Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

An updated pop up mobile makerspace, what I know now and how I’m adding more technology

I recently began working at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County in Ohio and one of the things we are trying to do is really address programming, particularly including more technology into our programming with a limited budget and a tight space. I really like the basic framework of the Mobile Makerspace I had put together and used in my previous library location, but I now know some things I would do differently and have the opportunity to make some slight modifications. Today I am sharing some of my thoughts with you regarding the basic framework of my Makerspace. In the coming weeks I will be sharing some of my research and thoughts about purchasing some additional technology.

Things I considered when putting my newest proposal together:

Current space issues at the library, not only programming space but storage space. Like many libraries, PLMVKC was not built with the idea of having a Makerspace in mind. And storage is maxed out. So floor space and storage space are an important consideration for me, as it is for a lot of libraries.

The need to create regular, predictable programming with little to no preparation time. Regular programming seems to work best, but with more programming comes less program research and preparation time. So I’m looking to have a strong basis for programming that doesn’t require constant research, purchasing, and prep time.

Creating a programming outlet for tweens and teens that could easily be filled by other staff members in the event of a personal emergency. A lot of traditional library programming can be staff dependent, which can become problematic in the event of a sick day or personal emergency. I want to have some strong foundations in place so that other staff members can step in and sub in a pinch.

Including more technology for STEM/STEAM programming. This is a good goal and I like to do it in creative ways, like using apps and software to make memes, photos, GIFs, stop motion movies and more. In addition, I would like to have some tools available to get into coding and programming as well as some basic robotics. Many of these latter things are well over my head, but Heather Booth is a champion of the idea that you can get a group of teens together and learn together, which is definitely better than avoiding because you don’t know how to start.

Creating a base for programming that has built in versatility, room to add or incorporate additional technology components as they become available. Also, I need to create a Makerspace in stages since we don’t have the funding for a huge, up front purchase. I’m starting with a base proposal and have 3 additional proposals written to add more technology components as we progress.

Previous programming success, knowing what worked well and what I would like to change drives some of my new planning. At Betty Warmack Branch Library I tried to put together a Raspberry Pi Makerspace as part 2 of my proposal. Christie Gibrich successfully implemented this at her branch location, but I did not in part because I didn’t have the programming and coding skills necessary to really get it off the ground. In addition, because of budget issues, we tried to cut some corners that we probably shouldn’t have and we didn’t have a good interface for the Raspberry Pi’s. Heather Booth has done some good Raspberry Pi programming using her library’s meeting room overhead projector. This means teens have to work in groups, but it is a good work around if you have more limited funds and can’t afford a 1:1 tech scenario for your teens.


In order to meet a variety of these goals, I still want to keep my Makerspace primarily Lego based. There are so many elements you can add over time and yet the Lego components themselves can be quick and fun in a pinch. For example, you can use a Raspberry Pi to make a remote control Lego car. At the same time, on a day when you notice a lot of bored tweens/teens in the library you can roll out a cart of Lego with no planning or prep what so ever and get creative juices flowing with easy builds and challenges.

Some basic background information: Research has shown that the thriving cities are those that engage in and have space to participate in the arts (see Fostering Creative Cities commissioned by The Wallace Foundation and “Rise of the Creative Class” by Richard Florida).  This is why many libraries are creating Makerspaces: “Kids gather to make Lego robots; teens create digital music, movies, and games with computers and mixers; and students engineer new projects while adults create prototypes for small business products with laser cutters and 3D printers. Many libraries across the US have developed makerspaces—places to create, build, and craft—and they are experiencing increased visits and demand as a result. For public libraries, they are places to promote community engagement. For academic libraries, they are places where students and faculty feel welcome to do classwork and research.” (from American Library Association http://www.americanlibrariesmagazine.org/article/manufacturing-makerspaces)

In addition, research shows that there are many personal benefits for those that build with blocks, like LEGOS.  The benefits include the development of: Motor skills and hand-eye coordination; Spatial skills; A capacity for creative, divergent thinking; Social skills; Language skills; Practice science and math skills

For complete information, visit http://www.parentingscience.com/toy-blocks.html

And we know that when our kids succeed, our communities thrive and benefit.


The basic goals of my updated Makerspace remain the same, the difference is that this time I am trying to incorporate more technology. There are various ways that this can be done, some which can/will incorporate the Legos and some which will not. Some discussions of additional technology will be coming soon.

Materials and Cost

The basics of the new Makerspace would still incorporate the Legos, with the hope that we would additionally add some ways to incorporate more technology with the Legos. For example, we can use iPads and a variety of apps to do things like create art and stop animation films. Eventually, my goal is to add even more tech like Raspberry Pis or Mindstorms to do some Lego based robotics and programming.


Initially, I focused on purchasing large bulk loads of Legos to get a high number of bricks. What I learned was that this meant we had a large number of standard sized blocks. This time I am adjusting the order to include some sets that would include more unique Lego pieces. Less traditional block pieces help increase the variety and creativity of the projects you can create. For the best builds, you need a large number of bricks AND a variety of unique pieces.

Duct Tape and Other Craft Items

In my initial Makerspace, I included a large Duct Tape component. I would still include some Duct Tape, as well as a variety of other craft supplies including Rainbow Looms and other miscellaneous things. It’s nice sometimes to have a new, impromptu activity to change up your routine. Sometimes my teens would come in and ask to do something that would surprise me. Have a planned activity, but be open to letting teens dictate the ebb and flow of your programming. Have these types of activities also helps if you have to have a staff member sub for you. Have some basic books as part of your professional collection as well so they can be pulled into the program to give tweens/teens ideas. Have copies of the books in your circulating collection so that they can check them out, but definitely have some non-circulating copies so they are always on hand when you need them.

Other Elements You Can Incorporate:

Bristle Bot Kits (http://www.makershed.com/products/brushbot-party-pack) (Makes 12 for $34.99) : You can add the bristle bot motor components to small Lego builds, like cars or robots, to get your pieces moving in the most rudimentary fashion. Part of the challenge is allowing teens the ability to test what sizes and shapes work best.

Snapcircuits Electronics Kit (http://www.amazon.com/Elenco-Snap-Circuits-SC-300-Physics/dp/B00CIXVIRQ/ref=sr_1_1?s=toys-and-games&ie=UTF8&qid=1421259870&sr=1-1&keywords=snapcircuits) ($64.99) : These are simple kits that have up to 300 different things you can build. Great to have on hand to pull out as part of a stations based activity or on a snowy day when you don’t have a program planned.

In addition to some basic kits that you can have on hand, there are a variety of other tech elements you can purchase and include in a Makerspace. Later this week, I will share a comparison chart culled from the information at The Robot Test Kitchen regarding a variety of technology tools you can include. In addition, several of the people from Robot Test Kitchen will share their thoughts. Some of the elements we will be discussing include:

Makey Makey Standard Kit (http://www.makershed.com/products/makey-makey-standard-kit) (49.99)

Sphero Robot Kit (http://store.gosphero.com/collections/education) ($799.99)

Cubelets 6 Robotics Kit (http://www.amazon.com/Modular-Robotics-cb-kt-six-Cubelets-Six/dp/B00PAD96TS/ref=sr_1_2?s=toys-and-games&ie=UTF8&qid=1421260697&sr=1-2&keywords=cubelets) ($149.99)

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