Tips on Creating a Successful Makerspace with Limited Staff & Time

Posted May 25, 2017 – Guest Blogger: Tina Hager, Library Director & AWE Learning Advocate

Makerspaces in libraries are not a new concept, it is just a new term used to describe what libraries of all sizes have been doing for years. Story times with craft activities, puppet play areas, knitting clubs, etc. are just a few of the “makerspace” activities that have and continue to take place in libraries. Those same types of programs will continue well after the term makerspace is replaced with another term.

A large budget, huge space, and lots of staff are not needed in order to have a successful makerspace. Many times resources can be obtained through donations. The Betty Foster Public Library, located in Ponder, Texas, is 1,191 square feet, with the youth area taking up a third of the space. We are continuously working on implementing new activities and offering new resources in our makerspace.

For the Lego section I purchased Legos from a garage sale and received a full tub in response to a Facebook request. Legos are a popular item in our makerspace; they allow for building and creativity. We have also added puzzles, many of which you can either get for free by patrons or donors, or purchase inexpensively from garage sales, thrift stores, or dollar stores.

Grants are another way you can add to your makerspace. We recently received an ALA/YALSA/Dollar General Summer Learning grant so we can partner with the Lake Dallas Public Library to purchase makerspace books and popular makerspace items such as Makey Makey and snap circuits. I made sure to add items in different categories including electronics, coding, engineering, and others, along with purchasing items for different age groups and grade levels. If you apply for a grant, consider including at least one other library in the proposal so more people can benefit from your makerspace projects. It also helps to be able to have a partner to share programming ideas, resources, and best practices with.

The AWE Learning Early Literacy Stations are a great addition to any makerspace because they include traditional categories of math, science, and reading, along with educational games, music, and art programs. One of the many things that I like about the AWE Learning workstations is that though the age range spans up to 10 years old, I have seen teens enjoying them independently, as well as parents collaborating with their children.

If you are short staffed and don’t have time to oversee programs all the time,  many makerspace resources can be passive, in that you just put out one of the items (puzzles, Legos, etc.) and let the kids get creative. This is perfect for small libraries that want to provide makerspace programs but are limited in staff, space, and time. At the Betty Foster (Ponder) Public Library, we advertise passive programs, such as Lego Mania, and include that it is for all ages and available all day. This enables us to offer more programs to a greater number of people for a longer time, rather than just one specific day and time for a narrow age group.

You don’t have to have a large space, a lot of staff, or a lot of money to have a successful makerspace in your library. Start small if you need to and work your way up. Make a wishlist of items you would like to have, along with their prices, and hang it on your wall, or share it with your Friends group and other donors. Then keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities to Make Your Space dreams come true!

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or just want to share ideas. The Betty Foster Public Library number is 940-479-2683 and the e-mail is bettyfosterpubliclibrary@pondertx.com.

Makerspace full of puzzles, legos, Early Literacy Station, and more at Betty Foster Public Library!

Makerspace full of puzzles, legos, Early Literacy Station, and more at Betty Foster Public Library!

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