Makerspaces: Updating Our Vision

The makerspace movement has been a part of our landscape for years. With a Google search you can find a range of information from supporting maker initiatives to critical think pieces on the nature of the makerspace. Our school library makerspace is a little different. We have a stationary maker area along with four themed carts shared between four schools. Every nine weeks we send a cart and receive a cart as the other schools go through the same procedure.

Our stationary makerspace is stocked with a wide variety of arts and crafts supplies, Arduinos, Lego, Brush Bots, a Loom, and all the usual trappings. We call it the DIY Lab, because we encourage students to explore the area if they see something interesting. Don’t wait on us (the school librarians) to explain it, Do-It-Yourself. Alternative, less catchy names for the makerspace could be Land of Things No One Knows How to Use, It Used to Be Centrally Located but Now It’s Shoved in a Dorner, and The DIY Lab Is Closed Today.

Our makerspace path has been rocky. We’re not anti-maker, but we are definitely less excited about all of it. At one point I thought about writing a makerspace processing guide based on Carol Kuhlthau’s Guided Inquiry Design, charting the steps a school librarian might take to build a successful makerspace, because we felt so overwhelmed by the maker universe. After having our rotating makerspace for a full year and getting to experiment with arts, STEM, 3D printing, and video production, I have some ideas on what we could have done, and what we could do going forward.

  • Don’t buy all of the things. I wish we had been more focused when choosing items. Instead of buying a screen-printing kit, 2 sewing machines, a letter press kit, an Ellison cutter, plus marker, pens, paper, etc….we could’ve purchased high-quality screen-printing materials and focused on doing one thing really well.

  • Choose items/activities that inspire you. STEM isn’t my thing. I have zero interest in Arduinos, Raspberry Pi’s Ozobots, Brush Bots, LED flowers, and Little Bits. Maybe I could learn how to use them, but it’s just not in my wheel house.

  • Buy enough of whatever it is you want. I discovered I like sewing. My excitement spread to our students who were lined up waiting to sew. Unfortunately, we only have two sewing machines, and some students weren’t able to complete their projects. 

  • Adjust expectations as needed. Although we plan on opting out of the STEM items next year, we loved using the video production equipment so much we bought our own and structured a class based on this theme. 

It’s probably important to note my school has almost 1,500 students. A smaller school may not run into the same set of problems, and a different school librarian might feel obligated to learn more STEM. I’m lucky and thankful to be in a position to have makerspace experiences, and even though it’s still a work in progress, I wouldn’t know what I now know if I hadn’t gone through the ups and downs of the whole process.

Trying to finish projects before class change.

Author: Mica Johnson

I’m a school librarian at Farragut Middle. I like the lib to be loud, messy, and full of student activity. I love tech stuff as much as I love books, and I’m part of an awesome rotating maker space.



Categories: Blog Topics, Makerspaces/Learning Commons

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