Building a Making Community

Ever since I first heard about 3D printers in libraries, I have toyed with the idea of introducing one to our library. I am not often on the cutting edge side of things; I find out it’s a famous author’s birth or death date at 3pm on the day, too late to make any mention of it. I don’t hear about best sellers until my patrons come searching for them. In fact, I feel I have only ever been ahead of the curve one time in my library: when I worked to convince my director of the potential for our library to circulate WIFI hotspots. To be fair, I learned about it from an NPR article, so I was probably riding the wave rather than being ahead of it.

So, I never put much stock into the idea of obtaining a 3D printer. Not only do I not know how they work and it would make a tough sell, we simply don’t have the physical space to house a printer. Sure, we could move one of our laptop computers, but where would the supplies be kept? How much space do you need around the printer? Where would people design their projects? The ideas kept turning with no answers. Naturally, as I began to hear the rumble of the maker-space movement, I dismissed the idea for the same reasons.

That is until a community member began talking a few weeks ago with me about her desire for a space in our community for a maker-space. We talked, ideas flowed, and because of the timing of the universe, it coincided perfectly with this class that was helping me begin to explore makerspaces as fluid and endless in their possibilities. It started to seem more than possible.

Since beginning this endeavor, I have sought to gain as much information about how a maker-space runs and what projects and challenges can be explored during meeting times. I have collected as many websites and tools and as much knowledge as I could get my hands on to ensure success. Fortunately for me, being behind the curve on this has allowed me to learn from others and to use other’s examples as guidelines for what a makerspace is and how it looks and works in a community/library.

Makerspaces are a way to engage teens in the community with the library in a non-traditional way. Some libraries, like the Boston Public Library, are engaging teens by providing them with workshops that cater specifically to their interests, such as learning about hip-hop beats and teaching them how to use Soundcloud to host their work.

It all makes sense! Libraries are places where people should go to gain new knowledge and information. Despite their history of being all about books, knowledge, and information come in so many different forms, it would be a shame to ignore any important aspect of learning. To this point, one of our most popular programs this past winter (the quietest time of year for our library), packing people into the room and spilling out into the foyer, was a man who came to discuss stone wall building. Many of the questions afterward were centered on tips for people to repair their stone walls at their homes.

People want to know how to do things for themselves. DIYing has always been important for people looking to fix things themselves rather than to pay someone money to do it for them. The internet reflects this with popular sites like Pinterest and Instructables. But there are also a lot of examples of failures from online instructions because people inevitably have issues learning how to do something from still shots and written instructions. I, for one, learn much faster if someone is showing me how to complete a task, and I can see it happening in 3D and real time. Makerspaces are like the real-world application of these online DIY projects.

(Don’t Flood the Fidgits! PDSKids.org)

But makerspaces go a step further, as well. They not only challenge you to design and create; they challenge you to consider implementing skills and knowledge to create solutions to problems. In fact, PBS Kids has a website with a game that challenges players to create a town that can withstand heavy rains and avoid damage from flooding. This challenges players to consider real world applications to city planning and architectural design of buildings, roads, and cities.

Makerspaces are also a great way to engage community members with skills to lead workshops and classes in capacities they may not have considered doing at the library in the past. Our makerspace is going to necessarily depend on the collaboration with local townspeople who have skills and knowledge about a lot of things that the librarians and organizers do not have. Some of my current patrons work as high-school science teachers, construction workers, engineers, and architectures. Additionally, people who are non-users but have skills could find themselves as new users. Through conversation around these projects, we have learned of a high school student who built his own 3D printer that may be willing to run workshops.

We created this survey that we’re trying to get into the hands of all townspeople who may have children/youth interested in participating in a makerspace, people with skills, and anyone who wishes to be a part of this journey. We’re hoping that in the next couple months we will be able to host an inquiry night for interested parties and get started on hosting our first meeting in the space. 

To me, the power of a makerspace is that it engages so many people. Yes, a single librarian can run a makerspace and it can be a success, but the possibilities are endless, and the program has even more of a chance of survival when multiple people come together to see it succeed. When multiple people have a vested interest in the space’s continuation, you’re sure to have a space that will exist and grow for years to come. Just maybe, this will be a story of the record books; the story of the town that came together to provide its young people with the knowledge and skills to build a better world.




Gonzalez, T. (2016). For internet to go, check the library. National Public Radio. Retrieved from: http://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2016/01/03/460962121/for-internet-to-go-check-the-library

Goodman, E. (2016). Brownell Library makerspace/club. [GoogleForms Survey]. Retrieved from: https://goo.gl/forms/xorStWXREsQ9Yvj42

Montgomery, B. (2016). Forget the mall. These days, teens go to library makerspaces. EdSurge News. Retrieved from: https://www.edsurge.com/news/2016-06-11-forget-the-mall-these-days-teens-go-to-library-makerspaces

PBS Kids. (2016). Don’t flood the fidgits! [Webgame]. Retrieved from: http://pbskids.org/designsquad/games/dont_flood/


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