School library media specialists are under considerable pressure to demonstrate our absolute value within our schools. As a fourth-year media specialist, I have seen and read about the numerous cuts to school libraries so very early in my career. Being a career changer going into the library media profession, I never anticipated I would worry daily about my job being eliminated and libraries being managed by un-certified staff. Most recently, I read a social media post about a school librarian who returned to her library over the summer to find library books thrown in the middle of the floor, as two classrooms were being constructed from half of the library space. This story, among several others, has left me in search of the answer to the following questions. Why have school libraries become so disconnected and irrelevant to student learning? Why is the school librarian not viewed upon as an instructional leader and partner?

After much reflection, it was decided I couldn’t keep asking the questions, and instead, I had to create and share the why for our library profession. I made it a mission to step up and participate in any leadership opportunity made available to me as a school library media specialist, and in my reflection, all programs would be based on the student voice of my middle school students. While attending Teacher Leader Academy in a library media specialist cohort at my school district this past year, we were asked to develop a legacy project. My goal was to link the library with reading literacy and create a school culture of readers. Often, library media specialists (and library resources) are overlooked when developing initiatives for increasing student achievement because it is difficult to provide data. I wanted to change this, and I wanted the school library to be a partner in increasing students’ reading scores. Through my legacy project, I worked with a team of 24 teachers and my principal to create a school-wide independent reading program called, Griffin Reads 30. It was a strong collaborative process which now provides our students with 30 minutes of independent, choice reading during each school day. However, the legacy needed to continue beyond our school.

The next step to the legacy project had to expand to our feeder elementary schools to include rising 6th graders entering the middle school in the fall. Before attending middle school, these pre-teens needed the opportunity to visit their soon-to-be middle school, meet me, and learn about our library and our literacy program so that they felt empowered as new middle schoolers. Our library is the heart of the school, and true student voice and leadership are practiced in all areas including the purchase of new books, makerspace programs, and reading promotions and contests. The library is also filled with technology resources and rich databases for student academics. The second part of my legacy project was building “Bridges to Books” for our new students. 

This summer, the “Bridges to Books” program was facilitated in July, two weeks prior to the start of the new school year. All rising 6th graders were invited to attend, and the final attendance reached over one hundred students. As part of a community partnership to introduce our students to their library, collaboration was done with our public library and librarians to share the Cobb Library Pass. This free resource connects students with hundreds of digital books and several research databases. Students are also able to use their school student number to check books out from the public library. This partnership creates a strong presence of the importance of libraries, both school and public, for supporting student achievement and providing access to reading and research materials. 

Through the YALSA Dollar General Summer Reading Grant, paperback books were purchased, along with bookmarks, and a button maker which we use to create badges for reading achievement. Students also completed a makerspace project during the summer program and a scavenger hunt to locate books in their favorite genres and practiced checking out library books through the self-checkout system. 

Bridges to Books was a success, and when the students started school almost two weeks ago, students who attended were eager to say hello to me and began checking books out immediately during the first week of school. The library continues to be the heart of the school, and through this sustainable summer reading program, students will build a sense of pride for the library prior to beginning of each school year. It supports the transition into becoming a teen in the middle school by providing a safe environment, along with friendly and familiar faces. An additional bonus is the ability to showcase the importance of school libraries and certified school librarians as key educators in the academic and social emotional success of students. Through the summer reading program, I feel empowered to positively impact students before they begin a new school, so they will utilize library resources throughout their middle school years. 


Lori Quintana is a Library Media Specialist at Griffin Middle School in the Cobb County School District.

With my Summer Resources grant, I purchased video games for our teen room and supplies for a maker wall and cart. Here are some lessons I’ve learned from this process, and what I wish I had been telling myself (and my coworkers) at the beginning of the summer:

