Library Makerspaces: libraries are places to learn and create

Library Makerspaces: libraries are places to learn and create

by Erin Kinney, Senior Assistant, INALJ Wyoming


Erin-KinneyMakerspaces, also known as hackerspaces, hackspaces, or fablabs, are DIY creative spaces where people gather to invent, create, and learn.  As David Lankes said “imagine libraries are places to learn and create, not consume and check out.”

Library makerspaces have been around since the 19th century when in 1873 the Gowanda (NY) Ladies Social Society formed to knit, sew, quilt, socialize, and do book talks. In 1877, it became the Ladies Library Association, later receiving a state library charter as the Gowanda Free Library in 1900.  Makerspaces have developed out of DIY culture, but didn’t really take off until 2009 when it got a national push from President Obama who said “every child, a maker.”   MakerBot propelled it further when they came out with a 3D printer at a price accessible for small organizations and communities.

Today you may think of library makerspaces as places with 3D printers and laser cutters, but they go far beyond that to include video and music studios to woodworking to 3D modeling software to sewing machines to book printers to DSLR cameras.  Some libraries have rooms devoted to makerspaces, whereas others have mobile labs, where they can set up in a space and do a makerspace camp.  Either way, spots are in high demand, and reservations are recommended.

Want to get started but don’t think your library has the money to do a full blown makerspace program? Check out  Make It @yourlibrary™.  ALA partnered with Instructables to create Make It @yourlibrary™ which is a great source for all types of projects that you can limit by age, category, cost, and time of the project.

Want inspiration? Check out these library makerspaces:

Johnson County Library (KS)
Located in the Central Resource Library, you can learn new skills (like sewing or soldering) and software (like 3-D modeling or music recording).  They also have video and audio equipment and software, 3D modeling software, coding software (XCode and Python) and design software.

Pikes Peak Library District (CO)
They have two makerspaces—Make which is intended for creative projects that do not require hand or power tools, and Make II which is intended for fabrication projects that require hand or power tools, emit fumes, or use advanced machinery.

Cleveland Public Library (OH)
The TechCentral  MakerSpace has a laser engraving and cutting machine, 3D printer and scanner, a vinyl cutting machine, photography, videography, and graphics design, as well as music recording and production.

Edmonton Public Library (AB)
Equipment such as 3D Printers, Espresso Book Machine, creative workstations (PCs & Macs), digital conversion hardware, gaming consoles, and a green screen are all available to use.

Anythink  Studio (CO)
The Studio at Anythink Wright Farms is a digital learning lab where teens can hang out, mess around and geek out (HoMaGo) with the latest in digital technology including video, audio, graphic design and interactive gaming creation software.  The Studio at Anythink Brighton has a Makerbot 3D printer, DSLR cameras, sewing machines and supplies for DIY and textile crafts.

Fayetteville Free Library (NY)
FFL has three distinct makerspaces: the FFL Fab Lab, the fabrication space which contains 3D printers, laser and vinyl cutters, jewelry making tools, knitting and crochet kits and more; FFL Creation Lab, the digital creation space that contains a green screen wall, Adobe Create Suite, video cameras and more; and Little Makerspace for ages 5-8 that has Goldiebox, Roominate, Bionic Biocs, Legos, K’nex, and more.

Middletown Free Library (PA)
Located in Media, PA, a town of 5,340 persons, has CreateSpace  which is a place for kids, teens and adults to get creative, explore, learn and make things whether it’s physical objects, short films, or recorded audio.

New Brunswick Free Public Library (NJ)
The library created a Handcrafting Makerspace. The goal is to provide access to materials and equipment used in both handcrafting and traditional methods of creation, including sewing machines, printing with transfer paper, button making, knitting, and small looms.

Further reading & research:

Burke, John. Makerspaces: A Practical Guide for Librarians. 2014.
More of John Burke’s research

Makerspace Pinterest boards


About the Author

Erin Kinney graduated from Florida State University with her MLIS.  Erin is a past president and webmaster of the Wyoming Library Association. Her professional interests include digitization and providing access to rare materials. Erin’s hobbies include photography, knitting, and gardening. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.