Library and School Makerspaces: Where to Start?

Library and School Makerspaces: Where to Start?

Somehow, it’s fallen to you to make a makerspace in your library or your school–where do you even start? This is a question I see get asked a lot in the groups and communities I frequent that talk about making.

Though there are many unique factors to consider when trying to put together a makerspace, I think there are steps to follow that make sense on a general level for most people. I intend this to be the first in a series of posts in which I will elaborate more on these steps, providing more details–especially as I continue to guide my own library toward a pop-up makerspace model–but I initially wanted to offer what I see as the path to a successful makerspace, based on my experience, on some talks I have given, and on the many discussions I’ve seen on this topic.

So —

How do I make a makerspace?

Do your research

Especially if you are somewhat new to the idea of makerspaces, spend a little time learning. Find out what has been done elsewhere and what has been successful. Find some groups and listservs to join where you can learn from others and ask questions. (Check out our post about where to get maker news.) Learn about different types of makerspaces (such as dedicated spaces, pop-up/event-based, mobile, maker clubs, maker kits, etc.). Doing this research will also help you make the case for a makerspace if you need to run this by anyone to get it approved.

Look at your community

The next step you’ll want to take before diving into purchases and serious planning is to do some serious thinking about the community that your specific makerspace will be serving. There is no such thing as a “one-size-fits-all” makerspace. I think creating makerspaces is a lot like doing collection development: your main goal is to focus on the specific needs of your community. And don’t forget that your community includes not only the patrons who visit your library, but the potential patrons who exist in your area but aren’t yet visiting your library. Your community also includes librarians and library staff who will take part in this initiative. For a school, this includes all students who you hope will use the space–and you’ll want to consider whether teachers and staff are part of the community you want to serve, too. Begin gathering information about all these groups, what type of making they like, what is important to them, what their needs are, and how your space can be beneficial to them.

Figure out funding

Don’t be afraid to start small and let the space grow over time; this is certainly a good approach to take with limited funding. (Don’t forget that research you did on the different types of makerspaces!) Find out if you will be able to receive any funding directly from your school or library. Definitely look into grants. (Explore some of our suggestions for funding sources.) Investigate the possibility of partnerships with people in your local community (existing independent maker/hackerspaces, local museums, hobbyist clubs, local artists, and so on). Think creatively; there are many funding models that can make a makerspace possible!

Set up your space and/or buy stuff

I think this is basically the most fun part of makerspace planning. Make your shopping list! Remember those groups and listservs you joined back in the first stage? Start asking questions about what people like/don’t like, what models they would recommend, and so on. If you’re in the market for a 3D printer, look at resources like Make’s 3D Printer Buyer’s Guide and 3Ders’s Price Compare Chart. Again, remember that you can–and should–grow over time, especially as you learn more about what works and what doesn’t in your specific library or school. If you plan to have a dedicated space, start planning out the space, including considerations like furniture, layout, security of the equipment, and safety concerns.

Give it a shot

See how it goes! Make note of everything that does or doesn’t work–and remember that you can learn a lot from what doesn’t work, and can iterate to make your space better. Good luck!


Have you successfully built a makerspace? We’d love to hear more about it–want to write us a guest post? Have questions? Comments? Share them below or on Twitter!


Image Credit: “Help!” by Flickr user GotCredit used under CC-BY-2.0

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