Makerspaces have been the buzzword in libraries for several years now. But what exactly are they? Well, that depends on the library and the community. When I first heard the word Makerspace, at a library conference, the discussion was focused on the latest and greatest technology. The idea was to bring the technology that not everyone would be able to afford and provide it to the public for little to no cost. We were all very excited to buy 3D printers, robots, and STEM technology that could help our children learn mathematics and coding.
A few years in and we are discovering challenges of technology fatigue and machinery not working in the way we hoped. I personally had to get trained on most of my makerspace objects after taking over from my predecessor. Although it was super exciting and new to me, I had to figure out a way to excite my community again. I had a local professional that worked in 3D printing to do a “3D Printing Palooza.” This event was successful and it brought the attention to the rest of the space. TLC•SmartTECH came in and did a “Tech Petting Zoo” that garnered more excitement for materials no one knew we had.
The conversations that came out of these events were priceless. I talked to local librarians and librarians from all over the country. They were in awe of what we were able to offer. I am very fortunate to have a decent budget. However, I emphasized that one does not need to have the latest and greatest technology to have a successful makerspace. If we are making it our mission to focus on creativity, critical thinking, a sense of fun, and that mistakes are how we learn, then a small corner in our libraries, with a table and chairs, is sufficient to create a space to make.
I absolutely love it when patrons talk about their passions and how they would like to use the makerspace to run a program. In fact, just the other day I had a mother and her 6 year old daughter enjoy the sewing tutorials so much that she is working on possibly bringing her daughter’s class to learn basic sewing at the library. I enjoy having parents come in and do a 3D printer training with their children, then come back and work on a project together.
Community is and should always be our focus as librarians. That does not change when we are managing our makerspaces. Even if you have no budget, technology and creativity can be taught anytime, anywhere. So, go out there and be creative, involve your community, and see what happens!
— Shannon Foster, Library Computer Specialist / Lab Manager (Pitkin County Library)
Need help getting started? No matter your budget, TLC•SmartTECH can help you build your makerspace with curated STEM products and professional development. Let us guide you in creating a starter kit to fit your library’s budget.
Questions? Send an email to Rhia Stark at firstname.lastname@example.org.