Library Makerspaces: Advice from Your Peers on Budget, Space, Time & Tools
We recently asked librarians to tell us about the makerspace activities going on in their schools and libraries. Almost 1,500 people responded to our survey and shared their challenges, their successes and their tips. Respondents included those of you who’ve taken the plunge and are adapting your creation spaces as you go, those of you who are dipping your feet in, and those that are ready, willing and just looking for some tips to get started.
The survey results show that many of you, regardless of what type of library you work in, face the same obstacles in your quest to bring makerspaces to your communities.
The two biggest challenges many of you are facing are budget and time, followed closely by lack of space. Sound familiar? But, rest assured, there are some tips and tricks out there to help you overcome those hurdles.
Let’s begin with budget. The majority of you responded that you were able to use at least some of your library budget to fund your maker activities. Many of you are also seeking donations or applying for grants specifically geared toward your goal.
Demco’s free Grants Database is a great place to start to find state and federal grants specific to STEM and other library-focused initiatives.
Many of you are also using crowd-funding sites, such as DonorsChoose.org (check out their matching donation promos for educators), and seeking donations from your community, businesses, PTO or Friends group.
Another great piece of advice that almost all of our survey respondents echoed was to start small.
You have a lot on your plate already; you shouldn’t expect to develop an award-winning, technology-driven, curriculum-connected makerspace right away. You can start with what your budget allows and grow your space and your activities by testing and learning what works and what resonates with your students and your community. In fact, on a recent tour of award-winning librarian Todd Burleson’s Idea Lab, one librarian asked what he would have done differently. His response? “I wouldn’t have started with so much stuff.”
Your advice for librarians just starting out on their makerspace journeys included taking advantage of low-cost, low-tech resources. Heather Lister offers some affordable (how does free sound?) activities in her post, Create an Amazing Low-tech Library Makerspace with These Easy Ideas. Additional tips from our frugal library friends included starting with recyclables for projects or hitting up off-season sales and discount stores. Don’t have a dedicated space for activities? No problem. Emily Ellis shares inexpensive STEM stations you can create that encourage exploration and experimentation.
Just because you’re short on space doesn’t mean your library can’t be a part of the maker movement. You can start with pop-up activities and invest in a mobile cart to store and manage your supplies. In fact, if you’re short on funding and space, your mobile makerspace can serve multiple libraries in your system. See how the Arrowhead Library System does it in Laura Damon-Moore’s post Makerspaces on the Move.
Many libraries that are short on space are also investing in mobile and flexible furniture, such as Kite® tables that easily fold, nest and store and furniture on castors, to enable spaces to be rearranged for multiple purposes. Another option is to reevaluate your collection and the overall use of your space to see where changes can be made. Diana Rendina has an excellent post on how she made over her school’s library to create a 21st century learning hub.
Finding the time for planning makerspace activities posed problems for many of you. No one can argue that it doesn’t require extra effort to start something new — and to keep it fresh once it’s started. That’s why learning from others’ mistakes and their successes and getting buy-in from your coworkers is important.
There are a plethora of resources to help you get started and to keep the ideas flowing, including Colleen Graves’s comprehensive list and the Demco Ideas + Inspiration blog. Having these resources at your fingertips and jumping in a little bit at a time can help ease the stress of additional planning.
Every school and every library is different, but many have found ways to work maker activities into their schedules, such as award-winning librarian Andy Plemmons, who extends makerspace time into recess time.
There’s no right way to schedule makerspace time, and our respondents in schools are finding time for creation in several different ways. Here are just a few:
- During library time, after checkout
- Before and after school and during the lunch hour
- During RTI, homeroom or study hall time
- After tests are done or during other down time
- Scheduled by teachers during class periods using a shared calendar
- During special event nights that are open to students and their parents
- Daily slots during week-long workshops on a rotating monthly basis
- Every other time students have library class
- During recess on Fridays
- As a reward
- Once a week for 25 minutes, as a reward for students
- 3 days a week for an hour after school or 3 times per week during lunch
- During Genius Hour, 50 minutes each week
- Using mobile makerspaces checked out by the classroom teacher
- Two weeks a year, once in the fall and once in the spring
- Every day during the month of May
- As a summer school class
- On a flexible schedule to tie in with classroom projects
Other time-saving tips from your peers included organizing an older student group to design and teach activities; finding activities that can be left out and require minimal supervision; using stations; collaborating with teachers; and partnering with others on your campus who are already doing maker activities.
Public library respondents varied in their scheduling as well:
- Two-hour events every two weeks
- Always have passive programming materials out
- Bi-weekly makerspace outreach programs at the high school
- Makerspace program once a month
- Weekly robotics and DIY groups
- Once a week for an hour and a half after school
- 3 times a week after school and Saturdays
- 2 times a month
- 10–12 programs a month
- Twice weekly in summer and 3 times a month during the school year
- Weekly during summer reading program
- Provide kits in boxes for families to use whenever they visit
- Check-out kits
- Patrons become members of the makerspace and use drop-in equipment or make reservations to use it
Top Makerspace Tools
Among the many creation experiences and tools being offered, there were some standouts:
- 3-D Printing
- Building Materials
- Coding and Programming
- makey makey
- Snap Circuits
- Computers and Tablets
- Green Screens
- Recycled materials
Regardless of how often you decide to run maker activities or which tools you choose to use, your peers had some motivating advice for you: It’s important to be persistent, yet patient.
You don’t need to be an expert to open your makerspace to your students or the public; just do it and learn together!
What tips do you have for your peers who are looking to implement making in their libraries and their communities? What are your favorite tools and resources for ideas? Share in the comments below or on Twitter. Happy making!