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Why Have Makerspaces in Libraries?

There are many reasons why libraries are great locations for organising makerspaces. In this article, we’ll explore the advantages that libraries have and hear from library staff in Sheffield, Barnsley and South Shields about their experiences.
A child in a library
© The University of Sheffield

There are many reasons why libraries are great locations for organising makerspaces. In this article, we’ll explore the advantages that libraries have and hear from library staff in Sheffield, Barnsley and South Shields about their experiences.

Why Have a Makerspace in a Library?

1. Libraries are great community spaces

This means a more diverse group of people may access the makerspace than in other kinds of spaces.

2. Libraries can be more relaxing than schools

Makerspaces in libraries may be more relaxing spaces than makerspaces in schools, even if they are held outside of the school day.

3. People of all ages use libraries

This intergenerational nature of library makerspaces can lead to really fruitful learning across and within generations.

4. Makerspaces in libraries may be attended by all family members

This makes the event a great family day out (this is also possible in museums and other community spaces).

5. Makerspaces in libraries can attract new visitors

Holding makerspaces in libraries may lead to people joining the library who may not otherwise have done so.

MakEY in Libraries

In 2018, the MakEY team developed a ‘MakEY in Libraries’ project. This involved working with libraries in three different local authorities – Barnsley, Sheffield and South Shields.

In each of the authorities, makerspaces were organised in libraries that enabled children and family members to make, tinker and hack using a wide range of materials.

The makerspaces were very popular and involved over 400 children and their parents, grandparents and siblings.

Library staff who were interviewed after the workshops felt that makerspaces related well to the ethos of libraries:

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In addition, the events brought new visitors into the libraries:

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One librarian commented that the opportunities for STEM learning were a positive feature of the makerspaces in comparison with the other types of activities offered in the library:

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Challenges of Makerspaces in Libraries

Inevitably there were some challenges for the libraries. Space was the most pressing challenge, as one librarian noted:

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In these cases, organising pop-up makerspaces is the only possible option, and that was found to be feasible in the ‘MakEY in Libraries’ project.

Staff confidence in running maker activities was also a challenge, in addition to being able to afford resources in challenging economic contexts.

However, numerous libraries have met these challenges by applying for project-funding, fundraising for resources and liaising with local makers who are willing to come and share their skills and knowledge.

The authorities involved in this project were very enthusiastic about continuing the work, with one team member suggesting that by creating the ‘MakEY in Libraries’ “you might have unleashed a monster…!”

© The University of Sheffield
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