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Library makerspaces help communities tap into joy of creativity

Jan 2, 2017

The Next Idea

Over the past few years, makerspaces have become more understood – and popular.

Think shiny industrial warehouses with 3-D printers, laser engravers and metal-working tools. And – of course – think groups of people. As our most recent contributors to The Next Idea explained, makerspaces can become crucial focus points for entire communities.

Kristin Fontichiaro, a clinical associate professor at the University of Michigan School of Information, heads a program called Making in Michigan Libraries. It helps libraries around the state set up maker programs designed for the communities they serve.

A community member works at the Benzonia MakerFest last August.
Credit Michigan Makers / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

The word “makerspace,” Fontichiaro said, can mean several things  –  an industrial space for high-technology tools or even a space for sewing, knitting and embroidering.

“I like to think that it’s really a movement about creativity and making happen what you want to make happen and really connecting with the world before smartphones and swiping everything – where we feel good creating things,” she said. “We like that sense of self-expression; we like that sense of self-achievement that comes along with having created something ourselves.”

In addition to self-expression, Fontichiaro said makerspaces are also about bringing people together to create.

“Whether it’s with a high-end, high-tech tool or with a pair of knitting needles,” she said, “we want people to feel that sense of coming together, of being together enjoying that interaction that comes when I see what you’re making and it ups my ante just a little bit.”

"Whether it's with a high-end, high-tech tool or with a pair of knitting needles, we want people to feel that sense of coming together..."

The Making in Michigan Libraries program was born from a realization that professional development was reaching some areas of the state, but not others.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services, the project’s funders, suggested focusing the program’s resources on areas of the state underrepresented in professional development.

“So we invited in educators and civic leaders and after-school program folks so that people could also see this work happening in little bits and starts in [the] community already,” she said. “You have handy craftsmen in your community already – how do you build on that together?”

She said there’s no better place than Benzonia to watch how Making in Michigan Libraries is playing out in communities.

Benzonia Public Library is one of the eight places chosen to receive a Making in Michigan Libraries grant.

In establishing maker communities, Fontichiaro said kids usually get on board readily – they have a natural sense of discovery. The next step is figuring out how to convince adults to become invested.
Credit Michigan Makers / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

When librarian Amanda McLaren applied for the grant, her primary goal was to find a way to bring the community together in a way that people – kids especially – could interact.

Fontichiaro said her team chose grant recipients based on who could host “multi-day professional development – not just fly in and fly out, you get your two hours and leave.”

In choosing recipients, her team asked:

“Where do we come and we really settle and recognize that the hidden component in makerspaces, that’s always underestimated, is the people?” 

To learn about the maker programs Benzonia Library and others have implemented, including the Power Tool Basics for Women program, listen above.

The Next Idea is Michigan Radio’s project devoted to new innovations and ideas that will change our state.

 

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