learning activities for children in three Library locations. These programs will be co-designed—by kids, librarians and library students.

"KidsTeam was a wonderful introduction to technology as well as a time for intergenerational collaboration," said a parent whose child participated in the Library's first co-design team. "Starting with the first meeting until the very last session, my children interacted with people of varying ages and backgrounds. They were introduced to new technology that they learned to play, but also in which to be a creator. I was thankful that they were learning to see technology not just as something to consume, but something to find creativity in and an active role."

The project will teach other libraries in Washington state how to develop their own intergenerational co-design groups. The goal is to empower libraries to create their own learning activities that support local needs. Eventually, our goal is to teach these methods to libraries nationwide.

This grant is an acknowledgment of the great work we've already been doing with co-design learning at KidsTeam SPL, based on KidsTeam UW led by Professor Jason Yip. KidsTeam UW is a team that designs new technologies for children, with children.

Within our Library system, every children's service librarian can use these participatory design programs to set up community-focused services and programs. When a kids team at one location designs a program, it'll be available to all of our libraries; Library staff will be able to choose which programs best fit their neighborhood's needs.

"Kids really benefit from participating in this program – they get to design their own learning, and see their ideas come to life," said Juan Rubio, digital media and learning program manager. "Not only does this build social confidence and communication skills, but it's a rare opportunity for kids to have their voices heard while they work side-by-side as equals with adults."

Partners in this project include Whitman County Library, Stevens County Library, San Diego Public Library, The Information School at University of Washington, and the School of Education at California State University, San Marcos.