Why Add a Makerspace to a Library Learning Commons?

Source: U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Jeremy Garcia, Overstreet Memorial Library at Misawa Air Base, Japan (2018)

What is a Makerspace?

Collaborative, communal spaces which encourage creativity, problem-solving, inventing, with DIY projects, collaborative projects, cross-curricular projects, etc. A makerspace uses resources like hardware (MaKey MaKey, Raspberry Pi, Arduino, and other open-source microcontrollers, 3D printers, vinyl/paper cutters), software (free/open-source options available for most projects), electronics, craft and hardware supplies, etc. to enable students to create.

Source: produced by Explee: http://explee.com

Why is a Makerspace Important for Students?

Help students identify as makers. Help them be curious. Help them develop resilience.

“Makers are people who make things rather than simply use them. They apply digital and manual skills to solve problems and create items that address their needs. Makers are problem solvers, idea dreamers; they tinker, hack, and customize products and materials to better serve them. Makers live out lifelong learning. They see a problem, something that isn’t working for them, and they research ways to solve the problem and experiment, pushing the limits until they are satisfied.”

Ana Canino-Fluit (2014).

Goals for a Library Learning Commons Makerspace:

  • focus on rich, inquiry-based projects that build a number of skills (creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, communication, leadership, social skills, etc.)
  • collaborate between departments (Tech/ Science/ Family Studies/ Arts/ Media Studies are obvious places to start, but any subject area can be engaged)
  • engage users in the design process; students will understand how “failure” is a normal part of the process of creation and problem-solving
  • engage the wider community in projects and in fundraising –>students could work to solve problems in their own communities, including how to fundraise for their makerspace
  • engage different groups of learners in the LLC, ensuring it is open to everyone; this space allows students to participate in activities they may not be able to access at home or in other classes
  • pair literacy / reading programs with hands on activities to promote literacy (transliteracy)
  • find funding opportunities for STEM/STEAM programs (Ontario government seems keen on this; current literacy/reading projects can be adapted to take advantage of new/ reallocated funding)
  • collaboratively & clearly establish purpose, expectations (staff, students, community members)
  • strike a balance between single user tools/resources and those that support collaborative projects

What are some of the Challenges of a Makerspace?

  • ensure that positive collaboration exists between departments to ensure that people feel valued and involved rather than imposing on their “turf” (teachers can feel territorial about their curriculum and subject areas)
  • some staff or community members will feel that it’s not appropriate for a library (want an older model of a library as a quiet space for reading)
  • costs for new tools or materials can be prohibitive for some school budgets; schools may need to look for new sources of funding or engage in new fundraising
  • things will be wasted, broken, or misused; need to take steps to minimize this
  • need to build clubs and sustainable, ongoing projects with teachers so that the tools are being used (i.e.. after the initial novelty wears off)

How Can You Start a Makerspace?

  • start with a kit or feature an activity; most central school/board libraries now have these available
  • think of problems to solve and then work towards a solution
  • find “experts” to support the learning (people willing to help instruct/ guide/ supervise); invite teachers interested in inquiry and creating
  • ask students what they want to see in a creative makerspace; provide them with the resources they want:

“By providing students space and resources and inviting them to experiment, we can empower them to think of themselves as something other than consumers. Every project you teach and every resource you present should encourage your students to make autonomous decisions and build independence.”

Ana Canino-Fluit (2014).

Finally, see what others are doing: check out Sylvia Martinez and Gary Stager’s Ultimate Guide to Using the Maker Movement in Education or A Librarian’s Guide to Makerspaces: 16 Resources or the Ultimate Makerspace Resource Guide for ideas, resources, and links.

Want to see My Dream Makerspace?

Check out this Google slidedeck of my dream makerspace presentation for my high school, Erin District High School. I’d love your feedback!

What is your best tip for creating a makerspace in a school library learning commons? Leave a comment!


Canini-Fluit, Ana. (2014). “School Library Makerspaces.” Teacher Librarian 41 (5): 21–27. http://search.ebscohost.com.proxy.queensu.ca/login.aspxdirect=true&db=eue&AN=96678450&site=ehost-live

Fontichiaro, K. (2016). “Sustaining a makerspace.” Teacher Librarian, 43, 39-41. Retrieved from https://proxy.queensu.ca/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.proxy.queensu.ca/docview/1774309533?accountid=6180

Lamb, A. (2016). “Makerspaces and the school library, part 2: Collaborations and connections.” Teacher Librarian, 43, 56-60,63. Retrieved from https://proxy.queensu.ca/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.proxy.queensu.ca/docview/1774309546?accountid=6180

Lankau, Louise. (2015). “Connection + Collaboration = SUCCESSFUL INTEGRATION OF TECHNOLOGY IN A LARGE HIGH SCHOOL.” Knowledge Quest 44, no. 2 (November 2015): 66–73. http://search.ebscohost.com.proxy.queensu.ca/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eue&AN=110493163&site=ehost-live.

Martinez, Sylvia L. and Stager, Gary S. (2013). “The Ultimate Guide to Using the Maker Movement in Education.” WeAreTeachers. Retrieved 25 April 2020, from https://www.weareteachers.com/making-matters-how-the-maker-movement-is-transforming-education/

Ontario School Library Association (2020). Together for Learning: School Libraries and the Emergence of the Learning Commons. Retrieved 19 July 2020, from http://www.togetherforlearning.ca/implementation/physical-and-virtual-space/

Open Education Database. (2013). “A Librarian’s Guide to Makerspaces: 16 Resources” OEDB.org. Retrieved 25 April 2020, from https://oedb.org/ilibrarian/a-librarians-guide-to-makerspaces/ 

Rendina, Diana L. (2020). “Makerspace Resources.”  Renovated Learning. Retrieved 25 April 2020, from http://www.renovatedlearning.com/makerspace-resources/ 

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