A Library AND a Makerspace

Screen Shot 2016-03-13 at 10.59.17 PM.png

Recently I read an article discussing how libraries are converting to makerspaces. I found this wording dangerous because I love libraries and my library is not just a makerspace. My library is still a library. Yes, we are a learning commons, yes we have a makerspace, but at our core, we are still a library.

Our makerspace is an extension of our library and really a “makerspace” is more of a mindset and philosophy we have towards learning. The makerspace is just one slice of our library pie. We house our maker materials in the library because it is the one place students have access to at any point in the school day.


The main goal of my library makerspace is to support and promote literacy. Those literacies include traditional literacies like reading, writing, and research. But also include supporting students in digital literacy, coding literacy, and invention literacy.  However, our main goal is still to get kids to love books and reading. I see the makerspace as an extension of that. When students start inventing and creating, they often need to refer back to research, other projects, etc.  So I keep maker- focused books close to our tinkering tables. I’m happy to report that our overall circulation is up 130%! 


Another pertinent goal for our library is to be a place of support for students and staff. One way we do that is to be a safe place for our students. Every day, around 200-250 students come to the library to read, study, and use our computers. In this ever changing world, the kids still need a place where they know it is safe to pick up a book and learn. They need a place where they feel comfortable to study and learn from one another. Our students here at Ryan are lucky. They have a large commons area just down the stairs from the library where they can commune and eat lunch.  Plus, we let students eat lunch in our library as well. Many of our students visit the library and enjoy our space, and we find that most students who frequent the library are busy, busy, busy little bees -working, studying, and making. One of the things I love most about my library, is that we have kids here studying all of the time. The other day, a student asked me for help with a math problem and another student jumped up quickly and offered her expertise. (Whew! Showing off my inequities in math adverted!)

I’ve logged over 60 hours of planning with teachers and that doesn’t include “fly-by” planning where teachers drop in and we have a quick impromptu planning session.  I love helping teachers integrate technology and hope to get more teachers involved in making next school year!

Quiet Spaces

Some kids come to our library just to read! Yes! That still happens! We have many readers here at Ryan High School. Students grew their love of reading in elementary and middle school because they had excellent librarians and reading teachers that planted this important seed.  AND THEY STILL LOVE TO READ! Because of this, we have a quiet reading spot in the back of our library, located by our gorgeous windows. Students know that they need to collaborate in other areas and that these comfy chairs are just for chilling and reading.

Makerspace Instruction

You’ll notice in the infographic at the bottom of this post that specific makerspace instruction only makes up about 13% of scheduled library time. This 13% includes guided workshops and specific makerspace projects. Outside of this scheduled time, students are welcome to use the makerspace at anytime in the school day and they often do. It’s harder to track this and give it a specific number since the students sometimes come in for one reason and end up staying to tinker in the makerspace.

The Tapestry


I love this metaphor I read this week during #SXSWedu in relation to making. Many teachers and librarians can see threads, but just what is the tapestry of the library makerspace?

For me, it’s a buzzing hub of activity. It’s a space where kids come to:

  • Read
    • We still love books and reading is the most important literacy.  Every library needs a space for readers. Mine is located in the back of the library, away from collaborative areas, but still visible from the circulation desk.
  • Learn
    • We have research classes all the time. My goal for next year is to integrate more making into core classes and to help different core subjects teach with the
      Invent to Learn” method of hands-on learning.
  • Make
    • I was highly influenced by teen spaces like Youmedia in the Chicago Public Library. This type of space focuses on a method that understands kids don’t always realize they want to make stuff. Instead, the space is designed for “hanging out, messing around, and geeking out.” I have students that purposely use our makerspace everyday, but I have many others that stumble upon making. Some come in just to hang out, and then end up tinkering and messing around on our audio editing software and figuring out how to use our Novation midis. Others walk in to have lunch and see a soldering workshop and an empty seat and decide to sit down and learn a new skill. While others walk in to renew a book and notice our new 3D printer and ask how it works and how they can use it. Then they come back to learn about 3D Modeling. This is one of my favorite aspects of the library makerspace. It entices students to come back to the library. Plus, it gives EVERY student a reason to come to the library.
  • Study or Complete Assignments
    • Our library is still a place where students come to study. About 20% of the students that come in say they are here just to study! They love to spread out in our classroom areas and work collaboratively or even tutor one another.  Another 30% of our drop-in students come in to use our computers and complete assignments.
  • Research
    • 71% of our scheduled hours are designated to research. I’m happy to collaborate with English teachers and teach our students how to use our databases and research with books. While more and more students use databases, some of our students still prefer using books.

So how does it all come together in a school day? Luckily for me I have a very large space. Our computers are in the front of the library near the circulation desk. We showcase our new books in what used to be periodical shelving to the left of the circ desk. The students eat lunch here as well and at our new cafe tables. Which means our students eat lunch surrounded by books. Sounds pretty great, right?

Our makerspace stuff is getting organized as we speak (be on the look out for an upcoming post!), and we have some tinkering height tables to the right of our circ desk and in front of my office. Our littleBits are housed in a large cabinet by these tables and a student project shelf is also located here. Plus, as mentioned earlier, I have maker books faced out by these tables as well. It’s the best way to get my new coding and Minecraft books checked out.

I’m lucky to have two classroom areas that are separated from the front sections of the library by book shelves. This makes it easy for me to teach research classes even though other students are having lunch in the library, taking stuff apart at our tinkering tables, taking a reading break, or studying collaboratively. For more info on our spaces, see this visual progress post.


I decided to track just how students have been using the library each month and whipped up this interactive infographic over at Piktochart.


ryan-library-stats-aug-march (1)

View the interactive infographic over at Piktochart.


12 thoughts on “A Library AND a Makerspace

  1. I was recently referred to your blog by a co-worker and I am really loving all that you are doing. I’m wondering if you have any elementary peers who are also whipping up a little maker magic for the littles? I’m also interested in how your teachers are using google classroom. Perhaps a future post in the making?


  2. Pingback: Why I still love the words LIBRARY & LIBRARIAN | Renovated Learning

  3. Pingback: Las bibliotecas y los makerspaces | Universo Abierto

  4. Pingback: It’s Not Either/Or | A Life in Libraries

  5. Pingback: #CapMakerFaire – Advocating for Library Makerspaces | Create, Collaborate, Innovate

  6. Pingback: Design Thinking & littleBits™ Projects

  7. Pingback: 3 Myths About Libraries, Makerspaces And Books | Renovated Learning

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s