Makerspaces Going Mainstream in Libraries

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Many of us have been reading about Makerspaces over the last couple of years as an emerging trend in libraries and school spaces. No longer is it a fringe, underground trend, but it is becoming mainstream with events like the Maker Faire at the Whitehouse, Home Depot selling 3D printers and materials, and general magazines like Newsweek sharing that, “ The Maker Movement Reinvents Education.” Whether your library decides to include a Makerspace or not we all can be a part of the “Maker Movement” and promote what libraries have been doing well for centuries- helping patrons explore their personal interests and gain knowledge on all subjects in all types of media.

Some of us have makerspaces or are currently developing them, so we have a great community to share our experiences. Others of us may have tech centers or innovation labs going into our schools so as librarians we want to provide research and resources on new media in the maker realm. Last year, we ventured into creating a makerspace at the Shorecrest library and we are moving into year two of development. We hope to share what we have learned in the process and elicit your experiences too.

If You Build it, They Will Come, but Now What?

Most of the professional library journals have been writing about what you need in a makerspace and how to design it. So as to not to reinvent the wheel, but 3D print it, I found the following articles to be great guides to help start outfitting and planning a makerspace. The hit list entails 3D printing, laser cutters, CNC machines, micro-controllers, robotic equipment and electronics.

     Makerspaces, Participatory Learning, and Libraries by the Unquiet Librarian

     Manufacturing Makerspaces by American Library Journal

     Geek Out by Greg Landgraf in American Library Journal

     3D-Printers: a revolution headed for your library by Betha Gutsche

     The Making of Makerspaces By Lauren Britton on Digital Shift

     Makerspace Playbook School Edition by Maker Education Initiative

     Why Your Library May Soon Have Laser-Cutters and 3D Printers by Clive Thompson

 3P is More important than 3D- People, Programming, and Process

Of course, 3D printers are grabbing a majority of the attention, and they definitely get people in the door, but the heart of the movement is creating a collaborative environment, guiding creativity with programming and modeling the hands-on- trial and error approach to making. Many students will think a 3D printer is magic and can print anything. But just like the computer or iPad, it starts with human creativity with a purpose that drives real creation and the utility of the equipment. There are limitations too. Some of our earliest requests were for cell phone cases and favorite characters from entertainment, so anticipate your responses for these requests. This new technology is another opportunity to teach original content creation vs copyright. We have developed the policy that states the use of the 3D printer is for learning 3D design and tied to curricular projects. Just like a reference interview we conduct a design file interview, so we know what a student is attempting to print and why. If a student starts with a base design from someone else we remind them to cite their source. Recently, ALA published an early exploration into the implications of 3D printing in the library in the document, “Progress in the Making

Low-tech can be just as powerful and exciting for students as high-tech gadgets for developing creativity; think of Cain’s Arcade and the multiple uses of cardboard. Duct tape and pipe cleaners are good materials for early prototyping in the design process. Additionally, I’d like to stress that you can teach 3D design without a 3D printer. Now there are easy entry-point apps and computer programs for designing objects. Teachers can asks students to illustrate a concept in their classes with through Sketchup or 123D Design without the need to physically print it. For some librarians this could be the advocacy route to take in order to add a 3D printer or makerspace to their library.

Building the Maker Community

As with all library programs and materials, sharing and educating the staff is a major component to integrating into the curriculum. The maker movement is a great opportunity to forge new partnerships with teachers that may not have ventured into the library in awhile.   Tap into current curriculum paradigms- PBL-STEM-STEAM to introduce to your faculty if they are not already on board. I created a Venn diagram to share with my administration team to show how makerspaces support PBL and STEM.  Pull in your tech and art teachers because they tend to be early adopters of innovative projects and have experience teaching in a studio-model, design-thinking process. This outreach process takes the most time to develop, but is the most important to build a maker foundation. Here are some articles that can bolster your support.

     Are School Librarians Part of Your PBL Dream Team? by Suzie Boss

     Project-Based Learning Through a Maker’s Lens by Patrick Waters

Be a Maker-Media-Specialist

Have fun in the creative process yourself. Use sites like Make Magazine and Instructables to try you hand in some fun projects that interests you. Join the larger Maker Movement in your area. Check if your public libraries have opened a makerspace or are in the processing of making one. Look for meetup groups for hackerspaces and makerspaces to build your own skills and find experts to bring to your school. Add design challenges alongside your reading contests to give students a reason to use the makerspace. If you get the opportunity to visit a national or local Maker Faire go see what makers are are creating and see equipment in operation. See or submit creative programming to Makeit@yourlibrary. While libraries have always served as institutions of learning and hubs of collaboration there is new energy from the Maker Movement generating a new community of users in our libraries.




4 thoughts on “Makerspaces Going Mainstream in Libraries

  1. Thank you, Courtney! Our local group of Independent Librarians have been planning a meeting/workshop for the end of this month. One of the topics is Maker Spaces and with your great blog, we can add so much more to the information for everyone who has questions or is thinking about creating a Maker Space for their Library.

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