Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Questions Regarding Maker Spaces

I'm full of energy now because I attended a two day workshop on Maker Spaces.

For anyone who's not sure what that means, a maker space is simply a place where people gather to share resources and knowledge, work on projects either as a group or independently, network, build and create.

The concept isn't new; people with common interests have always joined together in groups to connect and share and learn from each other. But maker space in libraries have become a recent fixture (I don't want to say "trend" because I hope that they will continue to evolve, not just enjoy a brief bout of popularity). At this workshop, a couple of my peers said that although they were excited about installing a maker space in our school, they didn't understand why it should be in the library.

This is a struggle that I know almost every librarian copes with; despite our efforts to modernize and stay current, both with our collections and our services and outreach, many people still have an outdated view of the library space and the role of the librarian. The library is no longer a quiet, musty building and librarians are no longer old spinsters. 

Libraries have always fostered the growth of knowledge, and for a long time, reading was one of the only ways to attain higher learning. But that's no longer the case. 

Reading will never become obsolete, and neither will books while we're on subject. But there are so many other methods and tools at our disposal now to enhance our learning processes. I love working in a school library because it allows me to play so many roles. Some of them are easier, like the librarian or the teacher or even just a listener. I also get to be in a student role, during workshops,seminars, or sometimes even just having a colleague (or a kid!) demonstrate something for me that I didn't know how to do. Being a student isn't always easy though, because unfortunately I always strive for the A+, and anything that falls short of that grade, or my own expectations automatically earns a big ol' F in my head.

Anyways, like I was saying, the role of the librarian has evolved and we don't just recommend books anymore, we facilitate learning in as many ways as we possibly can. In our school library, we strive to provide our students with a variety of options for any kind of learning. We have books, (duh) and they are all issued Ipads, which are a valuable learning tool, But rather than just talk about research skills, we have a weekly trivia question which they can choose to answer, and they're allowed to use any resources they wish to in order to find the correct answer. 

In general, I feel that I'm pretty laid back when it comes to the students. As long as they are being safe and respectful (of each other, staff and the library space itself) they are welcome. My only other request of them is to be productive, in any way. My pet peeve is when a student comes in and just wanders around aimlessly because he/she doesn't feel like being in study hall. They are welcome to read (books,magazines,comic books are options), work on the computers, play board games (or cards or chess), answer the weekly trivia question, or use the art stuff (crayons,colored pencils). Sometimes a student who's having a rough time might come in and ask to sit with the bunnies (we have two), and that's OK too because the students should always feel safe and supported, and I like the idea of libraries as sanctuaries. Having a maker space in the library is another option to help the students learn: from us, from the projects, from each other and from themselves. Maker spaces are also another option to encourage productivity, and might help students who enjoy the library environment, but have trouble settling down or committing to one of the other options.

So I'm all jazzed now about the prospect of a maker space, but I didn't foresee the overwhelming number of questions that arise once this idea was put forth:

-will the maker space be a permanent fixture, as in a room that's designated for that purpose, or should it be more flexible, like a table in a corner that can be moved in order to accommodate whatever activity/project is planned

-should the space be open all day, so that students are free to come in on their own time and work/play/create/build/design, or should it be the responsibility of a staff member to sign out the space for his or her class, and entire classes use the space together?

-should we provide directions to the young makers? either in spoken or written form? Or should we allow them the freedom to devise their own designs and methods?

-Most of us agree that the process of making should be emphasized more than the finished product, but should there be any way for students to display or present the finished products? Or will  knowing that the finished products will be displayed create undue stress and anxiety and competition among the students?

These are the BIG questions, bigger than trying to gain support from staff members/administrators/parents, bigger than trying to obtain adequate funding to keep the space stocked and functional, even bigger than my struggle to get people to refer to me as Ms. rather than Mrs.

I love to make things. I'm excited to make a space for other people to make things. But first, I need to make up my mind on how we're going to make this place for people make things.

"That's the trouble. I can't make up my mind. I haven't got a brain."

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