It’s hard to get excited about makerspaces when you don’t have ANY budget for materials. Installing and maintaining the software to run a 3D printer might seem a logistical impossibility when you don’t even have permissions to run the Windows updates on your public computers. But there are a number of ways to establish a maker culture with things you might already have lying around your library.
Use your graveyard of equipment for a hardware tear-down. Our digital natives may never have had the opportunity to peak inside a tower or under the keyboard of a laptop. Showing them how to upgrade the RAM or swap out other bits attached to a motherboard is a real-world skill that makes computers more useful for longer. Back when I sponsored a high school technology team, one of the most impressive student projects I saw involved a student daisy-chaining a set of old CPUs together to create a robust machine. Before adding to the e-waste explosion, offer your deaccessioned hardware to your teens, along with screwdrivers, clamps, and other basic tools. If your patrons see you playing with this sort of stuff, you may receive donations…
Hack their old toys.In a similar vein, one of my Alabama colleagues demonstrated how you can eviscerate a thrift-store Tickle Me Elmo to produce your own weird sound effects, a project certain to delight most teens.