  1. It doesn’t take as much as you’d think.
    When I applied for the YALSA Summer Resources grant, I predicted that I’d need to spend half of my grant money on video games. I spent months polling teens and asking for feedback about what games we should buy. (They’re not allowed to play M-rated games at the library, so that limited their options.) I don’t know much about video games, but I imagined we’d need a ton of them for teens to feel like they had enough choices. I was wrong. The same titles came up over and over again. It didn’t take as much money or as many video games as I thought it would to give teens some solid choices.
  2. Stop worrying about things that haven’t happened (or, just fix them when they do happen and move on!).
    If you work with teens, you have probably heard these concerns from your coworkers:
    “They’re going to draw/write/make/say/do something inappropriate.” I have only removed one inappropriate drawing from our teen room all summer.
    “They’re going to make a mess.” Yeah, they will make a mess. Then they’ll clean it up. If they don’t, I will.
    “They’re going to think it’s dumb.” Probably not. If they do, we’ll change it.
    “They’re just going to steal that.” Most of our maker wall supplies have not walked away. Bigger ticket items are in a cart that I can move in and out of the teen room. But I think that leaving some supplies in the room at all times shows teens that you trust them, and building that trust is critical. And if they do steal some stickers or a ball of yarn—who cares? Maybe that item will occupy them on a long bus ride or make them smile before a test. Plus, adults steal pens and other supplies from our library all day long—I’m not going to worry about it if teens take stuff that I’m specifically leaving for them to use.
  3. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good (or even the good enough).

I know this—we all know this—but I still have to remind myself all the time. If I waited for the perfect space or the perfect day or the perfect idea, I’d never get anything done.  Especially with a project like this, it will change over time. I can always add supplies or project ideas later, but it was important to start with what I have!

A maker wall at East New Orleans Regional Library.

The “Maker Wall” at East New Orleans Regional Library.

Carolyn Vidmar is a Teen Services Librarian at East New Orleans Regional Library.

The theme for this year’s Teen Tech Week is “Libraries are for Creating,” and an important aspect of creativity is failure and the ability to embrace trying something new to see what happens. Programs based around improv games and experimenting with recording video can give teen and youth patrons an opportunity for low-risk creation. Read More →

At DML 2016 I went to a session on post-emergent library makerspaces. This session really dug into the challenges of maintaining a makerspace in a library overtime, looking past makerspaces and learning labs emergent phase. The session explored libraries that were part of a 1 year action research plan funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Below are challenges and solutions from three different libraries of thosedescribed in the session:

Anythink library created The Studio originally planned and staffed by the teen and the technology librarians but they have now moved on to other position. We don’t have the people to support the spaces. Professional artists had been working in the space but the turnover created communication breakdown between the artists and the library. The loss of the original staff also caused institutional knowledge gaps. It is a small library so there was very little written documentation. In order to keep The Studio going the library realized that all staff needed professional development training, not expert knowledge, just a basic understanding of the materials and the space: what is the tech, how to connect patrons to correct media, how to get in touch with artists-in-residence. To be successful the staff at The Studio recommend that you integrate your program into your institutional structure. Your makerspace can’t just be that shiny room in the corner, it needs to be framed as experiential learning for the patrons. No matter what staff member a patron talks to they should be able to give the gist of the program. They found that they needed to change recruiting and hiring of staff, that they need traditional librarians but also need other professionals with different skill sets. Creative professionals bring their network with them.

Read More →

Sheridan, K.M., Halverson, E.R., Litts, B., Brahms, L., Jacobs-Priebe, L. & Owns, T. (2014).  “Learning in the making: A Comparative study of three Makerspaces.”  Harvard Educational Review, 84, 4, p. 505-531.

A couple months back, I attended the IMLS Focus Convening on Learning in Libraries in Kansas City. While the actions of ideating, making, prototyping, and tinkering were clearly linked to learning, one of the emerging themes throughout the convening was the need to thematically classify the diversity of the intellectual activities that emerge within these growing learning environments in libraries. Sheridan and her colleagues extrapolate on the diversity of intellectual activities that take place in makerspaces (one type of learning environment hosted by many libraries) by conducting comparative case studies of three makerspaces: Sector67 in Wisconsin, Madison; Mount Elliott Makerspace in Detroit, Michigan; and Makeshop at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania.

