Just in time for Teen Tech Week planning, the third in a four-part series detailing how one state library commission facilitated a culture of learning and experimentation through the maker movement in a variety of library settings.

By Teresa Lipus, Public Information Specialist, Idaho Commission for Libraries (ICfL) with significant input from Erica Compton and Sue Walker, ICfL project coordinators.

Project evaluation

Compton and Walker designed tools to help evaluate the program on two levels:

1. Library users: To evaluate the effectiveness of the makerspace activities and programs, they developed a survey tool to poll actual participants as a group before and after an activity. It is designed to record changes in skills, attitude, and behavior. So far there has been mixed success, but the survey is being modified as it is used and tested for effectiveness.

3D printing

2. Libraries: To evaluate the overall project from the libraries’ standpoint, ICfL is looking at attitudinal changes; circulation; attendance; space usage; and feedback from partners, community members, and library staff.

“We’ve had overwhelmingly positive feedback from everyone involved,” says Compton. “And after each training staff members are ready to move forward exploring new tools and creating and implementing programs of their own.”

Walker adds, “As we encourage the use of new technologies, we also tap local innovators, such as PCS Edventures! and Reuseum. We have recommended that libraries also team up with community partners and leverage local entrepreneurs. Pilot libraries have been creative in building partnerships, working with local engineers, artists, and other makers. Ada Community Library partnered with a local sheep rancher to learn all about wool production. Kids of all ages were given the chance to wash, card, and dye wool and then create a simple bowl with the finished material.”


Promoting the project

Excitement about the maker movement is huge. Idaho’s “Make It at the Library” project gained national attention this year and from there has attracted the notice of other countries interested in innovation at U.S. libraries. In 2013, ICfL project coordinators Compton and Walker and participating staff from the pilot libraries have presented to audiences at several venues including:

  • Boise Mini Maker Faire, which included TED-style talks at Boise Public Library on day one with Compton and Walker, and hands-on workshops and demos in a science fair format at the Discovery Center of Idaho on day two with Compton, Walker, Nick Grove and Megan Egbert of the Meridian Library District, and Travis Porter of Ada Community Library.
  • American Library Association Annual Conference, which included an overview, a brief hands-on opportunity with the tools, a presentation from Compton, an Animoto Video from Kate Radford of the Meridian Library District, and a Powtoons presentation from Egbert, who also related the presentation, as told through Twitter, at http://storify.com/MeganEgbert/make-it-idaho-ala2013.
  • Pacific Northwest Library Association conference, which included a presentation by Grove, Porter, and Jennifer Redford of Boise Public Library on how libraries are implementing makerspaces to engage community participation and creativity.
  • Afterschool Alliance webinar, where Compton noted the important role that libraries play in afterschool education and described how libraries are using the makerspace activities and related stealth programming to engage kids in STEAM learning.
  • Association for Small & Rural Libraries (ASRL) Annual Conference, where Porter and Timothy Owens, Senior Program Officer in State Library Programs at the Institute of Museum and Library Services, shared ways to reach teens by adapting ideas from the maker movement.
  • Idaho Library Association Annual Conference where Compton and Walker discussed using makerspaces to engage teens with STEAM. The importance of critical thinking, leveraging failure, and persistence in the design process were also highlighted.
  • Innovation in U.S. Libraries video conference broadcast into the U.S. Embassy in Paris, where Compton, Porter, and Egbert (using video teleconferencing equipment at ICfL) were joined by the Detroit Public Library Hypespace, Cuyahoga County Public Library, and the University of Pennsylvania. They described for high level French officials how Idaho libraries are fostering the acquisition of STEM and 21st Century skills with makerspaces.

The Make It at the Library project is made possible in part by a grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services and a grant from the Micron Foundation. See more on the Idaho Commission for Libraries website at http://libraries.idaho.gov/make-it-idaho and on their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/MakeItIdaho.

A future post in this series will discuss implementation, and next steps.

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