Adding some STEAM to your library program

Over the summer, I attended the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools conference entitled From STEM to STEAM: Girls’ Schools Leading the Way,  held at the gorgeous St. Catherine’s School in Richmond, VA. A colleague and I did a 20 minute “speed dating”  presentation on our school’s capstone program, which began in large part due to the interesting work our students were doing in their STEM internships and Advanced Arts projects.

It was a really good conference, but there was a gap for me. I didn’t meet a lot of librarians there nor were there any library-specific sessions. There were some tangential offerings that I found useful (notes here), but it made me wonder, where is the STEAM in our libraries?


Shorecrest Makerspace visit, AISL 2015.


Can I ask this, though? Who among you is an UPPER SCHOOL with a thriving Maker Space? I was blown away with Dottie and Courtney’s program at Shorecrest during last year’s annual conference, but I want to see one of that caliber flowing through the life of an upper school library. I don’t mean next door to or across campus, I would love to see one built within the books, old school and new school seamlessly meshed. Does such a place exist? If so, can you please comment below so that I can put in a PD request to come visit you?

A rep for Creative Learning Systems recently visited my school to speak with our STEAM team lead. She passed the packet along knowing that it would excite me. Spoiler alert: it did. Did you watch the video?! I will wake up at the crack of dawn in late October and drive down to Orange, NJ  to see a public high school class using their Smart Lab, to talk with the kids and with the teachers and managers of the space.  There is no way that I can afford something like this, but I love the concept and I want to think about incorporating it within our library space. If not piece by piece, then maybe a pitch to development to take on the road at some point.

So here are my questions for YOU.

Should existing curriculum drive space/tool design or is it an “if you build it, they will come” situation?

Are you doing a low tech version of this successfully in your upper school?

If so…

Who manages your space?

Who cleans up–students, teacher whose class is using the space, or library staff?

If it’s not a maker space that ties into STEAM, what is your tie in? [Other than your awesome collection development skills, that is.]

If you were going to present at a STEAM conference, what would you present?

I am literally at the edge of my seat, waiting to hear your response. 🙂

Have a great day!

3 thoughts on “Adding some STEAM to your library program

  1. We did have an upper school makerspace in our US (grade 7-9) library which hosted a number of very poplar maker evenings. Our biggest problem was not getting the space (we had enough space), or funding, it was getting time in the schedule. Admin would not make it an “arts elective” nor would it consider letting students drop a term of sports, nor let any students other than 9th come during a free study period. So now it (and the librarian who spearheaded it) have been happily consumed by the middle school (grades4-6) Sigh. We are revisiting the idea of US maker-space for when those middle students move up and expect to have a maker spot.

    • Thanks for your feedback, Sarah. It doesn’t sound like your teachers were interested in weaving the space/program into their courses, more so that the space operated as a standalone entity. Did you guys ever promote it as such? I’m envisioning the manager of the maker space sitting down with teachers to plan curriculum that meets the goals/objectives that a teacher has set forth. Someone in Tampa mentioned a science class coming to the maker space to design something that illustrated a scientific concept covered during the year. That “thing” could be made of cardboard and duct tape, of Little Bits…or it could be an app that they designed in the space.That’s the only real upper school example that I’ve heard of. I don’t want to create this thing because it’s flashy, I want it to enhance teaching/learning here and inspire future problem solvers. So how to A)get the time from teachers who have X amount of content to cover and never enough time to cover it and B)convince them to take a risk(?) in collaborating in such a new way. I have way more questions than answers, clearly. 🙂

      • Great questions! I think the larger question is the expectation that teachers have from the word “library” and our individual strengths and weaknesses as librarians. Because I love working on research and writing, that’s where more of my time goes. I have more interest than I can handle, so right now I’m not at a “if you build it, they will come” phase, though I don’t want to be accused of running an old-fashioned library program either!
        We’ve been able to work with Technology for 3d printers, and Engineering has had obvious success in making items. They recently used sketchup to recreate a structure important to them, and the winner had her project fabricated on one of the printers. We also have a showcase of fun projects for people to view in front of the technology office, and they demonstrate the variety of what can be done. This is a HUGE success in two of our divisions, and it can be done cheaply. When you were here for AISL last year, you might have seen the working cardboard pinball machine two boys built in one morning. Because it’s a shorter period of time, teachers might be willing to participate and to see the ways that students’ creativity is sparked through the building process.
        Good luck as you think through the right response for your school.

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