My Top Opportunities as a VISTA: Alyssa Lennander

Alyssa Lennander is an AmeriCorps VISTA member serving at the Brainerd Public Library. The main focus of Alyssa’s project is establishing a makerspace program, which will increase access to new technologies such as 3D printing and STEM learning for youth who would not otherwise have access.

1. Gain Experience in My Field

This AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) position came at the perfect time in my life. I graduated in August 2017 with my master’s in library and information science. I had been volunteering at the Brainerd Public Library for nearly a year and half when the branch manager offered me the VISTA position, and I took it immediately. The library field can be very competitive, and I knew that getting library experience through this VISTA position would give me the edge I needed when applying for library jobs. It’s been seven months, and I can say with certainty that what I’ve learned has been invaluable for my professional future.

2. Connecting with Peers

The Minnesota Library Association Annual Conference allows librarians and vendors to connect, exchange ideas and share the things they have done at their respective libraries. Going to MLA has been on my professional bucket list since I knew I wanted to go to grad school for librarianship. I was able to go after I applied for a scholarship from the Northern Lights Library Network that paid for most of my expenses. I went with my supervisor and two other librarians from Brainerd, and I soaked up everything I could related to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) in libraries, and librarianship in general.

3. Experiencing Different Technologies

By far, seeing and playing with all the cool gadgets has been my favorite part of this service year. The library has Sphero robots, Snap Circuits and Makey Makeys. It’s been a blast to see kids experiment with these tech tools—and I’ve had a little fun myself! They aren’t even the coolest part, though. That would be the 3-D printers. Yes, plural. We have TWO. I never knew much about any of these technologies until I began my year as an AmeriCorps VISTA, and it feels awesome being the “STEM girl” around the library.

4. Being Published

While not directly related to my project at the library, I still wouldn’t have been published in the newspaper without being at this project. For Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January, the library was contacted by the Brainerd Dispatch to see if anyone was willing to write about a few resources at the library about Martin Luther King Jr. When my supervisor jokingly asked if I could write it, simply because no one else had the time, I said yes. It felt fitting since Martin Luther King Jr. is a big deal to the AmeriCorps program; his remembrance day is a National Day of Service for members.

5. Getting Involved in My Community

This might sound corny, but I’ve never been so involved in my community as I have as a VISTA. Two years ago I was a pre-kindergarten literacy tutor for the Minnesota Reading Corps, but even then I was mostly involved with the school. This time around, I have performed outreach at the women’s center (I didn’t even know we had a women’s center!) and a local charter school where I got to share our technology program with every classroom. Some of my favorite memories so far have been when I am collaborating with these organizations. Even though I graduated from Brainerd High School and have lived here on and off for most of my life, I feel more connected to the community than ever before.

Alyssa Lennander is featured here with one of the Brainerd Public Library’s 3D printers.