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Community Makerspaces

Zeth Lietzau, Jenny Howland , Susan Faust, Uyen Tran

(L-R): Zeth Lietzau, Jenny Howland , Susan Faust, Uyen Tran

In this session, representatives from three libraries described how they created community-driven maker spaces.

Uyen Tran, Emerging Technologies Librarian, San Diego Public Library, purchased some 3D printers, but when they arrived nobody knew how to use them.  She was able to learn and obtrain more equipment with grant funding.  Her budget looks like this.


Donations pay for the filaments used in the 3D printers, so she does not need to use her budget money for them (the cost is significant).  She does everything related to the maker program and always integrates education into it; for example, she does not let students use scissors to cut out their plans, but teaches them how to use software to create them.

The lab is all volunteer run and free to use. Here is some information on the laboratory.

UCSD Makerspace Information

Tran keeps company staff members up to date by working with her community.  She organized the first Maker Faire and got donations of equipment and exhibits from local businesses which introduced making to the community.  As a result, the lab now offers many programming classes, which resulted in still more interaction with the community.

Here are some of the lessons Tran has learned.

Lessons learned

It is especially important not to be afraid to ask for help.  You will be surprised at the response!

Zeth Lietzau from the Denver Public Library (DPL) established a program of badges to provide an incentive for community members to participate in a makerspace lab.

So far, DPL’s makerspace is a digital media space used mainly by teens.  It has 4 computers, a recording studio, and some 3D printers.  Even though the library is in a location that can be difficult for teens to reach, an average of 6 of them come per day come to use the makerspace. During the summer, they built websites together.  Observing that makerspaces tend to be mainly used by teen boys, Lietzau has started girls and family idea labs.

Lietzau has created a series of badge tracks on a variety of topics, shown here.



Each badge has an associated activity card.  Users follow the directions for the activity but make the output their own.  Teenagers are excited about the projects, but they do not care much about the badges. Only about 30 badges were given out  in 1-1/2 years.  So why do them?  Libraries are a huge part of lifelong learning, and people are learning on an informal level in the library without receiving any accreditation.  Badges look good on resumés and help people share their skills and interests with the world.  The Badge Alliance is trying to create a directory and build an infrastructure for badges.

Jenny Howland, Makery Facilitator, and Susan Faust, Librarian, at the Katherine Delmar Burke School in San Francisco, a K-8 school for girls, have collaborated to crate a “makery” for the students.  Libraries and makerspaces are similar and intersect in imagination, learning, research.  At the Burke School, they are organized with these five guiding principles:

  1. The school library is mission-driven around the curriculum and its 40,000 volume collection. Makerspaces (“the makery”) opened just over a year ago with a mission to educate and empower girls.  The learner is at the center of the process.
  2. There are many places to learn. What is the right place for the right task? The library shares books; the makery takes things apart.  The library and makery are in separate spaces which is a plus: the makery is messy, but the library is orderly and accommodates classes and collaboration. Makerspaces are divided into makery-up (hands-on building) and makery-down (media design).   They foster learning by doing and making.
  3. Play to strengths. In the library, we want students to be competent researchers, contributors to community, and enthusiastic readers . In the makery, we want them to develop competence in the use of tools and materials, creative competence, and a design mindset.  Both purposes are relevant in the community.
  4. Be purposeful. Students create objects on 3D printers and make displays about them, which develops creative confidence. For example, in a postcard project, they gathered information from books, studied locations on Google Earth, and wrote letters on the backs of the postcards, learning photo curation, writing, and research skills.
  5. Be at the forefront of paradigm shifts. Anything worth learning is worth assessing.  The next challenge is to figure out how to have meaningful assessment in both student venues.  Think about the tried, true, and transformative.
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