Library Makerspace – 2012 WLA Conference Session Report

By Lois Gilbert, Branch Manager, La Crosse Public Library

Three energetic librarians presented a terrific WLA conference program Friday, October 26, about library makerspaces and defined a library makerspace as:

“…workshops where people come together to share materials and a collaborative learning environment in order to learn a new skill.”  Makerspaces make the library the place to connect and create.

Presenters are members of the Library as Incubator Project team at and they profiled libraries that have launched makerspace initiatives, highlighting the potential for outreach and mutually supportive partnerships with schools, arts organizations, and local artists, art educators, and creators.  The Library as Incubator Project will share practical ideas with libraries looking to create a makerspace and will also provide help in applying for creative grants for makerspace projects.

Chief advantages in creating a makerspace:

* Changes the image of the library from a repository for books to an EXPERIENCE

*Reduces staff time and library monies in providing programs – By partnering with local artists and creators, and just providing the space and the publicity, artists and creators can be working on their creations while an audience can be strolling by or through at any time.  Activities can include anything from a magnetic or chalk wall with poetry being created, to a paint-off, activity by knitters or weavers, painters, crafters, woodworkers, and builders, and more.  Oak Park PL moved their bookshop/coffee shop and used that glassed in area for painters, drawers, and performers. They named it the IDEA BOX and visual artists did their work and taped finished products on the walls so people could see art in action.   One library had teens describe themselves as artists or creators and make artist trading cards. Iowa City created a local music project at  where local musicians create music and give it to the library as a downloadable choice on the library’s website to publicize their band.  And Madison PL has a new makerspace project at Bubbler in the new downtown central library. Rusk County Library in Ladysmith has paint-offs where artists are given a topic and then the painting begins.  One WI library did a steampunk program and had teens and twenty-somethings create LED firefly stations with an electrician.

Question to ponder:  Given your resources and your community, what is one partnership maker program that could work for you?

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