A question we’ve been asked before, and a common concern among educators and librarians, is the expense that can be involved in putting together a makerspace. In the past, we’ve featured a guest post detailing a successful, low-cost middle school makerspace. This time around, I’d like to focus on the strategy of bringing mentors into your school or library to help offer their expertise.
There are talented people in your community. I don’t even have to know where you live to know this is true. Scattered throughout your community, there are already makers who build, craft, and create in different ways, whether they do so alone or with others. There may even be a makerspace or two–hop on Google and search for the name of your town or city with the words makerspace or hackerspace, and it’s likely you’ll come across something nearby.
A great strategy for bringing in talent and expertise while keeping your costs low is to invite these existing makers into your school or library. You can do this either on a short-term basis–asking makers to host workshops or visit occasionally–or you can enter into a more long-term arrangement by inviting people to be Makers-in-Residence.
This technique can help your school or library makerspace in a number of ways: for one, much less time and money is required for staff training. Secondly, the focus of your makerspace becomes about skills rather than pricey equipment; save the money you would have put toward expensive electronics or 3D printers while your patrons or students learn from experts how to knit, make music, write code, and so on.
Finally, there may even be alternative compensation you can offer to visiting makers or Makers-in-Residence, helping your budget even more. Some makers may just enjoy practicing their craft and working on projects. If it’s something they already do for fun, invite them to do it in the library instead of alone at home. As mentioned in our guest post about Michigan Makers, the school relies on graduate students who find the volunteer experience valuable without compensation or formal credit. You might even take an approach similar to the one used by Rochester Public Library: artists invited to participate are offered the use of a display case for a month to promote their art. (Read more here: http://www.libraryasincubatorproject.org/?p=11624)
A number of libraries have used the strategy of turning to maker mentors for help. If you’re interested, check out more at the links below. Got any to add? Have you tried this approach? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter!