Makerspace help?
July 3, 2022 7:26 PM   Subscribe

Do any of the good librarians on the green have any recommendations for professional development opportunities regarding Makerspace? I would like to bulk up my knowledge of Makerspace for future job opportunities and I am not having much luck googling or looking on my institution's professional development pages.

I completed my MLS part-time from 2012 - 2015, right before Makerspace became a "capital T" Thing in libraries. I learned about Makerspace through a professional organization, but never in a Makerspace 101-type setting. I was a high school librarian from 2018 - 2020 where we had very basic Makerspace activities, like a puzzle table and coloring sheets, and now I am an academic librarian at a university that has no Makerspace. I am interviewing for jobs back in school libraries, but my lack of experience with Makerspace is definitely a weakness. I have interviewed at schools where they expect the librarian to teach robotics, coding, and how to hatch quail eggs, in addition to reading and research skills. If I knew anything about robotics or coding, I wouldn't be trying to get a job as an underpaid librarian!

So, fellow librarians and techies, where did you learn to Makerspace?? Are there any free or low-cost Intro to Makerspace courses out there that you recommend? I am in Long Island, New York, if you know of any learning opportunities in the greater NYC area.
posted by DEiBnL13 to Education (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Hmm, as a fellow academic librarian who went to school when you did, I thought peak makerspace happened around 2015 and was dying before it got killed by Covid. I’m surprised to hear it’s still a thing in high schools. I guess I wouldn’t focus on the trend part so much as the always-useful parts: learning basic project management, team organizing, and the basics of a couple scripting languages are going to be as useful for makerspaces as they will be in most any other library-adjacent job. Does your current job have a LinkedIn Learning subscription? Could you hook up with AV or instructional technology folks to learn eg Apple or Adobe creative suites? Can you run some workshops on something you already know how to do? Some actual relevant job experience will be more appealing in a candidate than some sort of maker bootcamp. And you can get very creative with what counts here.
posted by aspersioncast at 9:12 PM on July 3 [2 favorites]

IANALibrarian, but I am heavily hacker/maker-space adjacent. To me, a hacker/maker-space is a place open to the community that provides shared access to tools that are too large/expensive/bulky for many individuals/families to own alone (3d printers, laser cutters, some low-end/lower-risk CNC tools), but I'm not sure if that's how the term is used in libraries. If I'm coming to use a tool at a makerspace, my main question are "do you have the tool I need?" "how much will it cost me to access it?" and "what training will you require me to complete, and how much will that cost?" Secondarily, event programming and opportunities to meet/kibbutz with other people working on things are nice, but I'll be honest, my hobbies are niche enough that I mostly get that online, and I'm happy if someone at a makerspace says "that looks cool... what is it?!" From aspersioncast's answer, it sounds like access to creativity tools like image/audio/video editing are part of the definition in libraries, and that makes complete sense to me because of high per-seat license cost or specialized equipment requirements (audio interfaces, video cameras, lighting equipment, etc).

I don't think you're going to find a single turn-key solution that takes you from "I am unfamiliar with all this" to "I am 100% qualified to plan, acquire equipment, and operate a library makerspace in terms of instructional programming, and practically/safely operating the tools and equipment." That's going to be a bit of a journey. One resource that comes to mind is the Hackerspaces wiki but that's for community-operated hackerspaces, not library-sponsored makerspaces. There might still be some interesting info in there.
posted by Alterscape at 7:21 AM on July 4

Have you tried reaching out to the public libraries near you that have Makerspaces, and asking to shadow or interview the person in charge of them for an hour or so? (Make sure you send a thank-you note afterwards!!) Or check to see if it's possible for you to participate in their Makerspace-related classes (either by getting a card there, or it looks like some allow non-members to participate)? Here are some LI libraries that have them:

Patchogue-Medford Library
Queensbridge Tech Lab
Sachem Public Library
Great Neck Library (Lakeville branch)

I'm not sure to what degree these facilities are used differently in public libraries, compared to academic ones, but it seems like you could at least get an idea of the type of equipment on offer, the services that are possible, and the skills you'd need to beef up.
posted by unknowncommand at 8:31 AM on July 4

If I knew anything about robotics or coding, I wouldn't be trying to get a job as an underpaid librarian!

No joke, right? IAAL but I don't work with Makerspaces specifically. My take is that school Makerspaces are different from academic ones in that it's more about, as you've seen, programming for kids to learn how to do things and not necessarily a lot of huge machines that they can use. To the best of my knowledge (and I live in a low-Makerspace area), there aren't Makerspace classes but there are people who work at Makerspaces who would be happy to show you the ropes. A few things that I think are worth thinking about as you take this path.

- there is a lot of STEM in Makerspaces activity. Partly this is because many STEM projects are fundable (often grants esp for girls in STEM, BIPOC kids and STEM) and partly because they often line up well. Learning to work with web-based "Learn to build" stuff like Glitch or Scratch can give you an idea of what sorts of web-based "programming adjacent" things are out there without necessarily learning to code.
- I'm a big fan of redefining what "making" is to more assertively include what we have thought of as homemaking stuff like sewing and food science and carpentry in addition to robotincs and coding
- With the above in mind, I LOVE the idea of Repair Cafes and I feel that could segue nicely with school Makerspaces.
- Lastly, partnerships. Just as the library often works better to be supportive of and helping programs get resources to do their thigns, how could a Makerspace do that for a school. Could you work with the theater program to 3D print some props? Could you work with a social studies or history program to sew up some period costuming? I feel like thinking in that way positions the library more usefully within a community of practice

If you are on Facebook there's one sort of dead "Makerspaces in Libraries" group but also this private group which I am not a member of but seems to have much more activity. Also there's Library Think Tank which is good for asking general library questions and people there might have some other ideas.
posted by jessamyn at 9:54 AM on July 4 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This course was given last year, but might provide some leads (I might google the people's names, etc.):
Making in Libraries: Starting, Managing, and Promoting Maker Services

Some podcasts and other resources:

Google has a series of videos called Maker Camp.

The Raspberry Pi Foundation ran this course in '21.
Build a Makerspace for Young People

posted by at at 11:53 AM on July 4 [1 favorite]

I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention Library Carpentry as a professional skills resource.
posted by aspersioncast at 4:52 PM on July 6 [1 favorite]

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