Demand for maker space centers in libraries and schools is growing like a rapidly expanding cloud of steam bursting from a teakettle. That's because hands-on learning for children is heating up after years of shop and art experiences being eliminated or downscaled in schools.
Maker space is a movement that encourages creativity and critical thinking through tinkering with materials and equipment ranging from simple to digitally complex. In fact, some maker spaces in libraries and schools are now being referred to as STEAM labs -- flexible areas for fun projects involving science, technology, engineering, art and math.
Adding STEAM to Learning
At Arizona State University, teams of middle and high school students build STEAM machines, such as Rube Goldberg chain reaction contraptions that complete simple tasks -- think of finding silly ways to screw in a light bulb -- and result in hilarity. Along the way, students learn the creative interplay of art and the sciences.
In Toronto, the MakerKids organization provides children with a studio space including a "Possibility Wall" full of bins from which they can choose materials ranging from crayons and glitter to motors and power drills for creating anything they can imagine.
As Toronto's The Globe and Mail reports, MakerKids is "remaking the way children learn and play." MakerKids offers classes on inventing that range from creating software for digital games to toy hacking -- redesigning playthings to give them new purposes. For example, one 7-year-old girl converted her stuffed bear into a remote-controlled teddy.
Following in the footsteps of Alberta's Edmondton Public Library and Ontario's Windsor Public Library, which already have maker spaces, the Ottawa Public Library is preparing to create a similar project called Imagine Space for all ages in spring 2014. The Ottawa program is a joint project with the U.S. Embassy, which is providing funding for equipment. The Globe and Mail quotes Ottawa Public Library CEO Danielle McDonald as saying that children are tired of traditional sit-and-listen science education. "They want to create," McDonald says.
Creating at the Library
Meanwhile, as Canadian libraries become increasingly interested in offering maker space programming, they're looking at innovative ways to provide it. For example, the London, Ontario, Public Library is getting rolling with DHMakerBus, a mobile maker space housed in an old school bus and staffed by Western University students.
Maker Mobile is a similar project that first took to the streets at the Vancouver Childrens' Festival in May 2013. Its projects for kids include pop bottle racers, LED wristbands that teach about simple circuitry and banana pianos.
For the use of librarians and educators worldwide, the American Library Association in October 2013 launched its Make It @ Your Library website in conjunction with Instructables.com, a company well known not only for its clear "how to" projects but also its sense of humor -- such as in its How to Ship a Tiger to Canada project. Users worldwide can access a library of ideas, both simple and complex, for maker space projects.
The Make It @ Your Library archive includes art projects, such as constructing a bowl from leaves and glue, as well as technological activities, including conversion of a smartphone into a film scanner and making laser-cut rocket models. Users can access the archived projects based on information such as project costs, age range and necessary tools.
Designing and Outfitting a Maker Space
Brainstorming with staff is one of the first steps to take when designing a library or school maker space. Edutopia notes that designing a maker space or STEAM lab that will accommodate a broad range of activities "is a challenging process."
Edutopia says the process begins by having staff members ask themselves questions such as:
- What subjects and kinds of projects must the space accommodate?
- What tools are most necessary?
- Who will use and manage the space?
- What times of day will the space be used, and
- Where is the best location in the facility for a maker space?
Another good question concerns what kind of tables, shelving, bookcases and mobile storage will be necessary to make the maker space as adaptable as possible.
However, there is no question that libraries and schools need to get started planning for more hands-on learning opportunities. Demand is increasing, and you might say that the maker space movement is cooking. It's definitely making learning more delicious for children.
Libraries are undergoing a tremendous overhaul right now, what with the introduction of e-readers and the ease of accessing information on the internet. It’s certain that libraries won’t disappear anytime soon, but you should plan to update library storage including shelving and library furniture to continue drawing a diverse audience, one that visits the library more for community events, exchange of ideas, socialize or to pick up digital materials.
Here are the top tips to redesign your library.
1.- See What Your Customers See
You get used to the way your library looks because you’re there every day. Clear your mind and try to look at the existing setup with fresh eyes. Pretend you have never been here before and determine if the following is true:
• It’s easy to locate different sections of the library from the entrance.
• You can clearly where to go for help.
• The restroom signs are visible from the main area.
The goal is to prevent any visual noise from getting in the way and making these statements false.
2.- Remove Visual and Physical Barriers
You want patrons to easily use your library to the fullest. Consider installing lower library shelving to create a more open atmosphere. This should be easy to implement, what with physical collections becoming more compact thanks to the growing amount of digital materials found in libraries today.
Also, consider opening up any sections with closed doors to make them more inviting to patrons. Since the younger generation tends to work more as a team these days, study areas might be used more if they were open rather than completely closed off.
3.- Remember Less is More
Consider paring down displays and signage so those that remain attract positive attention. Visual chaos is overwhelming and unappealing to the eye. Books have a tendency to clutter up library furniture by themselves, so don’t add to the noise by cluttering every free space with rules and information about library services. Only post information that isn’t intuitive. For everything else, allow interactions between staff and customers to answer questions.
