Week of Making: Maker Faire

To end out our week of making I’ve asked my colleague Michelle Angell to share her experiences with Maker culture. She started out with programs and wanted to create makerspaces, but found that a Maker Fair was an even better way to celebrate and embrace the Maker community. The following is Michelle’s response.

Libraries have a long tradition of providing making resources to the public. We offer information on gardening, landscaping, furniture and toy making, home and car repair, sewing, knitting, drawing, painting, computer programming, electronics, robotics and countless other DIY topics. As the role of libraries in the community continues to evolve, we have an opportunity to provide maker services that go beyond the customary print medium. Many libraries across the nation are developing their own makerspaces. The creation of a successful makerspace is not something that can happen overnight, however. Makerspaces require planning, adequate physical space, substantial staff time and somewhat prohibitive set-up costs.

makerfestMaker Faires are alternative opportunities for libraries to participate in the maker movement. Maker Media, publisher of Make Magazine, hosts two annual, large scale Faires -in the Bay Area and New York. Hundreds of licensed Mini Maker Faires are also held around the world each year. In the spring of 2013, the Lakewood Branch Library became aware of an interest in the community to host a Maker Faire type event. This was spurred by Kurt Sample, coordinator of the Lakewood Computer Clubhouse. The Computer Clubhouse is a free outreach program for youth, sponsored by Intel. Adding our local Pierce Community College as an additional partner, also secured a free venue for the event on their beautiful campus.

Lakewood MakerFest initiated the Mini Maker Faire license application process, but due to time constraints and some concerns with fulfilling contract costs and requirements, we went with an independently produced event. Our event is ultimately inspired by Maker Media’s Maker Faires, but not affiliated with or endorsed by the MAKE brand or company. The first Lakewood MakerFest held in 2013 at the Pierce College Fort Steilacoom campus, in Lakewood, WA. A total of 144 people attended the 2013 inaugural event. MakerFest was absolutely free to attend and there was no cost for exhibitors to participate. The 2014 MakerFest saw it attendance increase to 287 people, and at the May 2015 event that number rose to 425! Features of the Fest included; displays, demonstrations, workshops, and hands-on activities. Many of the attendees were families with school age children. One of our ongoing goals each year is to provide more opportunities for a more ethnically and economically diverse population to participate in maker culture.

The MakerFest Manifesto:

  • MakerFest is a festival-style celebration of makers. A Maker is a person that engages in the process of making or producing something. Makers run the gamut from woodworkers, tinkerers, coders, crafters, to robot builders. The Maker movement includes amateurs, enthusiasts, hobbyists, innovators, and entrepreneurs.
  •  MakerFest is a free, non-commercial, non-competitive, community-building event. It provides an opportunity for people to gather, connect, and explore the processes, products, and joys of making. The goal of MakerFest is to engage and excite youth, families, and adults to explore Maker/DIY (Do-It-Yourself) culture and become Makers themselves.
  • MakerFest is an inclusive event; gathering folks of all ages, ethnicities, cultures, genders, and sexual orientations.

MakerFest is a true collaboration of community partners. Our event sponsors are The Pierce County Library System, Pierce College, The Pierce College Science Dome, the Lakewood Computer Clubhouse, and Brown Paper Tickets.The Fort Steilacoom campus of Pierce College hosts MakerFest in their large science building for no cost. The Pierce College Science Dome, a 58 seat digital planetarium, is located in the same building and is a highlight of the MakerFest experience. Throughout the afternoon the Science Dome provided free shows and demonstrations. Brown Paper Tickets was a new and invaluable partner for us this year. Brown Paper Tickets is an organization that provides free ticket sales and event listing online. They also employ “Doers”, described as, “…They aren’t sales people but professionals, with a lifetime of experience in their chosen fields. Brown Paper Tickets simply puts them on the payroll and encourages them to fix, improve and revolutionize. If you ever needed someone without a corporate agenda in your industry, you found them.” Our Doer & Maker Advocate, Tamara Clammer, is based in Seattle and provided us with much needed expertise and contacts in the maker movement.

MakerFest has proved to be a successful introduction for the library to the maker movement. Rather than creating a makerspace from scratch, and due to our collaboration with community partners, MakerFest was a lower cost alternative for the library to participate and support maker culture. The most valuable benefit, perhaps, has been the strong relationships our library has built with other local organizations. These partnerships are expanding our outreach and community involvement opportunities. You may already have makerspaces, Maker Faire type of events, or youth maker programs in your service areas. If your library is interested in diving into the wonderful world of the maker movement, I suggest reaching out and discovering the existing makers in your own neighborhoods.

Visit our website, lakewoodmakerfest.org and facebook page!

Michelle Angell
Youth Services Librarian
Lakewood Branch
Pierce County Library System, WA
mangell@piercecountylibrary.org

About Jami Schwarzwalder

Currently a teen librarian with the Pierce County Library System in Tacoma, WA.She is passionate about technology, making, and learning. See what I'm up to at https://about.me/jamischwarzwalder
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