By Michelle Davis
“Libraries are places where people can dream with their eyes open.”
To some, the traditional “shush” space of the library may seem like an odd setting for the hands-on, creative messiness of a makerspace. Yet many schools are embracing maker learning within their libraries and redefining our notion of “literacy” in the process. So, why have so many school libraries become home to the maker movement in education and how did they get a makerspace off the ground?
“Don’t mess with the library!” This is a sentiment that I have encountered frequently as a teacher-librarian. Indeed, school libraries have a rich and valuable tradition. However, the ever-changing needs of our students require us to evolve and expand the library’s educational services to remain relevant and to keep pace. Integrating a makerspace within the school library is a means “to boldly go” beyond the traditional offerings of library programming. As Peppler and Bender assert, “the Maker movement is an innovative way to reimagine education.” Therefore, incorporating maker learning within school library services is an innovative way to reimagine the library’s potential.
There are several reasons why the school library and a makerspace can be an excellent fit.
School Libraries Offer Open Access and Equity: One of the library’s noblest traditions is its commitment to equitable and open access to its library patrons. Positioning a makerspace and its resources within a school library ensures that all students and staff can access both the resources and the skills required to use them. School libraries are natural and accessible resource hubs. Incorporating a makerspace diversifies the library’s resources, moves its offerings beyond books and technology, and provides ready access to all.
School Libraries are Centers of Learning and Inquiry: School libraries are discovery and inquiry hubs for student learning, research and personal interest. This makes the library an ideal focal point for maker education. Furthermore, the library can easily connect students’ maker interests with further reading and research, helping them to engage more deeply with a topic or a newly discovered passion. For further reading on the rationale for makerspaces within school libraries, Stephen Abram offers several excellent reasons and examples in his article, “Influence–Real Makerspaces in School Libraries.”
Educational makerspace offerings within the school library represent a “brave new world.” Makerspace programming has the potential to extend the relevance of the library for a new generation of learners. It also increases the library’s ability to meet the diverse needs of a greater range of learners. For example, when we installed a giant Lego wall adjacent to the main entrance of our library learning commons, this new resource engaged our students and staff in new and creative ways. Students who did not identify as “readers” were suddenly keen to engage in their class novel study when they were invited to build a Lego mural based on the book and then write about their ideas, adding QR codes that linked to their writing. Teachers have generated unique and innovative lessons built around this new resource, ensuring that they reserve the Lego well in advance due to its increasing demand. When it’s not reserved for a class assignment or project, this Lego wall makerspace resource acts as an empty canvas, encouraging the community’s creativity. A library makerspace promotes brave thinking.
Undertaking the development of a makerspace within a school library can be a daunting task. When our school teams initially set out to establish makerspaces we were replete with enthusiasm but lacking in experience and direction. Thankfully, there were many experts who had previously blazed a trail to help fill the learning gaps. Engaging with the maker and library community while reading the testimonials of the many educational maker pioneers who have gone before can help move you beyond “the uninitiated.” Laura Fleming’s book Worlds of Making: Best Practices for Establishing a Makerspace for Your School is a great read to get started. Other valuable resources are Diana Rendina’s Renovated Learning and Colleen Graves’ create+collaborate innovate blogs. For a detailed account of one school library’s makerspace development, you can access my e-book, Making Space for New Library Learning: A Makerspace Journey.
Our makerspace teams sought out a maker mentor from another school district and worked together with other local schools to pool resources and increase our learning curve. We listened to the wisdom of “starting small” and building up. Human resources are the most valuable of all resources in the school library makerspace–making connections, sharing expertise and learning from each other– these are what develop a maker community, one step at a time.
School library makerspaces have powerful potential to help students become innovators, problem solvers and creators. Building one has but two requirements: be bold; be brave.
For more on makerspaces, see:
- The Case for School Makerspaces, According to Those Who Use Them
- Top 10 Things You Didn’t Know Your Makerspace Needs
- Take a Tour of Our School’s Makerspace
Michelle Davis is a secondary school teacher-librarian. You can follow her on Twitter @mdavisetad
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