In Colorado today new MakerSpaces are popping up everywhere, and they all seem to take on a new and different shape than the spaces before them. One hot bed for MakerSpace growth is in our libraries. Now that people can find information online, the library’s role has started to evolve. No longer are Librarians merely the gatekeepers to the vast quantity of information stored within, but a bridge between what people want to Make and the tools and resources they need to Make it. As Ashley Kazyaka of the Colorado Public library puts it, “Libraries are going from the supermarket to the kitchen.”
So, how can you get a Maker Space in your library? It all depends on what you want your space to look like. There’s no wrong way to make a space, but you’ll need a direction to start. Let’s take a look at a couple libraries around the state and see what they’ve done.
Anythink libraries are a series of Colorado libraries who have begun putting full MakerSpaces inside each of their libraries. These spaces include a ton of new technologies including 3D printing, a hands on computer-guts lab, and a digital photography lab. Though everything is available to all groups, these libraries have a focus on getting teens involved in using new technology and encouraging them to go forth and Make on their own. This style of space is very similar to the ideaLab in the Denver Public Library, which has just finished up it’s Summer of Tech, featuring a web development camp and a design your own punk patch (where teens’ virtual designs become real apparel).
The Pine River Library in Bayfield, CO has taken on a completely different approach. Rather than bring more technology into the library, they’ve moved the library outside. They call it the Living Library. The Space features gardening plots, which are cared for by members of the community and overseen by the local gardening club . It also has a geodesic dome, where classes are taught on 4 season gardening techniques (something desperately needed in the dry Southern Colorado climate). The classes and garden plots are available to people of all ages, there are nature inspired toys for the kids and group garden plots for seniors and teens. There’s even a tool rental library; so you can take your work home.
If you’re setting up a Space like Anythink, a space geared towards teens and technology, you’re in luck because the Colorado Department of Education is currently giving out Library Service and Technology Act (LSTA) grants. In 2013 the organization only received 16 requests and were able to provide funding for 12 of those. This included a grant for the Anythink Space in the Brighton Public Library, they used the money to purchase their 3D printer, among other things. Grants of this type gave the recipients anywhere from $5,000 to $40,000 to fund their spaces, and they are currently accepting new applications. So once you’ve finished this article and figured out how you’ll spend your money, check out their website and start your own grant application here: http://www.cde.state.co.us/cdelib/lsta
One of the trickiest steps can be deciding which pieces of technology to buy, and what all you’ll need to run them and to create a Space worth visiting. Luckily there’s help, visit create.coloradovirtuallibrary.org to find a host of resources which can help you decide exactly which pieces to buy, including Make Magazine’s MakerSpace Playbook. Or visit the Library Makerspaces Facebook group here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/librarymaker/ to hear stories of the success and failures of other libraries around the country.
Now, if your goal is to set up something more like the Living Library in Pine River, something with a little bit less of a strictly technological focus, you might need to take a different approach. Most of Pine River’s resources didn’t come from a grant process, but rather from other businesses and clubs in their own community. The geodesic dome was donated by Growing Spaces, a company based in Pagoda Springs about 40 miles from the library, and was put together by members of the library with guidance from a Growing Spaces employee. Some of the nature inspired toys were donated by other companies, some were made by library employees (the balance beam was once a tree on the President of the Library’s property). Many of these toys were inspired by Nature Explore, a company set on connecting kids and nature. Community garden plots are rented out at $25 a year and are overseen on a volunteer basis by the local Bayfield Garden Club. The food produced is harvested and used by a local charity who helps provide food to those in need in the local area.
The key to building either kind of Space is to get the community involved. Most of the classes taught at the ideaLab at the DPL are volunteer taught. All of the community gardens in the Living Library are looked after by a gardening club. As Nate of the DPL says “Trust the people who come through your door.” The library must become a place where people who know how and people who want to know how can come together in a place with the tools they need to create.
For project ideas and inspiration visit; makeitatyourlibrary.org
To check out other ideas and examples of what is going on now in Colorado Libraries, stop by one of these awesome locations;
Teen focused programs and spaces:
Anythink libraries- anythinklibraries.org
IdeaLab at the Denver Public Library- teens.denverlibrary.org/idealab
Boulder Public Library Teen Space- teens.boulderlibrary.org
Skyview Schools STEM weather balloon program
Library-based spaces for all ages:
Arapahoe Library District- Spaces across a number of libraries which showcase new DIY technologies including sound recording booths, green screens and other new tech. Arapahoelibraries.org or @arapahoelibraries on twitter
Pine River Library- A library which has programs focused on community involvement and the great outdoors including a community garden, a tool lending library and classes for all ages on new green tech. prlibrary.org