You may or may not know what a makerspace is, but even if you do, what on earth does it have to do with the library?
Plenty, as it turns out.
“Makerspace” is a term connected to the maker movement, which is defined by makerfaire.com as “a tech-influenced DIY [do it yourself] community”—creative and curious hobbyists, enthusiasts, and students who are making their own products and creating their own market ecosystem.
Makers display their work and trade ideas at maker faires—both large-scale, professionally produced events that attract thousands of people, and “independently produced celebrations of local maker culture.”
According to MAKE Magazine, a makerspace is a publicly accessible place to design and create—sometimes but not always including shared access to high-end manufacturing or design equipment. Photos of high-tech computer labs, machine shops, and welding facilities used by some DIY communities can make the library, in comparison, seem like a very unlikely place for makers to gather.
Yet the library is the perfect setting to foster and support interest in venturing into new territory, or “creating creative people”—the basic tenet of maker culture. Don’t we venture to new places each time we partake in the library’s more traditional activities: reading a book or discovering new information online? Using the library as a place to create things is a natural extension of its role and another way to expand its footprint in the community.
Some libraries have incorporated impressive DIY spaces into their existing layout, including the Westport (CT) Library’s MakerSpace, which features plenty of workspace within its partial walls and open “roof” right next to the traditional stacks. Others, like the Allen County Public Library in Ft. Wayne, IN, have added space. The Allen County library partnered with a local nonprofit group to set up a 50-foot trailer, packed with tools and equipment, in the library’s parking lot.
But even libraries without the funding, time, staff, or space to launch such substantial initiatives can still become an integral part of the maker community. Librarians now have a dedicated resource for maker ideas and projects—the Make It @ Your Library website. The site is fully searchable for projects that can be filtered by cost per person, time per project, required tools and space, age level, and other categories. There’s also a Facebook page with pictures and articles about projects and makers.
So you don’t have to undertake a massive project in order to offer a makerspace at your library. As the Make It @ Your Library blog observes:
“By incorporating maker projects into your programming, reaching out to local maker groups to offer your space, or even setting up passive maker projects at a table or meeting room, you are distilling the very best of the maker movement for your patrons: empowerment.”
Do you offer maker activities or space at your library, or do you have plans in the works to do so? We’d love to hear from you!