Libraries have always been a place to learn, but now they are changing from a grocery store to a kitchen model. Making is the new collection development. Patrons want to learn hard (STEM) and soft (Arts) skills for an ever-changing workplace. If children are interested and engaged they will be more likely to pursue related learning. Early engagement is needed for success in STEM fields.
The Idaho Commission for Libraries received a grant for a statewide maker program. Five libraries were included in the first year. It is run by the Commission with member input. The focus was programs for tweens and teens.
Some programs they offered:
- Electronics kits
- “All About Wool” - brought sheep into parking lot and learned about making wool - kids helped to shear & wash wool.
- Boat Race challenge - used recyclable materials - cost hardly anything
- Yarn bombing - decorating the outside of the library with yarn in a way reminiscent of graffiti.
The local Maker group built 3-D printers and maintained them for one year. They also partnered with PCS Edventures, which provided robotics and electronics knowledge.
The pilot libraries found that a dedicated space was not needed for making. It can even be done in a one-room library if you dedicate a certain time to it. Programs don’t have to be at a particular time or place- they can be “stealth” or “passive” programming. Staff can set daily or weekly challenges or just leave the materials out and glance over now and then.
Tips for libraries planning maker programs:
- Training is key.
- Activities should be hands-on.
- Have“Make-it Days” where parents and others can see what kids made.
- Have programs for homeschoolers.
- Partner with schools
- Get feedback from participants - can be as simple as a poster board where teens put a sticker under "I learned something" or "I had fun".
- Each branch decides what direction they want to go - More sewing? More technology? More gardening?
- Tie making into summer reading
Every benchmark for the pilot was met and exceeded. The libraries have had an increase in teen usage. Staff gained confidence after being scared at first. The amount of programs libraries offered were way beyond expectations. It has even affected how libraries look at their space - weeding, re-design to provide more space for making. The community wants making to expand. The focus has shifted from creating maker spaces to creating makers. Making can happen anywhere!
I was especially intrigued by the Make It Take It Kits the Meridian Library offers for checkout, with everything from robots to crocheting to ukuleles. They can't keep them on the shelf.