You Can Do It Your Shelf
Published: August 15th, 2023 by Hannah Nguyen
Makerspaces have become a staple in many libraries around the
country, and it’s easy to see why they are a match made in
heaven. These collaborative spaces offer equipment, software, or
supplies to help patrons create and innovate. Ideally, they are
designed to reflect what their community wants, which means that
no two makerspaces are alike. They can house anything from arts
and crafts supplies to 3d printers, to a podcast studio. Patrons
might use them to create physical objects, play music, or design
a virtual reality room. Here are some tips for those interested
in pursuing makerspace librarianship.
1. Make Things
If you’re interested in makerspace librarianship, a great place to start is just by making things. It’s important to exercise your creativity, learn about the maker community, and share ideas. I recently visited a few different makerspaces at some of the libraries near me to see what they had to offer, and I found a thriving community of passionate people at each. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I reserved an hour-long spot at an embroidery machine on a Saturday afternoon. I had never used the equipment before, but I had a blank sweatshirt and an idea. I walked away with a Pride and Prejudice inspired hoodie and inspiration for future projects. There’s an obvious benefit in providing machines that are either expensive, or too specialized for home-use to the public, but the collaboration component is equally valuable. From just one hour, I could tell that there were “Makerspace regulars”, a community of volunteers, and an enthusiasm for sharing ideas and information. If you want to get involved in library makerspaces professionally, you may need to show examples of things you’ve made. Document what you create and think about the process as you work. You may need to try a few different methods, or explain the steps to someone else.
2. Start Small
Perhaps you already work at a library, and you want to offer a makerspace or creation corner. You can start small and show a proof of concept to get stakeholders on board. I recently attended a talk at CLA’s Annual conference where Trina Camping from Woodland Public Library shared how they started their makerspace and maker camps. An audience member asked what the best equipment to start with was. Trina answered that button makers were cost-effective, versatile, and incredibly popular. Apparently, despite its name, button makers can be used to make a variety of items, such as pins, earrings, keychains, magnets, or bottle openers. It’s definitely possible to create a successful program with a limited budget. I took my kids to a makerspace at a small branch library nearby where kids were encouraged to bring their bikes inside to decorate. My daughter is thrilled with the personalized license plate she made by decorating and laminating cardstock. Seeking grant funding to grow the project will be easier if you can show there is community engagement and interest.
3. Know Your Audience
Makerspaces can vary greatly; some are geared more toward STEM activities, like coding, or robotics, some appeal to crafters by offering sewing machines or a Cricut, and some are well suited for recording and editing audio or video. You will need to spend time learning what will make the biggest impact in your community. You have a captive audience with the people who already visit the library; providing a makerspace will just be another reason for them to love it. Talk to them, send them surveys, find out what will draw them in. But don’t stop there! As information professionals, we may be used to the idea that libraries can have makerspaces, but this is a unique opportunity to reach members of the community who do not regularly visit the library. You may discover that there are already multiple maker communities near you who could offer guidance or other forms of partnership. Use your outreach skills to reach out to local schools, homeschool coops, retirement communities, and more. There is a tremendous amount of potential for these shared spaces with just a little creativity.
- Make Magazine has helpful resources and a thriving online community
- Learn new creative skills on SkillShare (you may have free access through your public library)
Two More Things…
Here are a few job opportunities that might be of interest!
Also, remember that internships can be an especially valuable part of your learning experience at the iSchool while also helping you when it comes time to look for jobs. Learn more about the iSchool’s internship program here, where you can check out the INFO 294 Student Handbook as well as the Internship Sites database.