Libraries and Maker Spaces
| The first public library in the United States opened in 1743. Although though there were libraries before then, this was the first one that fits the definition of a public library (Sturgis Library). Since that year, libraries have changed from just a place to lend books to community centers and learning centers.
One of the changes to both public and educational libraries (college and public-school libraries) has been the introduction of makerspaces, starting in 2011 when the first one was opened in Fayetteville Free Library in New York (McCue). Makerspaces are defined as “a place to tinker with technology and explore arts and crafts” (Hardenbrook). What better place to explore new experiences than in a library? Libraries are historically places to learn and grow. From the very beginning, libraries have been welcoming spaces that have allowed patrons to explore ideas. The introduction of makerspaces allows students and the community to grow their skills, not just their minds. This “recent trend (of) the adoption of the “maker movement” by libraries (focuses) on the do-it-yourself learner, from hobbyists to entrepreneurs, who tinker with new technology such as 3D printing and Raspberry Pi, or traditional items such as crafting supplies and sewing machines, to collaborate with members in their community, university, or school” (Hardenbrook). These spaces allow people to meet and exchange common ideas and concepts as they learn new skills.
While no two libraries have the same makerspaces, the ideas do transfer across the libraries. All makerspaces offer an area to create and learn with hands-on activities. While some may offer 3D printers, others may only offer crafting space. Still others offer “crafting and art supplies, toys (e.g., Lego blocks), technology (e.g., laser cutter), and mechanical equipment (e.g., sewing machine)” (Hardenbrook). The public library in Columbus, Georgia also offers STEAM kits, such as the Sphero App-Enabled Robot or snap circuits, that can be checked out by patrons to explore at home. The 3D printer that is also offered by the main branch in Columbus must be run by the librarians, but patrons can design items to be printed.
The Gwinnett Public Library System boasts four makerspaces in different branches that have been established between 2012 and 2018 (Aumack). While it is mostly used by adults and high schoolers; the most frequent users are “business owners, entrepreneurs, those trying to find acting roles or voice work, professionals editing for television content, and ordinary people solving household problems” (Aumack). These particular makerspaces were started because the librarians “saw there was a real need and desire in the community for access to digital content creation tools and to basic and advanced STEM education” (Casey). In addition, they have had success stories shared as they assist with filming and editing for different programs. Stories like this show how makerspaces are a boon to the communities where they are established.
There are benefits to makerspaces for anyone who chooses to participate. Instead of being stagnant, makerspaces create places that “keep (makers) in the present” (Barron). Makerspaces “keep their blood flowing…foster independence” (Barron) while allowing passion to drive a project and keep the person creating interested in it. Makerspaces “spark the brain boost that comes from using one’s hands… (while improving) people’s moods (and offering) …a sense of community (and breaking) the habit of wastefulness” (Barron). While some people may not think they are creative, a makerspace allows everyone to explore their creative side and find that part of them that is creative. It allows them to express themselves, even if they have never been able to before. It also allows them a safe space to explore their creativity.
The original definition of a makerspace which is “a place where people come together to create and collaborate, to share resources, knowledge, and stuff” (Davis) is almost the exact definition of a library. By focusing on the “philosophical ‘fit’ or intersection, of public Maker Spaces with the principles of librarianship” (Davis), librarians can see how makerspaces can become an integral part of their libraries; making those libraries a more community encompassing place. These “hands-on, participatory, and intergenerational features… (have) the potential to bridge the digital divide. Still others identify areas of literacy, innovation, and STE(A)M skills where library makerspaces can have a broad impact” (Davis). By giving people these spaces, libraries can actually improve literacy and reading as people create projects. For schools, the makerspaces can be used for project-based learning as librarians help teachers guide students to problem solve.
By adding a makerspace to a library, more patrons can be enticed in. The more resources that are offered, the more classes offered, the more patrons will use the library resources.
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Aumack, Tonya. Casey, Michael. Personal Interview. 6 October 2019.
Barron, Carrie and Alton Barron. “Seven Surprising Benefits of Maker Spaces.” School Library Journal. https://www.slj.com/?detailStory=seven-surprising-benefits-of-maker-spaces. Accessed 9 September 2019.
Davis, Ann Marie L. “Current Trends and Goals in the Development of Makerspaces at New England College and Research Libraries”. Information Technology and Libraries. file:///C:/Users/Rebekah/Downloads/9825-Article%20Text-19067-2-10-20180618.pdf Accessed 9 September 2019.
Hardenbrook, Joe. “Making Sense of Makerspaces: Academic Library Staff Response to a Makerspace”. Mr. Library Dude. https://mrlibrarydude.wordpress.com/2017/12/04/making-sense-of-makerspaces-acade... Accessed 19 September 2019.
McCue, TJ. “First Public Library to Create Maker Space”. Forbes, https://www.forbes.com/sites/tjmccue/2011/11/15/first-public-library-to-create-a... Accessed 1 October 2019.
“Mirror Mirror on the Wall, Who’s the Oldest of Them All…?” Sturgis Library. https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/mla_style/mla_formatting_and_st... Accessed 1 October 2019.