Generate Some Steam
Angela Hanshaw | July 21, 2011
Steampunk, that is. Described as “a sub-genre of science fiction, alternate history, and speculative fiction … Steampunk involves a setting where steam power is still widely used—usually the Victorian era Britain—that incorporates elements of either science fiction or fantasy.” Last year, in their Public Library Association conference program “Top Trends, Taking Teen Services to the Next Level,” young adult librarians Amy Alessio and Nick Buron noted that steampunk was one of the big new trends. This May, the Wall Street Journal ran an article titled “Why Steampunk’s Time Has Come.” And, in case you need more convincing that steampunk belongs in your library, check out this video made by the teen advisory group at the Bluffton (Ohio) Public Library to explain why teens like steampunk.
Recognizing steampunk’s increasing popularity, the Young Adult Library Services Association and Figment.com teamed up to offer the Steampunk Apparatus Contest during this year’s Teen Tech Week. In addition, many libraries offered steampunk-based programming for Teen Tech Week:
Bluffton Public Library received a Teen Tech Week mini-grant and used it to host Steampunk Awareness Day, which featured a book discussion of Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan, a Steampunk anime movie, and a costume contest. Brunch was provided for the book discussion, and the first twenty participants could keep the book.
The Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County in North Carolina also hosted a book discussion group for Leviathan.
- Evanston (Ill.) Public Library Create provided wirework, stamping, beading, found objects, and clay for teens to create steampunk items and learn about industrial design during Teen Tech Week. Teens also discussed their favorite steampunk books.
Libraries also held steampunk programming outside of Teen Tech Week:
The Harris County(Tex.) Public Library hosted Steampunk Mondays, which featured a variety of steampunk-related events, including the steampunk movie of the week as well as crafting activities.
At the London (Ont.) Public Library, Arthur Slade gave a talk from Saskachewan about his new steampunk series The Hunchback Assignments. The virtual visit was shown on a big screen as the author spoke and answered questions. The audience also heard a presentation on the steampunk subgenre by collections librarian Linda Ludke and was treated to a fashion show presented by Steampunk Canada.
Teens designed their own top hats, created steampunk hardware accessories, and enjoyed teahouse refreshments at the Hoover (Ala.) Public Library’s Steampunk Mad Tea Party.
The Howard County (Md.) Public Library hosted Steampunk: The Party, with food, costumes, music, and books.
And finally, for older teens and adults, the Waltham (Mass.) Public Library hosted a lecture series for the International Steampunk City, “a living exhibit to the artistic and cultural movement that fuses old-fashioned style with modern-day technology” held by Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation. Topics included Steampunk and Left-Wing Politics; Corsets, Goggles, and Empowerment: Women and Steampunk; Steampunk Photography: Vintage Meets Modern; Literary Roots of Steampunk; and Steampunk: Is it Just Hot Air? Aesthetic vs. Philosophy.
Angela Hanshaw is Program Officer/Web Editor for the ALA Public Programs Office.