Sound & Visuals at the Dabble Box

Eau Claire Library’s makerspace offers audiovisual tools

Marie Anthony, photos by Andrea Paulseth |

Missing parrots and Play-Doh probably don’t mean much to most, but to young minds (or those unafraid to be young at heart) the two things can come together to create an animated masterpiece. Since the launch of the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library’s Dabble Box in 2017, two new additions are now available to expand the community’s creative horizons. Kids, teens, and adults now have access to sound and video kits.

The sound and video kits came as the result of a partnership between Andria Rice, teen and technology librarian for the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library, and Steve Olinger, the library media specialist for North High School. The two worked together to write a grant to support what they call “Eau Claire’s Creative Economy” and were awarded funding for this new equipment by the Institute of Museum and Library Services which administers the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA).

Steve and Andria are both grateful and excited to have the opportunity to share these new resources with the community. “We had a great partnership – Andria and I – because we were able to meld our ‘high in the sky apple pie’ idea with the grant writing expertise of the public library staff to bring our dream into focus,” Olinger says. Andria found her inspiration for this grant in the kids who participate in the annual Montessori Film Festival. It is very important to her that the community have access to resources outside of what they might find on their iPads, iPhones, or Android devices. “We want to take Eau Claire’s passion for the arts and make it accessible,” Rice says. Olinger shared sentiment for reaching kids/teens who wouldn’t otherwise have access to equipment like this to fully unleash their creativity. With kindness in his eyes, he shares: “Thirty-six percent of the kids at NHS are on our free/reduced lunch program, so a lot of kids will otherwise never have the chance to explore possibilities using equipment like this.”

“We want to take Eau Claire’s passion for the arts and make is accessible.” – Andria Rice, Teen and Technology Librarian, L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library

The kits are housed in two locations here in Eau Claire, but both are easily accessible. The sound kit is available at the public library and includes condenser microphones, two mixing boards, two professional-grade speakers, and headphones. The video kit is housed at North High School and includes a 4K Camcorder (with tripod and dolly); green, white, and black backdrops to support the use of green-screen technology; as well as lighting and two microphones. Community members should know that both kits are accessible even to those who don’t attend NHS. If anyone would like to use the video kit in conjunction with the sound kit, the public library houses a Google Doc where patrons can request use of the video equipment, so NHS can mail it securely to the library.

As of now, the kits are able to be placed on reserve by an adult and to be used on-premises only. As long as the reservation process is followed, there’s no limit to the amount of time someone can spend with the equipment. The library also has iPads with apps available for video recording for younger creators who might otherwise have trouble handling a camcorder and maneuvering with a tripod. There is also Play-Doh available, so dabblers can experiment with stop-motion animation. “It’s been so great,” Rice says, “to see the kids go exploring. If you give them the tools, they will create .”

Rice and Olinger are hopeful for how this new equipment will impact students and our community. Rice is currently exploring ways that the library might build events and programming around the sound and video kits. Olinger hopes that teachers will find ways to incorporate the kits into their lesson plans in the 2019-20 school year. Rice encourages community members to use the kits in the do-it-yourself environment to dabble and create and to keep our eyes open because more will come in the future. “We’re really trying to respond to community desires,” she says. “We want to provide something that everyone in our community is interested in using. We truly care about community wants.”

Learn more about the Dabble Box makerspace at the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library by visiting For more information on how to check out the sound or video recording kits call (715) 839-5004.