Makerspaces are a fairly new phenomenon. Also referred to as hackerspaces or fablabs, makerspaces are collaborative workspaces, usually found in public libraries and schools, where people gather to create, invent and learn. Although not required, these spaces are known for having high-tech tools—3D printers, laser cutters, CNC machines and more. But even the simplest of implements (like sewing machines or art supplies), when coupled with a maker mindset, creates a makerspace.
About 2,000 makerspaces exist around the world, many of which boast amazing success stories. What’s more, libraries and other civic institutions that are making way for makerspaces are bringing in new customers. According to a Pew® Internet survey, these types of spaces are attracting those who normally shy away from libraries. If your community or library is thinking about launching its own makerspace, keep reading for some steps to help you get started:
- Research: Step one in launching a makerspace is to conduct some preliminary research about the needs of the community it will serve. Makerspaces can bring in new patrons, too, so your audience won’t be limited to just current library users. These spaces really can be used by anyone, so you may want to survey your entire community. Consider including a link to your survey on public utility mailers, in emails or on social media. Ask respondents how they see themselves using the space (if at all), and ask them about their do-it-yourself (DIY) hobbies and needs. You can show your appreciation for participation with a prize draw for a tool set or multi-pocket utility tote.
- Resources: Find opportunities to partner with others for funding or resources. Possible connections include local businesses, independent hackerspaces, hobby clubs, local artists or service organizations. You may even want to crowdfund or campaign by asking for pledges from library patrons and other supporters. Imprint bookmarks with your fundraising goals and a link to your online donation page. Distribute them at your circulation desk, association of commerce and local businesses.
- Getting started: Compile a comprehensive list of supplies and equipment based on your initial research. Online buyer’s guides are a great place to explore various equipment models, their pros and cons, and customer reviews. In addition to purchasing equipment, you’ll also need to take safety and security into consideration. How will you keep equipment from walking out the door? And do any of the tools you’ll offer pose safety concerns?
- Promotion: Once you have the kinks worked out, you can begin offering your makerspace to the public. Remember, simply providing access will not be enough to get people in the door and using your space. Holding educational sessions that tell what the space is used for, the different types of DIY projects the space can accommodate, and how to use the equipment will get patrons comfortable and excited about this innovative venture. Post session information on social media and flyers that can be distributed at the library. Set up a page on your website to describe your makerspace, and imprint the link on banner pens and microfibre cleaning cloths that can be distributed to local businesses, tech groups and more.
Makerspaces can be an innovative addition to your library’s service offerings. These DIY places are driving new traffic, fostering creativity and cultivating ingenuity. Whether a place to play or a place to learn, these spaces are gaining popularity. Will you take one on in your community?
Kroski, Ellyssa. “A Librarian’s Guide to Makerspaces: 16 Resources.” OEDB.org. N.p., 12 Mar. 2013. Web. Retrieved 17 Mar. 2016.
Miller, Andrew. “What Is a Makerspace?” Makerspaces.com. N.p., 27 Nov. 2015. Web. Retrieved 17 Mar. 2016.
Tierney, John. “How Makerspaces Help Local Economies.” The Atlantic. The Atlantic Monthly Group, 17 Apr. 2015. Web. Retrieved 17 Mar. 2016.
Ginsberg, Sharona. “Library and School Makerspaces: Where to Start?” MakerBridge. N.p., 21 Dec. 2015. Web. Retrieved 17 Mar. 2016.
Fontichiaro, Kristin. “Makerspace Funding.” MakerBridge. N.p., 29 Sept. 2014. Web. Retrieved 17 Mar. 2016.
Clark, Melody. “Libraries & makerspaces: A revolution?” TASCHA. N.p., 13 June 2014. Web. Retrieved 17 Mar. 2016.