4 questions to ask before adding a makerspace to your library

Many campuses are upgrading libraries with equipment and training that allow students to become inventors and entrepreneurs with makerspaces.

Makerspaces are inspired by the maker movement, a community of inventors, tinkerers, and entrepreneurs who create consumer products, gadgets, and art. The movement is defined by a culture of creativity and exploration.

Increasingly, campus libraries are adding spaces designed to support the maker movement on campus. These makerspaces provide equipment, training, and other resources to help students in any academic field work on projects and inventions.

Writing for EdSurge, Satish Subramanian identifies four things to consider before adding a makerspace to your campus.

1: How will students use it?

Students will be the primary users of the makerspace, so find out what they're hoping to get out of it. Subramanian recommends using a survey and asking students what kinds of projects they're interested in working on (or already started), what kind of space they like to work in, and how they could see themselves using the space.

Make both students and faculty happy when updating your library

2: What will it look like?

Consider the physical design of the space, including furniture, layout, and technology. But also consider the intangibles, such as how the space will align with the institution's broader strategy and accommodate different teaching and learning styles.

3: Do you already have one hiding on campus?

Some institutions may already have facilities that resemble makerspaces on campus, designed for use by a specific department. At the University of Illinois at Chicago, administrators realized that an engineering department makerspace was being underutilized by students. Now, faculty members take students on mini-field trips to the space.

Subramanian suggests college leaders look at labs and libraries across their institutions to increase campus-wide usage of makerspaces that may already exist.

4: What kind of technology will it have?

There's a "noisy" market of competing technology vendors, Subramanian writes, and it's easy to spend a lot of time comparing technical details across products. To speed up the process, Subramanian recommends enlisting a small team to make all purchasing decisions. To get ideas and product reviews, try reaching out to your network or asking advice from higher ed communities on social media (MakeSchools Higher Education Alliance report, accessed 10/6; Subramanian, EdSurge, 9/30).

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