Introduction of the Makerspace Proposal
Kensington-Normal Heights Branch Library
I am writing this letter to respectfully request funding needed for a very worthwhile project in our community’s library- a makerspace. As a librarian, this project is very dear to me. This is something our young library patrons need.
A makerspace is a space where kids can make or do just about anything their imagination can think of. This space usually involves various tools, materials, and machines. If a child wants to figure out how a clock works, he can grab a broken clock and take it apart. Once he takes it apart, he can figure out how it works. That is learning by doing. “…children should engage in tinkering and making because they are powerful ways to learn.” (Martinez, 2013)
I have listed the funding needed to get our makerspace started. I am requesting a $25,000 grant to begin our makerspace. I have worked tirelessly to make certain that this proposal comes to fruition.
Please let me tell you more about our library:
The mission of the San Diego Public Library is “To inspire lifelong learning through connections to knowledge and each other”. Our branch is in the San Diego Public Library system, a system that includes the main Central Library and 35 branches.
Our proposal is to provide a makerspace at the Kensington-Normal Heights Branch library for children and young adults in our communities. Our library serves two communities. The Kensington-Talmadge and Normal Heights have a combined population of 30,000 people. The demographics include many families with children of varying ages. Households with children in both communities are approximately 40% of the total population. The general budget designated for programs in our branch for 2015 was $15,000. The circulation for our branch is 7000 average per month.
Justification for Value:
Libraries are . . . essential to the functioning of a democratic society . . . libraries are the great symbols of the freedom of the mind. Franklin D. Roosevelt
The Kensington-Normal Heights Branch Library is in need of a formal makerspace. The only alternative in the neighborhood is a very expensive business called Snapology. Although Snapology offers many enriching activities, they charge expensive fees. These fees are beyond the reach of many households in the neighborhood. It is essential to produce an open and accessible space where all children are welcome, regardless of income.
Between the two communities we serve, we have three elementary schools, two parochial schools, two preschools, a substantial home-schooled population, and a recreation center. Much of our patronage consists of families with school-aged children. In another neighborhood we serve, the demographics are different, as single mother households comprise 25% of the population. Because financial circumstances vary, our community needs an easily accessible makerspace.
Our proposal will help fill the need for a community makerspace. Our branch is already filled with vibrant and curious children, since the branch has a homework center that is available during after school hours and on weekends. That is the time of day when our branch is bustling with children and young adults. It’s a perfect opportunity to feed their young minds, and “to inspire lifelong learning through connections to knowledge and each other”.
We are in the middle of a park that includes a playground on one side and an open park on the other side. This library is truly a community center. In A New Culture of Learning, Thomas and Seely explain their concept of “arc of life” learning. It is described as the daily life activities of learning, growing and exploring. “Play, questioning, and- perhaps most important- imagination lie at the very heart of arc-of-life learning.” (Thomas, 2011) What other stage of life than childhood offers us unlimited adventures, discoveries, and play time? This is the time when we get to question everything and let our imaginations run free. This is the golden time of youth. It’s that precious time when everything is possible and learning is never-ending.
This golden time is when the seeds of growth, development, and potential are planted into the minds of the young. The planted seeds are the very foundation of a makerspace. What better way to cultivate these seeds of learning than through our very own civic center, the public library? Libraries are the foundation of our democracy, giving all individuals access to our services. This is the ideal space. “Young makers grow up and become world-changing engineers and leaders, and they in turn encourage new generations of young innovators. The world needs young makers. And these young makers need makerspaces.” (Kelly, 2014)
A question that might come to mind while reading this is “why a library?” Why not a recreation center, or an after school program, or a museum? Some of these institutions might have some form of makerspace, but is not as welcoming as a library. Placing a makerspace in a library is not only a great idea, but it is shrewd as well. A library is a perfect location, as the ALA STEM resources task force explains, “Many libraries… already provide some support to tweens and teens in the area of STEM, but are probably not seeking out the available grant funding to support it… By providing fun programs that incorporate STEM ideas, libraries can spark an interest in their young adult patrons and demonstrate to the community the important role the library provides in helping prepare teens for a 21st century workforce. Libraries already offer access to the tools necessary to pursue STEM projects such as computers and devices, and Internet access, which young adults may have only limited access to at school and may not have available at home. Public libraries often have more freedom in programming options than schools, and can help to fill some of the gap American youth are experiencing in STEM education. With fewer restrictions on time and content, public libraries in particular can provide the opportunity to experiment, allowing tweens and teens the time for trial and error. There are no grades or formal evaluations for students in a public library, which allows for a stress-free environment to play and find inspiration.” (STEM, 2013) As an institution, we are already providing the important services young people need. Let’s get some funding to contribute to what we are already offering.
