Why Makerspaces in Libraries are Important

Posted: October 24, 2018

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the definition of a library is, “a place in which literacy, musical, artistic, or reference materials (such as books, manuscripts, recordings, or films) are kept for use but not for sale.”

Just like the dictionary itself, this definition of a library is just a tad outdated. With STE(A)M and makerspaces being incorporated more into schools, classrooms, and libraries, along with students learning through hands-on collaboration and critical thinking, my definition of a library is this: a place in which students have the ability to collaborate, tinker, test, create, and take risks while exploring new ideas. What’s your definition of a library?

The rising trend of makerspaces in libraries is transforming how libraries have been and will be used in the future. From tools to robotics and arts and crafts to circuitry, the movement of makerspaces into libraries emphasizes and displays the importance of learning by making and collaborating with others rather than hearing “shhh!” if you even dared to speak.

According to Azadeh Jamalian, author of, “The Role of School Libraries in the 21st Century Maker Movement,” a collaborative study done by LittleBits and School Library Journal, it was found that 61% of middle school libraries have makerspaces and about 55% of schools in the U.S. and Canada offer makerspace programs.

It is quite obvious that libraries are no longer a place where “..literacy, musical, artistic, or reference materials are kept for use..” Another difference among libraries that have makerspaces, is that the librarian is much more involved in student learning.

From the study, it was found that 92% of respondents said that librarians organize their school’s maker activities and 26% of librarians said that when planning maker activities, librarian and teacher coordination does not exist (Jamalian, pg. 10).

Although this may be true, the incorporation of makerspaces into libraries are providing students with opportunities to learn new skills, become confident using new technology, express themselves through making, and prepare them for the future.

Libraries such as the G. E. Bleskacek Family Memorial Library, in Bloomer, Wisconsin, conducts after-school and summer makerspace and STEM programs for students. The Bloomer Public Library offers makerspace materials such as LEGOs®, Popsicle sticks, pine cones, paint, Soapy Dough, slime and more for kids to build and create with.

“We host a STEM program once a month,” stated Florence LaBeau, Youth Librarian and Library Assistant of the Bloomer Public Library. “We have tower building, water drop races, and clothes pin creations. Students have a chance to make moon sand and other messy stuff. It’s all about having fun.”

Implementing makerspaces into public libraries also allows students to engage in critical thinking and active learning outside of the classroom.

“I think creativity is the biggest part of makerspace, STEM and STEAM,” stated LaBeau. “In addition, I think creativity, social interaction, and being able to work together and problem solve is beneficial for the students,” said LaBeau. “We really try to enforce the hands-on learning aspect in our programs.”

The library also offers other programs such as Make’n Take’s, an art activity that can involve making pillows, bracelets, or decorations. Another activity the library hosts is school-age Wednesday’s where students make perler™ bead creations, tinker with materials such as MaKey MaKey® and littleBits™ kits, and socialize during game time. In addition, students attend a LEGO® Club where they are given creative challenges to complete.     

The Bloomer Public Library is just one of many libraries that is changing the future and definition of the library.
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