4 Benefits of Holding a Maker Program for Library Staff
In my last library, I developed a large amount of maker programming for kids and slowly built a pop-up makerspace that consisted of a wide variety of supplies and tools for making, tinkering and exploring new technologies. Each month we held maker programs, and as our programs grew, the Youth Services (YS) staff were always learning new ideas.
But how could this excitement expand beyond the YS department? How could I share the real value of our programs beyond “just playing?” How could I encourage other library staff to talk about and advocate for our library makerspace programs? I decided to hold a maker program just for staff and turn our entire library into makers.
How to Hold a Staff Maker Program
The staff maker program was held during a regularly scheduled staff meeting, with everyone from circulation staff to our director present to tinker and play. This is important because we all represent the library to our community, and everyone needs to be able to speak passionately about the value of the work we do. The entire hour was devoted to maker activities, and many people stayed around longer and kept exploring. I set up several different stations all around the room that highlighted the majority of our different maker activities. As staff arrived, I explained that I wanted them to all get a chance to explore and try out some of things we did with kids so that they could be better prepared to talk to patrons about our YS programming.
I briefly explained each station and told them that my expectation was for them to explore on their own or with each other, but that I would answer questions if they got stuck. I roamed the room as our staff tried different stations and worked together to solve problems.
We did this once at my library, but I think it is worth doing regularly. It could be once a season, after new staff come on board, or when you make additions or changes to the regular maker programming.
Why Maker Programs for Staff Are Important
I believe that youth services ARE library services and vice versa. YS advocacy is the most important reason to turn your staff into makers. In the library world in general, many people don’t understand or value the really important and vital work that we do in YS. There is often a divide between YS and the rest of the library staff, from attitudes to physical space. One way to help break down those barriers is to advocate within our own libraries and really take the time to share what we are doing and, more importantly, why we do what we do, from sharing early literacy tips in storytime to offering maker programs for older kids.
As a YS librarian, we spend A LOT of time outside of the library, in programs, and generally doing lots of awesome things. This means that we are usually not the first person that a patron (child or parent) sees or talks to at the library. If patrons have questions about programs, they might ask at the reference desk, or they might ask when checking out their books. If a kid mentions they love robots or screen printing while returning books, they might also be interested in a maker program. But if you aren’t there to promote your programs and services, the rest of the library team needs to be able to talk about what the library offers beyond books. When you share what you are doing with the rest of your library team, there is a better chance that patrons will get a complete explanation of a program the next time they ask.
3. Team Building
In my programs, kids almost always work together in groups. Sometimes they come with friends or siblings, and sometimes they work with others they just met. But by the end of the program, their relationship skills are stronger and they have learned about listening, compromising and teamwork. Library staff can always benefit from more of these skills, and letting them work together in a maker program yields the same benefits.
Let’s face it — sometimes going to a staff meeting is frustrating, boring or feels like a waste of time. By turning a staff meeting into something fun and playful, you are giving your entire staff a chance to have a positive experience. The fun they have while trying out your maker projects will stick with them and have a positive impact on their work.
So how did it go? My staff maker program was a huge hit. Everyone tried all our different stations and had fun making things that I couldn’t have even imagined. Just like kids, they loved learning how far they could stretch themselves. The best part of doing this program for staff is that many adults don’t think they can try new things. Letting them explore and figure things out on their own is almost more satisfying than watching kids making the same connections.