Low-Tech Solutions Work Best

Low Tech Tools 1Low-tech solutions (i.e. great portable facilitator kits with good quality supplies) proved to be the best for community conversations.  Our initial assumption that most meetings would take place in the library was wrong.  Although some meetings took place in the library, many were at non-library locations.  We expect this trend to increase as we work with more community groups.

Since our initial assumption was discovered to be wrong early, we re-thought the technology budgeted for the grant.  Money originally earmarked for smart boards and projectors to be installed in library meeting rooms was instead used to buy portable facilitator kits and good quality supplies for our 12 branches.  These kits proved so invaluable that the library now budgets annually for facilitation supplies in our Community Services Budget.     

Sam McBane Mulford gave us some good advice about easels, flip chart paper, flip chart markers, toolboxes, and toolbox supplies.  The only other item we added was a portable recording device.  The recorder proved useful in small, one-conversation settings but didn’t work well in larger spaces that had multiple simultaneous conversations.

Here are Sam’s recommendations –


Heavy dutyFacilitation Skills 2 easels are intended for stationary use at each branch.  Although very sturdy, they’re really too unwieldy to be portable.  A folding option, although nice for sto
rage, is not necessary.  Draper easels are good products.

Portable easels are for on-the-road use.  They collapse and can be easily loaded into a car or van.  Quartet/Duramax (molded plastic, 27 pounds) and Iceberg (molded plastic, 29 pounds) models are easy to find.  I strongly recommend buying a carrying case if it’s not provided by the manufacturer.

Flip Chart Paper Pads

Both self-stick and conventional flip chart paper pads are available in different quality and weight.  These factors are important to determine how easily the paper detaches from the pad, how well the paper hangs on a wall, and whether markers will bleed through the paper or not.  The best quality and, most expensive, self-stick pads are the Post-It Note brand.  You could consider using less expensive pads for library use and better quality pads for community and partner use.

In choosing self-stick flip chart paper pads, consider the pros and cons –

  • Easy for a facilitator to record, detach, and hang on a wall without assistance or tape
  • Individual sheets stick very well to each other when stacked
  • More expensive (less expensive brands are also less sticky)
  • Don’t always stick to vertical surfaces (e.g. textured wall covering)
  • Can’t write on the top portion of Post-It Note brand

Flip Chart Markers

Markers aFlip Chart Markesre available in both chisel and bullet (or round) tips.  The main reason to use a chisel tip is its ability to draw both thin and wide lines.  This makes it easier to read flip chart pages from farther away.  Bullet tips are often easier to use when drawing diagrams or pictures.

I highly recommend Staedtler Lumocolor Flipchart Markers #356 and #356B.  These are refillable if you also buy the refill station #488 56Sharpie Flip Chart Markers are also high quality and more readily available.  Buy the water-based bullet tip ones.  Don’t confuse these with the Sharpie chisel tip permanent markers which bleed through conventional flipchart paper pads.  I don’t recommend the Mr. Sketch and Marks a Lot brands.


Having a place to park all your materials keeps you organized.  A portable toolbox helps you get out of the library while ensuring you have what you need to function at the site.  Here are a few boxes on wheels with a handle –

  • SOLO 17” Classic Rolling Catalog Case
  • Vaultz Mobile File Chest 14 ¼” H x 17 ¼” W x 15” D
  • Rolling laptop cases (Case Logic, Kensington, Travelpro, Hardside, Targus)

Supplies Stocked in Toolbox

  1. PosBlue Painter's Tapet-It Notes
  2. Painter’s Tape
  3. Duct Tape
  4. Rubber Bands
  5. Push Pins and/or Tacks
  6. Straight Pins/T Pins
  7. Index Cards (4 x 6 and 5 x7) in multiple colors
  8. Sticky Dots in multiple colors
  9. Plain White Paper 8.5 x 11
  10. Bell or other audible signal
  11. Stapler/Staples
  12. Paper Clips
  13. Scissors
  14. Medium and Large Binder Clips to attach items to flipchart easels

Add these items when going on the road –

  1. Extension Cord
  2. Surge Suppressor

Other items to consider for use –

  • Butcher Paper (36” or 48” wide, or tape 2 24” wide segments top to bottom) – keep cardboard carrying tubes on hand
  • Laser Pointer
  • Collapsible Lightweight Aluminum Easels to display printed/mounted materials, boards, artwork, etc.

Posted by Theresa Jehlik, Project Manager

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