MakerSpace: How do you evaluate this new service?
Although many libraries have had Maker Spaces for a while now and are doing them quite successfully, our Teen MakerSpace is new to us at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County (OH). What we wanted (and needed) was to create a way to keep track of who is using the space when and what they are doing in the space. There is tremendous value to input and feedback and statistics, especially when you are creating a new space or service. We want the information we need to know what’s working and what isn’t; And since this is a teen space, we want a way to be responsive to teens. Now that we have this new space, we need a way to evaluate it.
One way to do this is to have a suggestion box in the space, which we are working on. However, we learn a lot just by working with our teens in the space and listening to them. Very early on one of our regular teens suggested having a Rubik’s Cube in the space. We now have two and we are exited to see the teens play with them every day. And because we listened, the teens feel respected and valued. So we wanted to expand on this and include it in our evaluation tools.
I am lucky in that I was able to hire two part-time assistants to work in the space with me. This means that I’m not always in the space. This also means that as the coordinator of YA services who really wants to be responsive to teens, communication between the three of us is vitally important. So I put together a daily form for my staff to fill out to help keep those lines of communication open. It also helps me keep track of statistics and other information that my administration wants. And every once in a while we get a great quote for PR purposes. You can see a first draft of the daily report here: Teen MakerSpace Daily Report PDF. We are currently on our third draft of the Teen MakerSpace Daily Report, which I discuss in more detail down below. After using the form for a few weeks, we realized we weren’t getting the types of information we needed and went back to the drawing board. We are pretty satisfied with our current version, but that doesn’t mean our information needs won’t change in the future.
I have also asked staff to take photos of teens using the space and the projects that they create. Again, these are good things to have for PR purposes. In fact, we are working on getting mounted monitors in the space where we can scroll through pictures of teens using the space and their creations. The other day a teen came in and made a minion using the 3D pen; this is such a great thing to share with your staff and community so that they can see teens learning and engaging in the space. Many of the teens leave their 3D creations behind as part of our ongoing gallery.
Some of the information we want to track in our daily reports is:
Total Number of Teens Visiting the Teen MakerSpace
We keep a daily count of how many unique teens visit our Teen MakerSpace per day. For example, we know that roughly 250 teens visited the TMS in March, which was our first fully operational and fully staffed month. We also know that as of April 15th we had around 150 teen visits, which means we are on track to have more teen visits in April then we did in March. We have had many teens come in telling us that they heard about the space from a friend, so we also know that word of mouth is helping us grow and that we have had a positive response to the space.
Teen Visits by Hour
Because our space is staffed during certain hours, particularly during the after school hours and on weekends, we keep track of hourly visits to help us determine our staffing needs. We aren’t really sure what to expect for the summer when the teens are out of school, but we still don’t anticipate a big rush at 9:00 AM when the library opens because teens tend to sleep in. By the data we are currently collecting will help us better understand our staffing needs, particularly as we develop a schedule for the 2016/2017 school year.
What Activities/Stations are Teens Best Responding To
We have a variety of activities and stations that teens can choose to participate in so keeping track of what teens are doing in the space helps us investigate and develop new ideas for the future. We know that teens are currently most interested in making buttons, the 3D pen, stop motion animation, coloring and the small robots. We also know that we aren’t doing a very good job of promoting our learn to code resources or that our teens don’t have a huge interest in that at the moment. However, we weren’t having a lot of use of our LittleBits or Lego stations but when we made “Challenge Cards” helping challenging teens to do specific activities, we found that they were more likely to use these items.
— TeenLibrarianToolbox (@TLT16) April 13, 2016
What Kind of Feedback Are We Getting
We also track feedback by writing down teen comments and suggestions for future ideas. Many of the suggestions we have had from teens have been to add more craft supplies, which has been interesting considering that we planned the space to be a tech space with a few more traditional activities. I believe this demonstrates a couple of things, one of which is that our teens aren’t necessarily aware of the types of technology and technology based activities that are out there so they don’t know to ask for it, which demonstrates the further need to keep introducing our teens to new technology. It also demonstrates that teens do, in fact, have a desire to engage in more traditional crafting type activities as well as engaging in new technology. When we planned our space we purposefully set out to include both and that has proven to be exactly what the teens needed and wanted.
Putting All the Information Together
My intention is that at the end of every quarter I will put together a report that highlights our statistics and shows pictures of teens using the space. This will help us all to visualize the overwhelming success of the Teen MakerSpace, especially to staff and admin who may not spend much time in the space.
What do you do to evaluate your Maker Space and communicate success to your staff, admin and community?
The Measure of Program Success?
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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