Cohort Member Karen Mueller Reflects on Recent Makerspace Workshop

I am always looking for new ways to attract teens to the library. I volunteer in a small rural library in Foster, R.I., offering a Friday night film program to young adults, complete with digital playground, hang-out space and free pizza. Many young adult librarians have embraced the maker movement as a way to engage teens, so I was very excited to hear that Bevin Winner, librarian at Exeter/West Greenwich Junior and Senior High School, was offering a Media Smart Libraries workshop entitled “Starting Your Own Makerspace”. As libraries expand their roles in the community, they are becoming hubs for creation and hands-on learning. Making is a movement that embraces tinkering, play and co-creation, where learning happens through experimentation and trial and error. It's a concept particularly suited to teens, so I went to this workshop hoping to come away with ideas for my own library’s maker space and must-have items.

Imagine my surprise when Bevin said duct tape is the most popular item in her maker space! I thought it would be some high tech item but duct tape creations were very popular with her kids. Crafts overall were a big hit and her program got its start with craft supplies from her own kids’ closets at home. One station she had set up was melty beads and an household iron. Another was a 3Doodler, which is like a hot glue gun for making plastic drawings and sculptures. An origami station was another low tech craft idea.

Not to say that there were not tech items in her toolkit. She had Snap Circuits, a stop motion animation station, Makey Makeys, Bristlebots, Lego Mindstorm, and a 3D printer. But as Bevin explained, those came later as funding was secured. Most important is to just get started with what you have and add as financing and interest emerges. Work closely with your school principal or director and don’t be afraid to start small.

My take away was that I had many of the tools already to make a successful maker space. I just needed the can do attitude that had started Bevin’s space. If anything, my digital playground could use some of her creative low tech resources like the duct tape to give teens a way to craft and create. I photographed several of her books to order for our library including The Duct Tape Book and Ductigami. I am going to introduce more crafts and games to our playground and start programming that will highlight our own maker space. I am copying Bevin’s idea of “Maker March” and plan to offer weekly maker activities for that month. I am also hoping to work more closely with our director and youth services librarian to come up with a family creativity evening as suggested by Bevin.