Makerspaces Can Coexist in the Library

Makerspaces Can Coexist in the Library

In recent weeks, a lot of articles and blog posts seem to be cropping up touching on a fear many seem to harbor that makerspaces are intended to and are beginning to take over the entire concept of a library. Just the other day, I came across this piece from the Kansas City Star titled, “School libraries shift toward innovation areas, but librarians fear for what’s lost.”

I do think there are some legitimate fears expressed among these articles. For example, there seems to be some concern that new positions are being created or brought into libraries that don’t require skills or knowledge of traditional librarianship, or in many cases, don’t even ask for an MLS. While it’s not unheard of to have non-librarians working in and with the library, I understand the concern over these positions replacing librarian positions.

However, on the whole, these articles present a rather narrow view of what libraries are, and anyone who feels a makerspace is an appropriate replacement for a library–instead of just an excellent addition to a library–shares that same narrow, limited view of libraries’ potential. There is no reason makerspaces need to be at odds with or replace traditional library services, but instead can coexist peacefully among them.

Here are a few ideas for how makerspaces can work toward a more harmonic coexistence while still bringing innovation and enhancing what libraries’ have to offer.

  • Find ways to marry makerspace projects with traditional library services. Do you circulate maker kits of supplies? Think about including a book or suggestions for books the library has available that might be relevant. For young children, combine maker projects with storytime. Set up a book club that also works on maker projects that tie into what’s being read.
  • Many makers rely heavily on the internet to find projects, help, and supplies. This is an excellent opportunity to teach information literacy and evaluating web sources. How can you evaluate whether a site seems trustworthy to purchase from? How can you properly give credit to someone whose project you’ve used? Creative Commons licenses could be an excellent topic to cover, as well.
  • Hold maker challenges for things the library actually needs. Wish your library had a mobile app to help promote your services? Set up a design challenge for makers who like to code. Maybe the book carts constantly seem to swing sideways–see if there’s a maker who can devise a clever solution to it.
  • Talk to other librarians and staff about why the makerspace is in the library. You’re excited about it, so it seems obvious to you, but spend some time really sitting down and hearing out their concerns. Explain the ways you think libraries and makerspaces fit together well. Ask what they would like to see in the makerspace or what they would like it to do. Remember, the people who work in your library are the library, even the ones who hate change. The makerspace shouldn’t have to happen in spite of them, but with their interests and values driving it.
  • Don’t forget about low-tech supplies and activities. Many people see makerspaces as a lot of flashy, high-tech equipment like 3D printers, robotics, laser cutters, and so on. Often, the low-tech stuff is something libraries have already been doing–for example, knitting groups or crafting workshops. Make sure you incorporate these types of making, as well.

What are some ways you’ve worked to help your makerspace coexist with your library’s existing services and values? Have you tried any of the above and been successful? We’d love to hear what you have to say–share below in the comments or on Twitter!

Image Credit: “Coexist #2” by Faustus909 is licensed under CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

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