by Donna Block
Ideally, tech programs in our libraries aren’t confined to one week in March. Two different programs I attended recently have filled me with hope and ideas for hosting hands-on tech programs throughout the year.
The first program was YALSA’s Maker Spaces 101 webinar on February 7, featuring Hillary Kolos of the DreamYard Project in the Bronx. The second was LACONI’s Participatory Spaces workshop held at Oak Park Public Library on February 22, featuring Steve Teeri of the HYPE Teen Center in Detroit. HYPE offers programs ranging from bicycle maintenance to electronics and robots. DreamYard offers training in graphic and web design, digital photo and video, music and audio production in addition to more traditional crafts.
Maker Spaces have been hyped a lot lately, and I think for good reason. They offer a way for the library to engage the community in programs where patrons can all learn from each other. Before becoming a maker space, HYPE began working with a local organization called Handmade Detroit for traditional craft programs. Then, in 2010 they began participating in Maker Faire Detroit. Teeri advises that it works best to find people in your community who can make and do things to enlist as tutors and mentors for your teens.
Both these programs passed on the same message: it’s possible to start small, whether you have a small space, small budget or both. Space is a concern at most of the libraries I’ve visited, including my own. One small room in our current renovation plan has been designated as a media lab.
If an entire isn’t room available for maker programs, then you could create a maker corner like at DreamYard. HYPE turns into a maker space when tools are hauled out of their storage room and arranged on the tables and floor. I’m hoping for a maker cart that can be wheeled into our teen space for programs.
When asked about essential equipment for small budgets, Kolos said that for under $500 you can purchase a sewing machine and soldering iron and start making wearable electronics. Or, for around $200, you could purchase a vinyl cutter and combine it with free Inkscape software to tinker with 2D design and make stickers.
Funding through grants is also a viable option. Both HYPE and Dream Yard are funded by grants. Cognizant has provided funding for both, and Dream Yard also received funding through YouMedia. Other organizations who fund maker spaces and programs are DARPA, MacArthur Foundation and Lego Children’s Fund. Kolos recommends framing your Maker Space as a STEM opportunity to get private and government funding.
So where would I like to start at my library? Our summer theater group has been making their own props and set pieces out of whatever we have on hand for years, and I would love to provide them better tools. With the right tools they could make better costumes and props, and maybe even devices for sound and visual effects.