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From Makerspace to Solve Space

Makerspace Panel

This double session was a mini-workshop with tips and techniques on setting up a makerspace. Chad Mairn from the St. Petersburg College library said we need to try new things and not be afraid to fail but learn from them. If you don’t try out something, it will probably not be a good fit with your makerspace. Document what you are doing with pictures. Field trips to the community are very useful and will bring more people into the library. Your makerspace can be everywhere.

VR ad AR classes use the Merge Cube which lets you hold holograms in your hand. Kids will become coders. Use a “Gadgets for Good” program to recycle old phones, computers, printers, etc.  Tactile 3D prints help visually impaired students. Many companies will be glad to work with you; also invite local developers to share their prototypes. To demystify STEM, it is not necessary to be a scientist or engineer; you just have to be curious with a desire to figure things out. Critical thinking is important. Every chance you get, share what you do. Dream, think, and create.

Tod Colegrove, Head of the Library at the University of Nevada Reno (UNR), said that even as we are changing, some things are staying the same. Makerspaces support active learning. Many print materials about makerspaces have been migrated to open space. Many libraries now offer 3D printing as a service just like any other library services; UNR was the first academic library in the US to do this. We engage a different part of our brain when we are handling things.

Laser cutters cut by burning things apart, so get the fire extinguisher out when you get one! The cutters are used for prototyping things.There is lots of interaction between prototyping and coding.

UNR was featured in an article on the most interesting makerspaces in America.

Susan Considine launched the first makerspace in the US in a public library. While spaces and technology continue to change in libraries, what do we do when our staff feel threatened or not on board of the new changes? We need to ensure we are consider our most valuable resources—our people—first. It is necessary to apply new thinking to hiring and training new staff.

Brian Pichman helps libraries around the world with leadership strategies and funding partnership incentives. He founded the Evolve Project to renovate a Children’s Library. When he approached companies and asked them to market to libraries, he found that they thought libraries were only about books. When they remodeled the library, kids thought they would have to stand in line to get in. Libraries are evolving. Kids will have to learn to be solvers in order to thrive. see his video.

Following the presentations, the audience participated in a group discussion. A  “road map” is at Here are some points that were raised in the discussion.

  • The key to making makerspaces work is to find people who are passionate. It is important to find ways to contact all the demographic groups in the community and engage them to get them to come into the library.
  • Find out what people’s strengths are and use them to promote growth. Challenges include staffing and having people to commit to the goals and changing mission of the library.
  • Many people approach the makerspace like they are in a retail space; the message must shift to focus on the process instead of the product.

If you are just thinking about starting a makerspace, your most important resource is your people. Don’t leave the staff in the dark. Have a conversation with them about why you are doing this. Then bring them on board to do the work of having conversations in the community. Everyone is an ambassador; ask people if they would be willing to share their expertise and knowledge. Once the staff understands that they will be led by the community, they will become enthusiastic.

If you are planning tools and facilities, tap into what the staff is passionate about and what their expertise is, and have them understand that it will be shared. You will be amazed about your staff!  Those interests often translate into learning opportunities, and you will not need to hire more staff. The goal is for everyone in the organization to have the same level of general knowledge. Involving the staff at the beginning is essential.

If you are in the process of establishing a makerspace and are having challenges with the staff,  it is frequently because of their fear of what the changes will mean for them and their jobs. Find ways to do things better than you have ever done them before, and stop thinking that knowledge sharing has to come from a library worker. We are simply facilitators; let the community lead your development. Put surveys everywhere; you will be amazed at what people will tell you.

You may need a rebranding effort to make the community (and the staff!) know what the makerspace is for. The community should understand that they will gain an increase in their level of expertise.

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