Using purposeful sampling, Sheridan and her colleagues selected these three salient makerspace sites because they each have specific roles that they play in their communities. Sector67 was created by adult makers for other promising adult makers. The Mount Elliott makerspace was created to serve a community with limited resources, and Makeshop is a museum-based space that is open to all youth and families who visit the museum. The Mount Elliott and Makeshop makerspaces are most likely the closest to the maker environments found in libraries – sharing fairly similar purposes, target participants, media, disciplines, duration of projects, learning arrangements, and learning foci. Both these environments also support the fluid, sporadic, and deregulated “making” that takes places in teen makerspaces that many YALSA librarians host.

In their research, Sheridan and her colleagues found three major unifying themes in these three makerspaces that appear to be distinctive. First, these makerspaces bring together disciplines that are traditionally separate (i.e. computing happens in the same space as welding and sewing happens together with electronics), which is quintessential of an authentic STEAM learning environment.  Disciplinary boundaries are broken down, seamlessly facilitating the creation of novel work using various tools, materials, and practices. “This blending of traditional and digital skills, arts and engineering creates a learning environment in which there are multiple entry points to participation and leads to innovative combinations, juxtapositions, and uses of disciplinary knowledge and skill…” (Sheridan et al., 2014, 526-527).  Secondly, these makerspaces are a hybrid of formal learning practices (such as demonstrations, workshops, etc.) and informal learning practices (such as thinking, doing, and valuing), allowing makers to select which learning arrangements fit their style, the duration of time to spend on tasks, and pursuing ideas that can be impromptu or meticulously-planned. Lastly, each of these spaces value the processes involved in making (i.e. tinkering, playing, prototyping, etc.) and do not stress having end products that must work. These environments embrace failures, and use these failures as a springboard for the generation of the next set of ideas. The observations that Sheridan and her colleagues conducted found that makers sometimes initiate projects that do not come to fruition. However, as is often the case, remarkable and useful artifacts emerge in these making environments.

This research helps to illuminate the wide range of making practices and the types of learning that it supports. Makerspaces are community-driven and support connected learning practices, intergenerational learning, and participatory culture – making it a utopian learning environment for teens. As teen librarians initiate or expand their makerspaces to serve the needs of teens and their communities, it is essential that teen librarians find avenues to further develop or enrich these themes in their makerspaces.

Mega Subramaniam is an associate professor at the College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland where she researches the diverse role that libraries can play in STEM and digital literacy learning among underserved young adults.


By Kelly Czarnecki and Marie Harris

In the fall of 2014 our library in Charlotte, NC applied for a grant with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to fund Idea Box, a Makerspace in our downtown location. The funding was to be used for equipment as well as consultation to help meet our goals:

• Generate new energy around this lifelong learning center
• Attract new users; especially those ages 19-34
• Be a place where anyone can bring their ideas to life
• Build partnerships/collaborations with the local maker community
• Create a prototype space within the library that can be refined and expanded on with testing and use

Aubrey As the generous funding that was received did not cover staffing, administration appointed two existing staff as project leads whose task it was to have the space open and operable by January 2015. They in turn went through the process of establishing a dedicated Makerspace (now called Idea Box) team that would focus on developing policies for the space, programming, and focusing on bringing our target audience through our doors. Fortunately, our organization has over seven years of experience in a similar space at one of our branches for youth where film and music creation and editing has been a part of how teens are served, and we had a staff of many talents to choose from.

While the staff were unexperienced as trained Makers, they were definitely enthusiastic and brought with them experience in everything from film making to graphic design. Once the team of ten was established through an online application process that asked questions related to their experience with the kinds of activities and technologies the space would have, the task of how to get everyone on board with knowing how the major equipment works was going to be the next step in the process. Did the secret lie in an Arduino code that you can plug the library employee into? Or do you start from scratch and prototype a librarian Maker in Inkscape (a free software design program) to cut out on the laser cutter? Read More →

When my supervisor set me the task of planning and developing a makerspace for our library, panic set in immediately. I am a school librarian at a relatively well-known independent school in New England. While my school has successfully turned out students with the ability to think and create creatively and critically for decades, it is sometimes slow to adopt major innovations. And why should it? Why mess with a formula that works? Myself and my fellow librarians know the formula provides a sound foundation for our students’ learning; however, we think it is time to replace the roof and the windows (so to speak).

