I love LEGO and the patrons at my Library do too. Our Library has offered programs for kids and teens to stop by the Library and build with our collection of LEGO bricks. They are popular, fun, and easy to run. But in 2015 our Library decided to take our LEGO programs a step further and it started with this book:
The LEGO Christmas Ornaments Book by Chris McVeigh
I showed it to my director, who is also a LEGO fan, as soon as our copy arrived. She said, "We should do that as a program."
Since then our Library has hosted more than a dozen LEGO Build programs where patrons can take home the completed project. I haven't heard of another Library that does it. (But if you do I'd love to talk to you!)
I'm here to share my experiences and give you advice on how you can host similar programs at your Library.
STEP ONE: Pick a Project
- What's your budget? How much do you want to spend per person? $3? $5? $12? How many people do you want to be able to build?
- We usually hold two sessions of our builds and I order 23 kits (1 to pre-build and display for promotion, 1 to build along with at each session, and 10 kits for participants at each session).
- There are endless LEGO projects you can build. If you are planning on just hosting one program you should still look for a couple different options of builds. Some may not fit into your budget.
- If you are new to LEGO and want to save time, make sure you only consider builds that include a detailed parts list (item numbers save a lot of time!) and step by step photos or diagram of the build.
- Here's a list of resources to get you started:
- chrismcveigh.com - Chris is the author of The LEGO Christmas Ornament Book. The book contains the part lists and building guides for multiple ornaments. He also has building guides right on his website that are free to download. His building guides are divided into categories: Technology, Food, Gaming, Bonsai, Modular Arcade, Seasonal, and Vehicles.
- Our Library has run programs with these builds from Chris: Classic Camera, Question Block, Bonsai, Arcade Ornament, Flurry Ornament, Cooper Ornament, Platecraft Snowflake, Platecraft Wreath, Death Star Ornament, and Millennium Falcon Ornament.
STEP TWO: Price Out the Bricks
- I always price out my bricks through the LEGO website first. I consider this my "max" cost for each project. There are other websites that I'll mention that resell bricks, often less expansive than LEGO, but your required quantity may not be available.
- You can order individual LEGO bricks from the LEGO website in two different ways and you may need to check both for a particular brick: Pick a Brick and Bricks & Pieces.
- Pick a Brick - LEGO's most commonly requested pieces, you can order up to 999 pieces per brick.
- Bricks & Pieces - Harder to locate pieces, you can order up to 200 pieces per brick.
- Now do some math! Multiply the cost per brick by the number of bricks needed.
STEP THREE: Purchasing Bricks
- My two favorite ways to buy bricks:
- LEGO Website - Pick a Brick and/or Bricks & Pieces
- BrickOwl - LEGO Marketplace with brick resellers. You can usually find parts cheaper and they usually ship faster than LEGO, however you may have to order from multiple sellers to get what you need and price comparison can take longer.
- You could also try purchasing bricks directly from a LEGO store. Wall of Bricks is a great website to check what bricks are available at your local LEGO store.
STEP FOUR: Preparing Kits
- Since you are creating your own kits you need to sort and bag them yourself. If you have detail-oriented volunteers this can be a great task for them. I order a box of small clear plastic bags, like this, to put bricks in.
- Once your bricks arrive in the mail, sort them. Next, create the kit by adding each of the bricks your participants will need to complete the build.
- Having lots of space to sort and spread out is really helpful at this step.
STEP FIVE: Running the Program: Tips & Tricks
- Our Library has found that these programs work best for patrons in grades 3 and up. We usually divide groups into grades 3-5, grades 6-12, and adult. You could also just do mixed groups with grades 3 to adult.
- We've also found that the program works best with 10 participants per session and two staff.
- In order to save your sanity and keep everyone together we build as a group. Each participant completes step one before moving on to the next. This way you don't have to go from helping someone on step 2 to another on step 12. We also do not allow patrons to have individual instructions and strongly discourage building ahead.
- Having trays on hand make in easy for patrons to see their parts and keep them from mixing with their neighbor's parts. Talk to your local supermarket meat department for some foam trays and line them with felt.
- Have a projector with the LEGO instructions for you to go through step by step. It's sometimes easier to create your own powerpoint of the build.
- Our programs usually vary in length depending on what we are building and how complicated it is.
- We also let patrons know that the build starts 5 minutes after the program start time. If they have not arrived in time they cannot join the build. It is too complicated and time consuming, as well as unfair to the other builders, to catch up late-comers. We also don't allow late-comers to take kits with them. We usually don't have printed instructions and the point of the program is to build at the Library.
More Helpful Advice I Can Give You:
- Build in enough time before your program date to order bricks, receive them, sort them, and possibly order missing bricks. I recommend a month or more.
- If you order more than 2 projects at once, know that it can be a major time suck to separate bricks from different projects.
I'd love to hear from you if your library runs similar programs. Feel free to email me with any questions.