Recently I was talking with library staff that work with youth and heard “Maker spaces are dead.” With an amazed look on my face, and since I know that many libraries are still developing these types of spaces, I said, “What?” And, it was repeated, “Maker spaces are dead.” The person who stated this was actually repeating something heard at another meeting. So, I contacted someone else I knew that was at that meeting and she confirmed. She’d heard that too – the idea was that in a few years the whole maker/DIY movement in libraries was going to be dead. Say by 2016.
This really bothered me, and at first I couldn’t figure out why. Then it came to me. People are missing the big picture here. Maker spaces aren’t about the space or the equipment in those spaces. They are really about a philosophy of service related to libraries and the community. Libraries and youth. Libraries and teens.
That philosophy is key to the world of libraries in the current day and into the future. It’s a philosophy of service that focuses on community. It’s a philosophy that focuses on giving teens an opportunity to connect to their interests and passions. It’s a philosophy that connects teens to mentors who can help them to achieve whatever they want (and need) to achieve. It’s a philosophy that might include connecting teens with physical or digital books – but it’s really about connecting teens to whatever they need to succeed. Those connections might be to a 3D printer, or video software or soldering tools. We don’t know and it will vary with every teen that comes into the library.
I worry that libraries getting in on the maker space bandwagon, which I think is a great bandwagon to get on, are missing the key point to those spaces. And, as a result, won’t be able to gain the community support and build the capacity needed to build, maintain, and support these spaces and the philosophy behind them. If in your library you are developing maker spaces, or maker related services, for teens think not just about the cool stuff you are going to be doing in that space, but about how that space is going to change teen lives. And, how that space isn’t just a fad but an example of the type of service you want the library to be able to provide. Think about how that space will:
- Connect teens to their interests and passions
- Give teens a chance to build relationships with adults
- Give teens the chance to be mentored by others
- Help teens build relationships with peers
- Give teens the opportunity to be a part of the community
- Give teens and library staff the chance to learn from each other
- Encourage teens to act as mentors and coaches
- Connect teens to resources they need – human, physical, digital, virtual….
- Provide an environment that allows teens to be who they want and need to be
Other’s have written that maker spaces are not about the 3D printers and acoutrements of those spaces. They are certainly not. Think about how everything you do with and for teens in your community, from a maker space to the book you put on the shelf, helps teens to grow up successfully. Think about not just the coolness of what you are planning/doing but about the overall impact on teens and on the community at large.
The future of library services requires that we go beyond focusing just on giving teens places to take part in fun activities. We need to think more broadly and deeply than that. It’s the outcomes beyond fun that are most important. (Sure it can be fun to create something in a maker space but is that all there is?) We need to have a philosophy of service that isn’t just going with what’s new and cool because it’s new and cool. But, understanding why what’s new & cool is something to integrate into library services. The philosophy has to be about teens and the connections we help them to make. I do believe that maker spaces are one good way to achieve that.
If you want to get in on the conversation about the future of library services for teens check-out the May YALSA/Connected Learning series and YALSA’s next virtual town hall. Let’s hear what you have to say on the topic. (Of course you can use the comments to this post too.)