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THE PIPELINE: Makerspaces in Libraries, Education, and Beyond

By Stephen Abram - Posted Mar 1, 2013
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What do the arts, literature, cooking, 3D printing, LEGO, libraries, and education have to do with each other? They can all be supported and encouraged by makerspaces aligned with library collections, programs, and services.

Makerspaces are very hot right now. They evolved from hackerspaces, and, as with any innovation, we can find a marvelous range of applications to education and libraries with a simple Google search. Indeed, we have dozens of examples in libraries, with leadership from Fayetteville Free Library’s Fab Lab in New York state, Chicago Public Library’s YOUmedia, or the makerspace at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. School library initiatives, such as the Lighthouse Charter School, are just starting, and they also include some innovative partnerships with public libraries.

The early-stage imagination and creativity of the maker movement makes exact definition of a “makerspace” difficult. So far the emphasis has been on creating, usually with some kind of technology. STEM education (science, technology, engineering, and math) is a very logical first step in prioritizing activities for experimentation and development, but makerspaces can also support creative work such as cooking, writing, filming, art, hobbies, and sculpture. Indeed, most libraries already have collections aligned with these activities. The New Jersey Makerspace Association defines them as follows:

Makerspaces (also known as Hackerspaces, Creative Spaces, Fab Labs, Make­ labs and in California—Makerhoods), ac­ cord­ ing to Wikipedia, are open community labs where members with common interests (e.g., engineering, computer programming, [gaming,] in­ venting, graphic design, etc.) gather to share re­ sources, knowledge, career networking and build new devices. Gen­ erally, makerspaces are design­ ed to meet the following needs:

• Provide access to a wide variety of tools and technology;

• Facilitate group interaction, knowledge, and re­ source sharing;

• Supply access to physical space for individual project development;

•an open environment for expression of creativity and innovation;

• Access to equipment for prototyping project ideas for companies.


I like the mission: “Building a resource for Educators and Makers working to inspire young people to make projects in art, craft, engineering, green design, math, music, science, technology, and more.” has also tracked some research studies on making and learning too (

Libraries are gathering, meeting, and collaborating in spaces within the context of shared community and shared learning resources, which aligns well with library collection, staff, and space strengths and competencies … and with the makerspace concept. It is perfectly aligned with the library’s role in neighborhood and educational settings. Adding makerspace tools such as software and 3D printers is really a transformational and incremental activity to library programs as an extension of traditional activities rather than a whole new service niche. And the opportunity to inspire young learners and creators is amazing.

New Makers’ Tools


This article is available in its entirety in a variety of formats — Preview (free), Full Text, Text+Graphics, and Page Image PDF — on a pay-to-view basis, courtesy of ITI's InfoCentral. CLICK HERE.

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