I began with the research, of course. I put together a Google Doc of all the major articles and blog posts I could find about makerspaces in libraries, and specifically school libraries. I re-visited Buffy Hamilton’s fantastic series of posts on the topic, which led me down the rabbit hole to a wealth of resources I am still shifting through. My panic quickly turned to excitement as I encountered idea after idea, happily looking through programs for high school and middle school students (we serve grades 7-12). I am in the middle of distilling the research and ideas down to a single page document that will convey the goal and purpose of a makerspace in my school library. Although I have had conversations with my supervisor and a couple of teachers, we have yet to approach our tech department or administrators. When we do reach that stage, I don’t want to present something overly complex (especially since makerspaces change and adapt so quickly), and would rather distribute a “facts and goals sheet” that gets to the point quickly.

I firmly believe that it is best to see something in action whenever possible. My supervisor is planning a visit to one of our peer schools to see how they designed their makerspace and how it is being incorporated into the school’s curriculum. The latter is our biggest concern – design and equipment is the exciting part – and we only have a few leads so far. Right now, our firmest plan is supporting and hosting the Hour of Code during National CS EdWeek from December 7 – 13. We also feel confident that we can reasonably convince our 7th and 8th grade Science teachers to incorporate maker projects into their curriculum, as it is already hands-on and full of projects. The final lead is an English teacher who hopes to make writing for the online sphere a core component of her writing-based 11th grade course. While this will not use “maker” equipment, we feel this project could fuse collaboration and creativity and be considered a maker-like course unit.

At this time, everything feels thready and disconnected. I am having a hard time visualizing the future of our makerspace and how it can meaningfully impact the curriculum at my school. For better or for worse, independent schools do not align with common core standards and curriculum development is not nearly as structured between departments and throughout grades. This feature of my school is simultaneously freeing and frustrating – how can we garner collaborative support when there is no standard or requirement that students learn these skills? Is this better, as we can experiment and shrug off failure more easily? Will we even find teachers interested enough to experiment? Will students want to film their stop-motion animation videos in front of our planned green screen, or would they rather retreat to the familiar (yet ill-equipped) media lab in the arts department?

Does your school library have a makerspace? What was the most frustrating part of your planning and implementation? What was the most exciting part? How would you measure your meaningful impact in your school community? Please respond in the comments below!

Back in October 2014, I wrote about a report entitled: “America After 3 PM.” The Afterschool Alliance was writing about how students spend their time after school. In it, I raised the point of libraries as hubs for after-school activities, a free spot for teens to come if they don’t have the resources or access to other after-school programs. At the end of January, Alia Wong from Atlantic wrote an article called “The Activity Gap,” which discusses the access issues students from various socio-economic classes face with participating in after-school and extracurricular programs.

Wong begins the article by comparing two different students, Ethan and Nicole, whose family backgrounds contribute to two different lifestyles and life paths. While their names have been changed, these two students do exist and were case studies in a study published in Voices of Urban Education. This national study was conducted by Brown University’s Annenberg Institute of School Reform.

Read More →

3D Systems, in collaboration with YALSA, is committed to expanding young people’s access to 21st century tools like 3D design, 3D scanning and 3D printing.’  The MakerLab Club is a brand new community of thousands of U.S. libraries and museums committed to advancing 3D digital literacy via dedicated equipment, staff training and increased public access.

3D Systems will provide new 3D printers to qualified libraries and museums across the country.’  Recipients will be selected via an application process and are expected to join the MakerLab Club as well as provide access to 3D printing and design programs and services for their communities.’  Libraries can apply via an online application now until November 17th, 2014. Printers will be allocated on a competitive basis.

Membership in the MakerLab Club is available to libraries committed to creating or expanding makerlabs and/or making activities and to providing community access to 3D printers and digital design.

Libraries can receive up to four Cube 3D printers, as well as regular access to workshop curricula and content via webinars. Libraries will also receive exclusive equipment discounts and opportunities to win free hardware and software. In addition to resources and training library staff can join and participate in communities of practice in order to exchange ideas and best practices.

Learn more about making in libraries via the resources on YALSA’s wiki, including a free webinar and downloadable toolkit.’  And be sure to mark your calendar for March 8 – 14, 2015 when we celebrate Teen Tech Week with the theme “Libraries are for Making ____________.”

For more information about the printers, please contact Neal Orringer at