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Resources for Makerspaces (March 2019): Makerspaces in Libraries

by Janet Ochs, Richard Powell, and Lisa Czirr

Makerspaces in Libraries

Makerspaces can be found in many places: engineering departments, labs, and even as “pop-ups,” but a common place to find one is the library. The library was traditionally viewed as a place where information and knowledge were stored and accessed. It was, and is, open to all in the community. The popularity of makerspaces in public libraries is well documented, but it’s a growing phenomenon in academic libraries on college campuses—even though academic libraries are places where students, faculty, and other community members meet to study, learn, and collaborate. Consistent with this mission, the makerspace allows the diverse population of a college campus to come together and create. The library provides access to tools and guidance and the opportunity to collaborate.

As makerspaces became more popular, Gonzaga University librarian Caitlin Bagley launched a survey of library adopters. She incorporated survey data to profile nine libraries in her book Makerspaces: Top Trailblazing Projects. The profiles provide information about makerspace funding, staffing, tools, marketing, demographics, and room design. Bagley makes a strong case for creating a makerspace, as well as information about fees, donations, and grants.

Ellyssa Kroski is the director of IT at the New York Law Institute and edits the “Practical Guides for Librarians” series. Makerspaces: A Practical Guide for Librarians is part of that series and a second edition of John Burke’s 2014 guide. Kroski’s edit updates one of the earliest makerspace books tailored toward librarians. Included in this edition are insights from a 2017 survey, new library profiles, and updates of tools and techniques along with advice and a revised bibliography. Kroski also edited the invaluable Makerspace Librarian’s Sourcebook, which contains chapters devoted to pedagogy, prototypes, diversity, safety, and guidelines for a wide variety of makerspace technologies and projects. With references, further reading, and additional content concluding each chapter, this book is an essential item in the makerspace librarian’s toolkit.

Theresa Willingham, head of the Foundation for Community Driven Innovation and creative space designer for Eureka! Factory—an organization that assists libraries with the development of makerspaces—is an author of note in the movement. Her book Makerspaces in Libraries provides a practical introduction to the makerspace concept. While geared more toward public libraries, content is applicable for academic libraries as well. Library Makerspaces is a natural follow-up to the earlier Makerspaces in Libraries. Topics include makerspace culture, best practices for libraries, designing and managing spaces, and programming. Willingham stresses the importance of getting to know the space’s users and their unique needs: for instance, some might want a more artsy makerspace while others are more tech oriented. The community should drive the direction of the space, and the space must be adaptable.

Make It Here: Inciting Creativity and Innovation in Your Library, by Matthew Hamilton and Dara Hanke Schmidt, serves as an excellent handbook for evaluating specific makerspace needs, offering guidance for implementing, launching, running, and evaluating your space. Specific library makerspaces are profiled at the end of each chapter. A useful bibliography is also included.

Megan Egbert, district program manager at the Meridian Library District in Idaho, wrote Creating Makers: How to Start a Learning Revolution at Your Library, which focuses on the maker rather than the physical space devoted to making. She describes the characteristics of a maker and differentiates between making, tinkering, DIY, and crafting. According to Egbert, making—propelled by the maker, not the educator or librarian—offers multifaceted learning opportunities. The author asserts that making works for a variety of disciplines. Most importantly, she discusses why making matters for libraries and offers many practical ideas for starting a makerspace.