Children who participate in makerspaces do not learn alone. Side by side, they will form bonds with their peers as they share in problem solving and inspiration. Makerspaces give children a non-regimented, relatively unrestricted, yet safe space to challenge themselves intellectually, emotionally, and mentally. Imagine just one child who gets the value of lifelong learning out of these experiences. One child. Inspiring one child alone is gratifying.
Now imagine this scenario not just with one child, but a whole community of children. They will have the opportunity to make anything that they can dream up in the confines of our space. With technologically advanced equipment at their disposal, they will always remember having a wonderful experience at their neighborhood library. When children thrive, the whole community benefits. As these children grow into adulthood, they will pass on the benefits of the library to their own children. They will introduce their own children to the wonders of the public library.
Staffing, Space, and Programming Recommendations:
The makerspace will be led by various full-time, half-time, hourly staff, and volunteers throughout the day. The space itself will be open after school hours during Monday through Friday, 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. The space will be available Saturdays from 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Our branch will be assigned two hourly staff whose job titles will be renamed Makerspace Assistants (MA). These two positions are funded through a separate state-wide library grant. The newly-assigned MAs together fill 40 hours of makerspace assistance per week. In addition to the MAs, the existing staff assigned to the branch will fill in the remaining time gaps.
Assigned staff are responsible for ensuring that all tools and supplies are safely cleaned, put away, and locked. In the event that the assigned staff is absent, a designated permanent staff person from the branch will be in charge of ensuring the safety of the makerspace. This staffing requirement does not include volunteers. The makerspace will operate 34 hours per business week, Monday through Saturday.
At the beginning of this makerspace, the majority of our volunteers are expected to be parents. We are in the process of signing them up to become approved volunteers. Parents who are not able to volunteer have pledged money in order to get our makerspace up and running. In addition to parent volunteers, we will recruit students from local high schools. These high school students are required to serve volunteer hours in in order to graduate. There should be very eager young adults to fulfill their volunteer requirements. “Reach out to local makerspaces, hackerspaces, tech shops and individual makers to find volunteers who would be willing to help out in your classroom. Museums, science centers, and libraries are adding makerspaces to their venues. Parents can volunteer too! These new collaborators may bring more than expertise to your school. Local maker mentors may also share materials and tools you need.” (Martinez, 2013) We might have to recruit people to help us initially, but the kids will be thrilled, “Whether you start slow and small or fast and large, kids aren’t going to complain. They want to be challenged and they’re hungry to learn.” (Kelly, 2014)
We will offer a special workshop/activity every other Wednesday. The workshop will consist of an assignment, all necessary materials, and seating. Attendance at these workshops will be limited to 10 participants. If the workshops are successful, and in order to give equal access to all children, signups for every child will be limited to every other workshop. If space permits, the children will be given slots based on a waiting list.
Every workshop will have a special theme. For example, the first themes will be e-textiles, 3D printing, woodworking, Arduino, and sewing. During the workshops, the available stations of the makerspace will be open to children for independent activities.
We will continue to define the work in our space as the school curriculum evolves. Our mission statement will continue.
“A makerspace playbook contains ideas for makerspace safety and rules” (Martinez, 2013)
Our makerspace will have a very prominent playbook on display. The makerspace will be available to children ages 5 to 18. All machines that require adult supervision or training will require a child to go through an hour-long training that will be available to them as time permits. When training is required, a child must be at least 8 years old to handle the power equipment and have a signed waiver on file. No child is to attempt to work the machines without an adult on site.
This space will require 300 square feet to utilize. This will include all equipment, furniture, fire zones and safety requirements, and a designated closet for storing supplies.
All volunteers and staff are required to attend a safety training, including first aid, CPR, and AED training, a 2 day workshop on how to work the 3D printer, 3D scanners, and all power tools and equipment. All volunteers are also required to have a background check, fingerprinting and adequate references.
Participants of the makerspace will be required to attend one training session. Once attended and completed successfully, the child will receive a finished certificate. Along with that certificate, a signed parent permission form in triplicate will be required to keep on file.
Teaching safe behavior is our goal, not just automatically following posted safety rules. “Be careful that the safety rules don’t become curriculum. Rules are important and necessary, but they don’t make children safe—careful behavior does.” (Martinez, 2013) Ensuring the safety of the children in our makerspace will be a top priority.
Marketing and outreach
We want to make sure kids are enthusiastic and get involved in the makerspace. “Let’s give them access. Let’s find mentors and teachers and volunteers to help them get started and then let them run. And let’s find the funding, whether from bakes sales and raffle tickets or a couple of gracious checks from local businesses.” (Kelly, 2014) Local businesses will love to help sponsor an exciting new makerspace. It will help them give back to the community and will also give them some positive marketing for their own company.