4.- Consider the Whole
Remember the power of color-coordinated sections and matching library furniture. Mismatched furniture and walls painted differently for no apparent reason appear jarring. Don’t accept every piece of donated library shelving just to keep costs down. Instead, look for library storage and furnishings that contribute to the whole.
Consistency in color, form and material helps customers make sense of your library. One easy way to accomplish consistency is by selecting library storage and other furnishings from a single retailer. A bundle order often results in discounts.
5.- Remember One Size Doesn’t Fit All
While consistency is important in each library section, the entire interior isn’t required to match. That means the children’s section can incorporate younger, more juvenile designs and colors to attract that audience. The teen section should provide lounge chairs, study tables and computer stations so each customer can choose the experience they want. The seating in each area may differ in color and shape, but they should fall within the same design category for visual consistency.
6.- Appeal to Human Nature
When you hope to settle down with a good book, the aspects that likely draw you in are natural light, beautiful outdoor views and privacy. Examine your library’s existing features that support reading books with these qualities. You may be able to rotate library shelves or rearrange furniture to let more natural light in and expose views to the exterior. The change may require nothing more than a fresh eye and a little time to rearrange the space.
7.- Take Light into Account
As you strive to bring more natural light inside, remember that the human eye tires quickly when required to constantly adjust between, say, a dark wall right next to a brightly lit window. Anywhere with direct light should have lighter furnishings and paint colors to not only enliven the space, but to decrease contrast and the eyestrain it causes.
8.- Create Zones
Many people flock to the library for peace and quiet to get homework done. Others want to attend free community events with their children. Balance these conflicting activities and keep everyone happy by separating the spaces where they take place.
For example, supply comfortable armchairs and study desks away from the library checkout area and copy machine. The building’s architecture or strategically placed library shelves can add to the sense of privacy and physically block sound from noisier library sections.
9.- Embrace Color
Colors highlight boundaries, create focal points, and signal how to behave. Changing the paint is an easy and inexpensive way to redesign your library. For example:
• Consider forgoing cluttered signage identifying the kid’s area; instead, paint the walls colorfully to differentiate the space.
• Paint the wall behind the customer service desk a different color to draw attention to it.
• Leave most of the walls a neutral color, but paint the walls surrounding study areas a calming autumn color to separate it from the adjacent sections.
Your library has so much potential to attract customer of all ages. No matter what services you emphasize, make sure the library furniture coincides. For more information, please contact a Hi-Cube representative. We will gladly share the expertise we have gained from our more than twenty years in library design.
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Benjamin Franklin has been credited by some with inventing the modern public library. He was indeed a prolific inventor. There is little doubt that he would be excited to see that libraries are now adding to their offerings of areas where the public can come to invent.
Enter the Maker Movement. Public and university libraries have joined a movement, which involves offering equipment, gathering areas and events that support hands-on invention, learning and sharing for people of all ages. These spaces and get-togethers for tinkering are referred to by a number of names, including: Makers space, hacker spaces, hack labs, fab labs and invention or creativity camps.
Maker Movement Goes Viral
In July of 2013, a headline in The Calgary Herald reported that the Maker Movement was going “viral” across Canada and beyond. The newspaper estimated Canada to be home to 40 of about 900 Makers spaces or “hack labs” worldwide. The Herald detailed a typical Maker meeting in Halifax at which an inventor demonstrated how to build a spot welder from ordinary objects, including a microwave power cord and a hand-held control made from a micro switch embedded in a hockey puck.
Makers spaces can focus on a broad range of invention, from children creating tiny moving toys to independent inventors sharing lab space to design robotic equipment. Projects also may include botanical experiments, jewelry construction, sock puppetry, gadget tinkering, video making, software creation and motor vehicle design.
Offering Maker Space in Libraries
Some of the equipment can be pricey, such as 3-D printers, which are used to build three-dimensional objects through a process involving the automated layering of materials. Much like the original libraries that offered books that would have been out of reach to the general public, our modern libraries are now providing equipment and resources that may be hard for individuals to afford. Once again libraries are coming to the forefront of learning and opening doors to new opportunities for all of the public.
At the January 2013 midwinter meeting of the American Library Association participants rated the Maker space movement as “red hot.” Now librarians are becoming supportive of making room for technical learning and creativity, as witnessed by teen programs such as 3-D modeling and Lego robot building at New York’s Fayetteville Free Library, the first U.S. public library to open a Maker space. Fayetteville calls its warehouse-sized workspace a Fab Lab. In Canada, one example of a Maker space housed in a public library is Hackforge, which has been open since June 2013 at the Windsor Public Library of Ontario. Hackforge occupies a former woodworking museum space and includes a 3-D printer among its equipment.
At the University of Victoria, creative thinkers have extended the Maker space idea to traditional academia by creating the Maker Lab in the Humanities. Aside from giving students a way of being more social and interactive in sharing thinking, it helps them to learn technologies that they otherwise might not touch, including filmmaking and fabrication. Then students consider questions, such as how fabricating objects affects the maker’s view of artifacts and the culture that created them.
