Looking to Create a Makerspace in your Library? Here are some ideas

Makerspaces are popping up everywhere and the definition of makerspaces is constantly evolving like the spaces themselves. Makerspaces, sometimes also referred to as hackerspaces, hackspaces, and fablabs are creative, DIY spaces where people can gather to create, invent, and learn. The focus, actually, is on the type of learning that goes on, not the stuff.  Making is about learning that is: interest-driven and hands-on and often supported by peer-to-peer learning.  This is often referred to as connected learning.  Also, you don’t need a set space to facilitate this type of learning.  You can have pop up makerspaces at various library branches, afterschool programs, community centers, etc.  Or you can set up a ‘maker cart’ that can travel anywhere in the library.  Perhaps what your teens need most are maker backpacks that are stuffed with resources and activities they can do at home.

Why focus on maker programs and spaces in your library?  These types of activities help teens explore their interests and build skills that they need for college and careers.  The Institute of Museum and Library Services has a great two page informational sheet (.pdf) that talks about making and libraries. Share this with your supervisor to help them understand why these types of learning activities are important.

If you are thinking about ways to bring in some maker programs into your library, begin with  identifying what kind of  learning activities your teens want/need the most.  Digital, craft, technology, a mix?   Maybe your teens want you to work with them to create activities to do a little  bit of the above.  What do you need to get started?  First, build your knowledge of connected learning.  Your one stop shop for that is the Connected Learning Alliance.  Be sure to check out their free webinar archive.  Another very good connected learning resource to explore is remakelearning.org

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Using Technology to Help At-Risk Teens

Public libraries are, as ALA President Courtney Young said in a July 2014 Comcast Newsmaker interview, “digital learning centers.”’  We are able to provide access to computers, wireless capabilities, and also a space to learn. Access to technology becomes even more important to our “at-risk” teens; the library becomes a safe spot to use these resources. The question becomes how do we help them use this technology and learn from it? Earlier this month, the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE) published a report titled “Using Technology to Support At-Risk Students’ Learning.” This brief defines “at-risk” students as high schoolers with personal and academic factors that would could cause them to fail classes or drop out of school all together. They give three variables for success, real-life examples to why these variables work, and then recommend policies to help achieve these variables. While the article was geared towards schools, these variables are important to keep in mind as we work with the teens in our libraries.

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An example of effective advocacy (crossing fingers!)

Advocacy seems to be the buzzword of the year. With a new superintendent in my district, I decided I should be doing some targeted advocacy of my own. I knew my superintendent liked technology, and he has said he learns visually, so I decided I’d work with the other librarians in my district to create a short video about what we do.

I’d been hearing raves about Animoto, so I signed up for an educator’s account. This took a while, but was worth it since it’s so easy to use. I uploaded pictures from all of our libraries, gathered statistics and some examples, and put it all together into a simple, punchy promo.

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Sharing Computers Without a Footprint

Many libraries have one reference desk, where adult, teen, and youth services work together to provide service for the public. This is a great way to provide consistent access to an expert, but can be disorienting when you are forced to use default computer browsers.

One tool my colleagues and I have been using to fix this is portable USB drives.

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