Makerspace projects that children want to share will be displayed in the glass case at the front of the library. This will give patrons a preview of the enriching programs they can expect to see by giving donations
The more people see that this is a worthwhile project, the more inclined they will be to contribute to it. . “…share information about your successful STEM initiatives and programs in order to make sure the community understands the value that the library is providing (and so that others in the library community can learn from them!)”. (STEM 2013) We will place a donation box, website information, and other pertinent information where the public can donate money, materials, or time. Projects can also be displayed in local businesses next to a donation box. A full description of the makerspace and its’ goals will be attached. We will also market the makerspace through the neighborhood schools, community newspapers, community businesses, after school programs, homeschool resources, and online through our events calendar.
“Do something, get going, and refine as you see what works in your classroom. Don’t let shopping get in the way of action.” (Martinez, 2013)
We will invest in the necessary supplies to start a basic makerspace. We will then determine our needs as our supplies are used. Some supplies will need to be maintained regularly. For example, a 3D printer will always need a restocking of filament. The most popular colors can be purchased on the initial purchase, with special colors purchased on request. Wood, paints, paper and drawing materials will be restocked. Any outside materials may not be used in any of our machines.
We will have a wooden bin so that the community can donate miscellaneous supplies, such as paper products, remnants, wood, and textiles. We want children to learn about the value of upcycling. Most anything can be reused. The only limit is the imagination.
Crayons and paint can and should co-exist with digital tools.” (Martinez, 2013)
Buying the newest 3D printer, or the most expensive set of tools is not going to determine the success of the space. The use of a makerspace begins with a belief that learning is all around us, no matter what tools we use. “There is no absolute shopping list of must haves. There is nothing that is a fatal flaw if it’s missing. Making do with what you have is a virtue. If you can’t afford a 3D printer, don’t have a perfect space, or are a bit fearful of electricity, you can still create an experience that is comfortable, creative, and fun for your students.”(Martinez, 2013) Our supply requests are filled with what we believe are the necessary components to what we need in our specific makerspace.
In this proposal, we are requesting an amount of $25,000.00. These are essential, carefully thought-out estimates of supply needs. The proposed budget includes equipment, furniture, staff training, and program costs. The following is a projected list of supplies needed for the first year:
Plan for Ongoing Operations
Learning is based on asking questions and then finding the answers through our own curiosity. “Every answer serves as a starting point, not an end point. It invites us to ask more and better questions.” (Thomas, 2011) If our plan is successful, we will continue to ask better questions.
In addition to our initial budget, we will regularly raise funds for our space’s ongoing costs. We will appeal to parents, community members, and local businesses. We are in the process of planning a wish list, and will request that donors buy directly from that list.
As a library, we have some important goals to accomplish with this makerspace. The success of the space will determine the direction of the space. After the first 12 months of operation, we will re-evaluate our needs as a makerspace. Part of this evaluation will come from feedback from children, parents, and the community. The success will be based on a rubric based on our expectations for the space.
The success of this space will be measured by a competed rubric. The rubric will outline the expectations of the space and the preferred outcome. The success of the makerspace will require a “good” score to justify a second year. An example of a rubric is shown below:
Conclusion of Proposal
Like planting the seeds of learning, “One of the metaphors we adopt to describe this process is cultivation. A farmer, for example, takes the nearly unlimited resources of sunlight, wind, water, earth, and biology and consolidates them into the bounded and structured environment of a garden or farm. We see the new culture of learning as a similar kind of process- but cultivating minds instead of plants.” (Thomas, 2011) Let’s cultivate the minds of the children in our community. Let’s help to plant the seeds of lifelong learning. “Think of yourself as an informal educator and your library as a site devoted to supporting lifelong learning opportunities.” (STEM,2013) . As librarians, we will do everything possible to encourage that learning. The requested budget will help to push our ideas forward.
In conclusion, our Mission Statement says it all: “To inspire lifelong learning through connections to knowledge and each other.” A makerspace will inspire a love of lifelong learning through the connection to their neighborhood library.
Thank you for your consideration,
Johnson, Mica, Brittany Witte, Jennie Randolph, Rachel Smith, and Karen Cragwall. ”Mobile Maker Spaces.” School Library Journal (2016): School Library Journal. 3 May 2016. Web. 11 Aug. 2016.
Kelly, James Floyd. ”Kickstart A Kids’ Makerspace.” Make Magazine 7 Apr. 2014: Www.makezine.com. Web.
Martinez, Sylvia Libow, and Gary Stager. Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom: Constructing Modern Knowledge, 2013. Kindle.
Mobile Maker Spaces by Mica Johnson, Brittany Witte, Jennie Randolph, Rachel Smith, and Karen Cragwall. School Library Journal. http://www.slj.com/2016/05/technology/mobile-maker-spaces/
“STEM* PROGRAMMING TOOLKIT.” Www.ala.org/yalsa. Www.ala.org/yalsa, 20 Feb. 2013. Web. 11 Aug. 2016.
Thomas, Douglas, and John Seely. Brown. A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change. Lexington, KY: CreateSpace, 2011. Kindle.