A library is a great place to start a makerspace. Whether you are a community library or a school library, here are some tips for starting a library makerspace.
1. Evaluate Your Needs + Community Interest
The first thing to think about is of course who your makers will be – what do they need? What are they interested in?
The best way to gauge interest is by talking to people. You could have a survey, talk to your patrons or you could even just have a sign by the library entrance where visitors could vote for things they’d like to see.
If your library already offers different clubs at your library, ask if they have any interest in a makerspace – a makerspace is an easy way to expand on many existing clubs and work with them.
2. Create a Space
Of course, you are going to need a space – but don’t worry about making it too fancy. A storage closet makes the perfect place for a mobile makerspace that can easily be set up in different parts of the library as needed.
You could also create some dedicated space in a corner of the library – just make sure that it won’t distract the regular library visitors who expect a quiet place to read and study.
See our list of tips on working with a tiny makerspace area here.
3. Find Your Partners + Volunteers
A lot of time and energy can go into running a makerspace and you will definitely need a few partners and volunteers to make it all run smoothly.
You can partner with volunteers in the community or create a special planning team with your co-workers who each spend a little bit of time on the project.
4. Set Your Budget
Before you get started it is important to think about what your budget will be, where this money will come from (are there grants or other funds that you can access?), and how much of your time or that of your volunteers will be dedicated to fundraising.
5. Choose Your Tools
Makerspaces can obviously include 3D printers, laser cutters, sewing machines – but they don’t have to and these things might even be a bit chaotic to try to set up in a library.
The tools you pick will vary depending on your space and what you want to offer to the community, but there are many basic tools. For example, you could have an iron for making fuse bead projects or could offer crochet hooks and knitting needles. basic jewelry-making supplies such as wire cutters can also be very useful to have.
6. Set up Some Rules + Guidelines
There should always be a basic code of conduct for any kind of activity in a library – but sometimes it’s good to have some rules + guidelines specific to the makerspace.
It’s never a bad idea to have rules for safety! For using certain tools and equipment, you may also want to consider requiring some basic safety training to be completed before someone is able to use it on their own.
Consider also adding some signs that explain what kinds of projects are allowed and where the tools can be found.
7. Plan Your Time
There are a lot of ways to use maker spaces in your library – you could create a monthly makerspace club or an after-school program with 3D printing classes for example.
You’ll want to make sure that any makerspace activities you plan do not interfere with other events going on at the library, although it can be easy for them to quickly become some of the more popular ones.
8. Market Your Makerspace
It can be easy to forget about marketing – especially if you are in a small library or don’t have a lot of staff on hand, but it’s important. After all, a makerspace is all about the community which means you definitely need some people to join in!
Promoting your makerspace activities through traditional media like newspapers is one option, but social media is definitely the best and fastest way to reach your adult library patrons.
If you are a public library and want to make the makerspace youth-oriented, you’ll definitely want to reach out to local schools to let them know about your makerspace, whether it’s through a flyer or announcement they share with students, staff, and parents.
9. Get Creative
Makerspaces can take on any shape + size, so it is important to let your imagination run free. Don’t feel pressured to make your makerspace the same as what you might see elsewhere.
Many fantastic makerspaces don’t have a lot of tools or equipment – they simply have the right staff to guide the project to really get the library patrons and students involved.
10. Take Notes + Adapt as Needed
Makerspaces are much different than traditional library services – they’re meant to be flexible, changeable, and unique to your community’s needs. Take notes as you go along the way – it will definitely be a learning experience!
As your makerspace continues to grow and expand, you’ll be able to best understand what your makers need and can adapt + grow as needed.
11. Bonus Tip: Just do it!
You might be still on the fence about whether to introduce a makerspace in your library and that’s okay. Our advice is to just jump in and do it!
There are so many benefits to makerspaces that while yes, it will take some effort and there will be a few road bumps just like anything else – it is very rewarding to see the positive impact you can make in your community with one!
Have you started a makerspace at a library? Share your tips for starting a makerspace library below!