Makerspaces in Libraries

Making activities at the Fayetteville Free Library, NY.

Making activities at the Fayetteville Free Library, NY.

What is the Maker Movement ?

At the Fayetteville Free Library, we encourage our patrons to be Makers. But what does that mean? When I talk to individuals outside the culture that our community has created, some are surprised that we use the word “maker” as a noun. Makers are, quite simply, people who are interested in fashioning, constructing, preparing for use, or manufacturing things. Chances are you’ve made something before, so you’re already on your way becoming part of this culture, too. In fact, the Maker Movement is “filled with people who want to figure out how to make or do stuff on their own, rather than purchasing pre-packaged goods or services.” Makers are invested in hands-on projects, in building, creating, and sharing what they’ve learned, which has become increasingly easy via the internet.  As Mark Frauenfelder, the editor-in-chief of MAKE Magazine explained at the ALA 2013 Annual Conference, to be a maker, “all you need is passion. Component prices are so cheap and the information to do it is so readily avaliable on the internet.” But why should librarians care?

Why put Makerspaces in Libraries?

Makerspaces are a growing trend in libraries, and they’re one that’s here to stay. When I tell people about the FFL Fab Lab, they’re often surprised to hear that a library counts hand tools, hammers, pliers, glue guns, sewing machines, vinyl cutters and 3D printers among the items in its collection. (Look for a post on the FFL Fab Lab, soon!) But to us, it makes perfect sense. That’s because making is an essential part of our library’s mission. At the FFL, our makerspaces are tied to our commitment to providing free and open access to ideas and information. Makerspaces offer libraries a new way to provide access to tools, content, technology, spaces, and each other, bringing people together to share ideas and create learning opportunities. They support 21st century literacy skills, such as digital literacy and STEAM literacy (which is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics),  as well as the Common Core Learning Standards. But perhaps most importantly, makerspaces foster a read/write culture and enable our patrons to imagine what can be and to remake our world, for the better.

Little Makers Area

To this end, I’ve been working this summer to creating a “Little Makers” area at the FFL. The FFL Fab Lab is great for adults, teens, and school aged children, but we wanted to create an opportunity for patrons of all ages, to participate in our community’s flowering maker culture.The Little Makers area is a free play area in the back corner of the Children’s Room with complimentary programs that encourage children ages 5-8 to imagine, create, and build. The toys provided in the space facilitate the development of critical thinking, problem solving, and STEM skills. The space will debut at the FFL’s 10 Year Anniversary event on September 7th, and I will continue to post about the space and the other maker activities we’re invested in at the FFL.

Are you a maker? What do you think of makerspaces in libraries?

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