Beyond the Space
At TLC•SmartTECH, we are all about hands-on learning, which is why we work closely with librarians toward incorporating products that make sense for their patrons and community. Yet one thing we hear a lot from smaller libraries is that they don’t have enough room to create a makerspace. So let’s talk about a few ideas for incorporating hands-on learning into your library, even when you don’t have a designated makerspace.
It’s not about the room. It’s about the concepts and skills being learned — and that learning can happen anywhere in the library through intentional programs. Programs are great opportunities to target a specific audience and to teach new skills and they work in any space. If you have a meeting room or multi-purpose room, you can host a program. If you have tables and chairs, you can host a program. If you have one hour, you can host a program.
Use classroom sets of your favorite products, like Ozobot, Cubelets, and Circuit Scribe, to create a program on coding, robotics, or circuitry. Each set is self-contained and can travel easily from its storage space to your next program. Many libraries will gather their supplies onto a cart to create a Mobile Makerspace. This can be wheeled into any room for a program, and stored in staff areas when not in use.
Self-paced products like Turing Tumble or Blocks Rock! are great to have available all the time as passive programs. Set the Turing Tumble up in the Teen area and watch patrons work through the puzzle book or create their own marble-powered patterns. When it’s not in use, store it with other board games on a nearby shelf. Set up Blocks Rock! in the Children’s area for additional literacy and STEM learning after storytime.
You may not have the designated room, but you can set aside designated time. Whether it’s a regular STEM Club or Open Hours, offer your patrons a consistent time to come to the library and explore the resources you have to offer. For libraries that rotate resources between branches, having a devoted Hands-On time means that patrons can look forward to new and exciting programs and resources every time they come in, which keeps them coming back.
When it comes to bringing hands-on learning into your library, STEM products are powerful tools and resources, but they are only half the story. Hands-on programs allow librarians to guide patrons in active learning opportunities that extend beyond the gadgets. If you need help getting started, TLC•SmartTECH provides hands-on Professional Development services specific to your library’s needs.
Finally, a makerspace doesn’t even need to be in the library at all. Many of our TLC•SmartTECH products also work well as circulating items. Send your patrons home with hands-on learning tools and resources, and let the learning continue beyond the library walls. No matter the size of your library or amount of space, you can bring hands-on learning into your library today!