Making Space for Maker Spaces
Modular and moveable equipment and storage are often necessary in libraries to maximize use of space for patron interaction. Sound, dust and fumes are also major considerations in designing a Makers space in a public library. There are many considerations that must be accounted for when planning to take this step into the future.
This process begins with staff considering public spaces and furniture that is already available as well as the efficiency of shelving in collection areas. For example, one way to increase floor space for Makers spaces is to move part of a library's on-floor collection to its archives or to use mobile shelves to compact existing collections.
Mobile shelving is mounted on runners and electronically or manually moved to condense storage. It makes room for additional shelves in the space formerly left open for aisles. This means that existing volumes can be stored in half of the original space and still be easy to access. Decreasing the floor space of stacks in the public areas doesn’t need to mean decreasing the number of books and other publications available to patrons. This increases room for maker-space type programming in the public areas.
Makers space is causing quite a stir in all library systems. If you are considering one for your library be sure to contact a company with library experience to see how your existing space can be modified to accommodate this new and exciting innovation.
Once a quiet somber place, with tall narrow aisles and cold hard floors, the public library of yesterday bears little resemblance to the library of today. Almost all libraries have a play area for children, a computer center to provide internet access, and a section for music and videos. Community meeting rooms and large open areas with comfortable furniture are now beginning to combine with those offerings to make the modern library a hub of the community. Libraries who embrace these changes often see a broadening of their role in their communities along with increased user ship and public support.
Unfortunately, while the role of the library in the community is growing, the building quite often is not, creating a real challenge for administrators; how to make room for all of the amenities the community needs and is coming to expect. To meet this challenge, it is necessary to utilize all of the space available in the building. This can include compact storage solutions or mobile storage units to condense collections into smaller spaces, off site storage for less used collections, and reconfiguring library layouts to provide more open space and meet changing needs.
Consider, for example, high-density mobile storage can increase storage capacity by up to 100%. This frees up a lot of floor space and is dramatically less expensive than increasing the size of a building. These systems can be designed with power assist or manual options depending on the activity of the collection, the number of expected users and other needs of the facility. While compact book stacks are not the focus of most repurposing projects they quite often are the only means of gaining the required space needed to achieve the other objectives.
When considering a repurposing project, the first consideration is the needs and wants of the community. Projects often start with public meetings and online surveys that identify and assess public interest. When reviewing acquired data, before determining that some of the ideas are not feasible due to space issues, consider consulting with a compact storage product expert to investigate options. Once the priorities are identified, Hi-Cube consultants, specializing in SpaceSaver options can work with the designers to maximize the space utilization.
Hi-Cube Storage Products understands the challenges faced by library planners and staff. We offer a wide range products and compact storage solutions engineered for durability and function while keeping pace with design and style trends. More importantly, we have trained space and furniture experts available to assess your library to help you determine possible options for your repurposing projects. Our expanding offerings and services can assist the smallest neighborhood libraries, as well as the largest metropolitan facilities to meet these new challenges. Hi-Cube representatives will gladly share their expertise to help you utilize your space to the fullest while meeting budget concerns. We have been involved in library projects for more than twenty years and continue to offer many compact storage solutions to meet the ever changing needs of the modern library.
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Some of the reasons for repurposing Library Spaces are: Shifting collections, providing more community space, or further supporting collaboration and creation. From small changes such as adding a few select pieces of furniture to major changes such as a complete redesign, there are many options available.
Gaining space, maintaining collection
Compacting book stacks is the easiest way to gain space without eliminating collections. There are systems available that allow you, in many cases, to use your existing book stacks. They can be put on a system that allows the book stacks to move together, thereby utilizing a single aisle to access an entire set of book stacks.
There are a growing number of these systems finding their way into all types of libraries because they address the need to open up space and preserve necessary physical collections. As a general rule, you can shrink a collection to fit into half of its original space, thereby gaining desired open space or double the total number of books in the same physical foot print. This is especially useful in book archives and offsite storage areas.
Repurposing Library Spaced can also be accomplished by using shorter shelving or switch from traditional, static shelving to mobile shelving that increases storage capacity or decreases storage footprint.
There are mobile storage systems that mount book stacks and storage cabinets on wheeled carriages that travel on rails. This eliminates the need for multiple fixed aisles, freeing floor space. For a cost effective option, libraries could choose a manual mobile system instead of mechanical assist or powered system.
One of the more common repurposing library spaces is the creation of community areas with comfortable seating where people can relax while accessing the electronic library resources and the Internet. Creating more study space for library users, and more computer workstations are other popular uses of gained space.
Gained space can also be converted for group meetings or events with the addition of nesting tables and chairs that are attractive, stylish and easy to move and set up. This, along with the possible addition of modular walls, allows events and quiet spaces to co-exist. New clear glass reconfigurable architectural walls add to the open aesthetic.
Assessment & review
Many libraries are surprised to see just how much space they can gain after reviewing their options with a specialist who has access to all of these new and innovative shelving and furniture options
Assessment and review is the first step to determining budgetary and space requirements and limitations. Hi-Cube starts by visiting the library to evaluate space and budget, and to provide options that meet specific needs.