Beyond the Shelf: La Jolla High alumna comes to local library with a head of STEAM

Beyond the Shelf logo
(Daniel K. Lew)

Beyond the Shelf is a monthly column about the activities and people at the La Jolla/Riford Library.

Grace Dessert is back in her hometown after earning a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering from Duke University. With a world of opportunity at her fingertips, the La Jolla High School alumna walked into the La Jolla/Riford Library to ask how she could give back.

“I spent so much time hanging out at the library growing up,” she said. “It seemed natural to put my passion to use here for kids.”

Just what is that passion? Science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM). That’s lucky for us, because STEAM education fosters the ability to adapt and think critically and creatively in elementary-age children. This fits perfectly with the library’s vision of opportunity, discovery and inspiration.

Long story short, Dessert is becoming a certified San Diego Public Library volunteer so she can take over our branch’s recurring STEAM Tuesday program geared to kindergarten through fifth grade. Her eyes lit up when she shared her ideas for the August programs, which this youth services librarian enthusiastically scheduled.

Children made mini LED light sabers at a Star Wars Day "May the Fourth Be With You"-inspired STEAM Tuesday workshop.
(Katia Graham)

“For example, the decryption workshop will be an exercise in problem-solving and demonstrate how fun math can be,” she said. “Kids can make their own cyphers out of basic materials!”

Dessert plans to do an electricity series in the fall, so stay tuned for circuits in late September. She is excited to add coding, laser cutting and 3D printing down the line. STEAM Tuesday favorites like chalk-making, slime concocting and origami application will continue to make appearances.

Grace Dessert
Grace Dessert is becoming a certified San Diego Public Library volunteer so she can take over the La Jolla branch’s STEAM Tuesday program.
(Provided by Katia Graham)

Dessert describes herself as an “enthusiastic and creative problem-solver” and a “people person.” It’s easy to see why. She animatedly showed me a video of her surf clock invention, designed to display not only the current time but also the current wave height across the San Diego coastline. Brilliant.

Dessert is just the homegrown role model elementary schoolers need to start the new school year with renewed energy for learning. Her STEAM Tuesday preparation alone points to what an invaluable volunteer she will be at the La Jolla/Riford Library while we are fortunate enough to have her.

All STEAM Tuesday materials are provided thanks to the support of the Friends of La Jolla Library.

To register for the program, visit

STEAM Tuesday workshops in August

All are from 4 to 5 p.m. at the La Jolla/Riford Library, 7555 Draper Ave.

Aug. 1: Cypher Sleuth: Code Breaking
Aug. 8: Engineering Challenge: Build a House
Aug. 15: Crazy Geometry
Aug. 22: Stomp Rockets
Aug. 29: Pipette Art (creating images with water)

Katia Graham is the youth services librarian at the La Jolla/Riford Library. For more library information, email her at or visit