ALA Midwinter 2013

What does the Maker Movement mean for youth services? #alamw13

I have long been enamored of the idea of maker spaces in libraries. While I am hesitant to make any statements that would come across as endorsing a particular type or focus of “making,” I have to say that I love the idea of making the library a center for active, hands-on learning and engagement. Traditional services can feel very passive–reading, listening, watching media, etc. But making? That’s a horse of a different color.

I’m in a session talking about making in the context of 3D printers, robotics, tools, and other larger-scale maker initiatives. My question, though, looks to the less expensive, the less formal. Namely: what does the maker movement mean for youth services? Arguably, we’ve been engaged (and engaging kids) in making from the very beginning: crafts at story time, LEGO club, STEM programs with building/engineering components… Michelle Kilty, a children’s librarian in Illinois, got me thinking about this topic on Twitter before Midwinter, and today’s presentation brought it to mind again. It’s a topic I look forward to exploring further.

What do you think about the maker movement, especially as it relates to youth services? What sorts of activities and programs have you offered that would fall under the “maker” umbrella? What can youth librarians bring to the table for this maker conversation?


  1. Kelly Czarnecki

    Thanks for the post. It definitely seems like a great opportunity to introduce youth to community, skills that can lead to a job or further developing a hobby as well as leadership/mentoring by teaching others.

  2. Kristin

    We work with a once-a-week makerspace model, and what we’ve learned is that it’s not the tools that determine success. It’s the spirit, the culture, of the space that makes something “feel makerspacey” to us.

    We strive to be as non-hierarchical as possible, with adults and children more as co-learners than as teacher and student. An older child might teach a younger one; a tween might teach the adults a new trick or two!

    Striking a just-right balance between modeling and free exploration is also key. Complete free-range exploration means students may not seek out new opportunities and stick with familiar territory (which is OK, but it’s fun to learn new stuff when we’re gently nudged in that direction). Too much adult-driven choice makes kids feel like it’s an extension of school. A menu of weekly choices works well for us.

    We’ve had just as much success with recycled-paper origami as we have with Arduino microcontrollers. It’s fun for everyone to experiment when the environment feels good.

  3. Geraldine

    I’d loved to hear more about what you are doing Kristin. This is definitely the direction we would like to take. Your comment about striking the right balance between modeling and free expression is exactly what I am struggling with. Generally, my staff is more comfortable with modeling approach, perhaps we all are. Just taking one look at the success of our hands-off give-them-legos-and-they-will-come program has shown us the value of free-range programming.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *