Meet Melissa Sprenne… Making Things Glow in Irmo, South Carolina

PLIX TeamAda
January 26, 2024
This is a portion of a longer interview with PLIX Mentor Melissa Sprenne. She has been with PLIX since 2018, and was part of our first Ambassador cohort in 2021! One of her favorite PLIX activities is Paper Circuits (because making things glow is fun), and we’re here to share some of the ways she’s run the activity for different ages.

Please introduce yourself!

I am Melissa Sprenne. I have worked at Richland Library Ballentine in Irmo, South Carolina, for six years. I am my location’s Makerspace facilitator, which means I'm in charge of our Makerspace room, all our craft-related programming,  and all of our outdoor initiatives which include a raised garden bed, a pollinator garden (filled with native plants), a walking trail, and various birding activities. Our Makerspace is mostly an arts and crafts studio. Since my degree is in biology, I try to throw in as much science as I can.

Melissa Sprenne in her library makerspace in Richland Library Ballentine in Irmo, South Carolina
Melissa Sprenne in her library makerspace in Richland Library Ballentine in Irmo, South Carolina

How did you get involved with PLIX?

Back in 2018, I was doing some research for one of my work plans about library programming and networking with other librarians who were also crafty and maker-y. And I ran across PLIX on the internet. I discovered that some of my coworkers at our main location had worked with PLIX developing the 👾 Scratch+Micro:bit activity. I talked with them about PLIX and it all sounded very interesting. And so I signed up for some of the community calls and all that other stuff. And here I am still!

What’s one of your favorite PLIX activities you’ve done?

My favorite one to do is ⚡ Paper Circuits. I’ve also run 🐝 Beautiful Symmetry, and incorporated bits of the ecological one into my other library programs. I also like incorporating the facilitation techniques in pretty much everything I do. And I encourage my coworkers to use those techniques. I mean, they all want to learn how to be better at what we do. So that works out.

What do you like about Paper Circuits?

I like making things glow! Also, my dad was a computer engineer, so I kind of like that tangential connection to the circuitry. I also recognize that technology is going to be an ever-increasingly large part of young people's lives. It already is. And getting kids interested and curious early is important. And it's just fun when things glow.

Illustrated layout of the Makerspace at Richland Library Ballantine
Illustrated layout of the Makerspace at Richland Library Ballantine

Could you describe how you run your Paper Circuit programs?

I've run them during our Monday Morning Makers program and also had specific programming for it. For example, during Halloween, I incorporated a lot of the PLIX materials with paper circuit templates from another website. Lighting up various monsters, with Frankenstein and werewolf sort of faces that the kids could color in and then light up their eyes.

For one of our adult programs, I've used our local history department. They've got an extensive collection of old photographs and postcards archived online. I curated a selection of those and printed them out on cardstock. I think I had 8 or 10 participants for that one. We lit up signs from local businesses that no longer exist and pictures of the original front entrance to our zoo that's since been remodeled. This was a lot of fun because there was a lot of discussion and reminiscing about favorite places that no longer exist. The way our airport used to look, because I printed out one from the airport of planes taking off (we lit up the tail lights of the planes), and how Fort Jackson used to look.

I also ran a similar program for teens. For them, I printed out popular memes, like the laser cat one and the rhinoceros as a tactical unicorn. I taught them how to light up their eyes using Paper Circuits. The teens seemed to just thoroughly enjoy that as well. I think the silliness of it appealed to them.

I've got a couple of kids who ask me every now and again when they come on Mondays whether or not we're playing with Paper Circuits.

What’s the usual attendance for your programs?

I'll probably have anywhere between 5 to 15 for my STEAM programs. For the Monday Morning Makers, depending on the time of year, I will have anywhere from 2 to 70. It’s a two hour drop-in period, but I try to keep the projects to a half-hour make time. During the summer I do have to open up the door at the back of the Makerspace and put tables down the sidewalk to accommodate all the people!

How do you set up for your Paper Circuits programs?

I need to be organized or I’ll forget things. A program like this (this one was for teens and we were lighting up memes and animal eyes) would usually be a program with a registration list, so I’ll have a rough idea of how many participants may show up. I’ll prep that many trays, plus 5 (in the optimistic hope that some more folks might show). Setting it up like this reassures me that each person has the exact same materials.


What’s on the tray?

1, 2: Cups with LEDs. Each cup holds LEDs of different voltages so I can explain why you don’t want to have a light from the first cup on the same circuit as one from the second cup.

3: A couple of coin batteries and small binder clips. I keep the batteries in their packaging because it’s never a good idea to store batteries where the different sides can touch (it’s a fire hazard) and if there are leftover batteries from the program, I don’t want to figure out storage for bare batteries.

4, 5: Scissors (because some folks don’t like tearing things) and a pencil for drawing the circuit

6: Precut lengths of copper tape

7, 8, 9: PLIX handouts: Paper Circuits zine, a sheet to help folks feel comfortable working with the materials, and a troubleshooting guide

In what ways have these programs met some of your goals for your library community?

Especially the local history adult program: it promoted, or exposed, our customers to the fact that database, that archive existed. And, you know, we're always trying to tell customers all the resources they have access to, but there's so much that sometimes it's hard to just pack it all in. So anytime I get a chance to kind of marry, you know, resources they have access to along with crafty activities I really enjoy doing that. And just engaging people to find new ways to bring 'em into the library. Like all of us always do.

I know at least a couple of those folks actually visited our local history department, to see what’s down there and have used that in various ways. And it made them curious about what else they could do in this space.


What do you think your library peers would find useful from PLIX?

I think specifically for my system, we don't currently have any training in place for running or facilitating programs. We're just kind of expected to run programs and come up with them and just… I think it's assumed that because you know how to do a thing, you're able to teach the thing. And those are two very different skills.

We use Niche Academy and the Staff Learning Academy through UltiPro in our system for uploading staff tutorials and things like that. So I am slowly working with our learning engagement department to run workshops teaching the Facilitation Mantras and the Personas Activity, as well as doing a basic overview of facilitation best practices. I think that's a lack in our system and probably a lot of other library systems that people don't think about having to teach people how to teach people how to do things.

I think that a lot of what PLIX is doing is super helpful. You've already put together a lot of the necessary materials to help people think about that in various ways. And I want to use those materials to help our various crafty minded folks in the system to be better at what they do. I've done this for years and I've grown comfortable in this role and, and can do these things without thinking about them very much. It's just something that I do. But that's not the case for everybody who runs programs.

Curious to learn more?

Feel free to reach out to Melissa Sprenne with questions or visit her at her library!

You can find her on the PLIX Forum @lissamonster or via email at