No room for a Makerspace? Try circulating tech tools
I work in a beautiful stone building with historic significance, much beloved in the community. But, like anyone who works in an older building will tell you, the beauty and ambiance come at a definite price: space, connectivity, and quirks. My library doesn’t have a Makerspace, and chances are, we won’t have one anytime in the near future. But just like we find workarounds for the sub-optimal placement of electrical outlets, we’ve found a workaround for this gap too.
Our circulating technology collection debuted at the beginning of the year, and while it’s always had some devoted fans, this summer has seen a big increase in its use. The collection, cataloged as “YA Tech Tools” allows teens (and others!) to check out an item and experiment with it at home for three weeks at a time. I’ve found that most items don’t stay out for the full checkout period. Kids play around with them, get excited about the possibilities, then return them to check out another tool!
What’s in the collection?
Initially I sought to include items that could be used in creative ways that embraced STEAM (yes, with the A for art) without any additional equipment. This meant items like:
- wooden figure models
- an Artograph projector
- Geomate geocaching GPS
- extra hands for small detail work
Then I added in items that can be used with computers or require a smartphone or tablet, like:
- Sphero robots
- Finch robots
- Scribbler II robots
- Edison robots
- Makey Makeys
- Green screen
- Wacomb drawing tablet
- a DJ Mixing table
- an audio mixing setup including a microphone
- a digital audio recorder
Each item circulates with an instruction sheet and a review sheet. The review asks brief questions and has given me some good ideas for how to improve the collection.
These items are stored in a locking cabinet on wheels that can be rolled into a program space when needed, or can sit in a section of the Teen Lounge at other times. I’d really love for the items to be out and touchable, but we just don’t have the staff coverage for that, so there’s a BIG sign at the case that tells people to ask for the cabinet to be unlocked whenever they want to play. A low table is positioned near the cabinet so that people can easily gather around and experiment together.
Are you in a library without a makerspace too? What are your workarounds and methods for feeding this important and growing way of interacting with information?
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About Heather Booth
Heather Booth has worked in libraries since 2001 and am the author of Serving Teens Through Reader’s Advisory (ALA Editions, 2007) and the editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Servcies along with Karen Jensen.
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