Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

MakerSpace: How do you evaluate this new service?

makerspacelogoAlthough many libraries have had Maker Spaces for a while now and are doing them quite successfully, our Teen MakerSpace is new to us at The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County (OH). What we wanted (and needed) was to create a way to keep track of who is using the space when and what they are doing in the space. There is tremendous value to input and feedback and statistics, especially when you are creating a new space or service. We want the information we need to know what’s working and what isn’t; And since this is a teen space, we want a way to be responsive to teens. Now that we have this new space, we need a way to evaluate it.

One way to do this is to have a suggestion box in the space, which we are working on. However, we learn a lot just by working with our teens in the space and listening to them. Very early on one of our regular teens suggested having a Rubik’s Cube in the space. We now have two and we are exited to see the teens play with them every day. And because we listened, the teens feel respected and valued. So we wanted to expand on this and include it in our evaluation tools.

I am lucky in that I was able to hire two part-time assistants to work in the space with me. This means that I’m not always in the space. This also means that as the coordinator of YA services who really wants to be responsive to teens, communication between the three of us is vitally important. So I put together a daily form for my staff to fill out to help keep those lines of communication open. It also helps me keep track of statistics and other information that my administration wants. And every once in a while we get a great quote for PR purposes. You can see a first draft of the daily report here: Teen MakerSpace Daily Report PDF.  We are currently on our third draft of the Teen MakerSpace Daily Report, which I discuss in more detail down below. After using the form for a few weeks, we realized we weren’t getting the types of information we needed and went back to the drawing board. We are pretty satisfied with our current version, but that doesn’t mean our information needs won’t change in the future.

I have also asked staff to take photos of teens using the space and the projects that they create. Again, these are good things to have for PR purposes. In fact, we are working on getting mounted monitors in the space where we can scroll through pictures of teens using the space and their creations. The other day a teen came in and made a minion using the 3D pen; this is such a great thing to share with your staff and community so that they can see teens learning and engaging in the space. Many of the teens leave their 3D creations behind as part of our ongoing gallery.

Many teens leave their 3D Pen creations as part of our gallery

Many teens leave their 3D Pen creations as part of our gallery

Some of the information we want to track in our daily reports is:

Total Number of Teens Visiting the Teen MakerSpace

We keep a daily count of how many unique teens visit our Teen MakerSpace per day. For example, we know that roughly 250 teens visited the TMS in March, which was our first fully operational and fully staffed month. We also know that as of April 15th we had around 150 teen visits, which means we are on track to have more teen visits in April then we did in March. We have had many teens come in telling us that they heard about the space from a friend, so we also know that word of mouth is helping us grow and that we have had a positive response to the space.

Teen Visits by Hour

Because our space is staffed during certain hours, particularly during the after school hours and on weekends, we keep track of hourly visits to help us determine our staffing needs. We aren’t really sure what to expect for the summer when the teens are out of school, but we still don’t anticipate a big rush at 9:00 AM when the library opens because teens tend to sleep in. By the data we are currently collecting will help us better understand our staffing needs, particularly as we develop a schedule for the 2016/2017 school year.

What Activities/Stations are Teens Best Responding To

We have a variety of activities and stations that teens can choose to participate in so keeping track of what teens are doing in the space helps us investigate and develop new ideas for the future. We know that teens are currently most interested in making buttons, the 3D pen, stop motion animation, coloring and the small robots. We also know that we aren’t doing a very good job of promoting our learn to code resources or that our teens don’t have a huge interest in that at the moment. However, we weren’t having a lot of use of our LittleBits or Lego stations but when we made “Challenge Cards” helping challenging teens to do specific activities, we found that they were more likely to use these items.

What Kind of Feedback Are We Getting

We also track feedback by writing down teen comments and suggestions for future ideas. Many of the suggestions we have had from teens have been to add more craft supplies, which has been interesting considering that we planned the space to be a tech space with a few more traditional activities. I believe this demonstrates a couple of things, one of which is that our teens aren’t necessarily aware of the types of technology and technology based activities that are out there so they don’t know to ask for it, which demonstrates the further need to keep introducing our teens to new technology. It also demonstrates that teens do, in fact, have a desire to engage in more traditional crafting type activities as well as engaging in new technology. When we planned our space we purposefully set out to include both and that has proven to be exactly what the teens needed and wanted.

Putting All the Information Together

My intention is that at the end of every quarter I will put together a report that highlights our statistics and shows pictures of teens using the space. This will help us all to visualize the overwhelming success of the Teen MakerSpace, especially to staff and admin who may not spend much time in the space.


What do you do to evaluate your Maker Space and communicate success to your staff, admin and community?

The Measure of Program Success?

Part 1: The Measure of Program Success? Probably not book circulation

Part 2: The Measure of Program Success? Probably not attendance either

Part 3: The Measure of Program Success? It’s complicated, kind of (a formula and discussion)

Cut Through the Static, Get Feedback

You have heard me say it time and time again but my mantra is simple: you can’t serve teens unless you care about them, know them, and value them.  And if you are really good at your job, you will empower them and help give them a voice. (Think 40 Developmental Assets!)  One of the best ways to do that is to get their input.  You can do this through Teen Advisory Boards, no doubt.  But I believe there is tremendous value in doing a large scale, once a year survey to get large scale feedback.

Move teens from thinking of it as “the library” to “my library

The truth is, TAB attract a certain type of teen and they tend to be limited in scope because you have to limit their numbers for them to function effectively.  With TABs, you don’t always get the input of your outliers.  So at the end of every summer or the beginning of the school year, I like to put together a large scale survey.

Your goals as a teen librarian: Help your teens find their voice, empower them

I get that a survey is not a perfect tool.  But the truth is any tool is better than no tool.  And in your best case scenario, you use a variety of tools.  So ideally you would have a TAB, engage your teens on a daily basis, do mini-surveys on your social media sites, etc.  But don’t underestimate the value of a large scale survey.

Some of the benefits of a survey include:

  • It gives you large scale feedback from a wider sample of your target demographic
  • It gives you good feedback to make decisions and discuss the decisions in terms that make sense to administrators.  Remember, numbers matter to admin.
  • It gives you feedback to share with your community and community agencies that work with teens.
  • It gives you valuable teen quotes to share in all your various PR forums.
  • It gives your teens a voice and empowers them.

So, how do you do a survey?

1.  Outline the type of feedback that you need to be successful at your job: collection development, programming types, hours, days, etc., TSRC prizes and format and more.

2.  Formulate a template (one is provided below).  Make sure on your format that you have a way to get both statistical data and verbal feedback.  Ask open ended questions as well as your basic rate this types of questions.

3.  After you put your survey together, find a way that works well for your system to distribute it.  If you have a good relationship with your schools, you can ask the schools to help distribute it.  Put them in your teen area and share them through your various online resources.

4.  Give yourself a good time window to get surveys back – but put a finite end date on it.

5.  Remember that anonymity helps ensure that you get more honest feedback.  Although I will be honest, I have also provided incentives for filling them out and it resulted in a higher return rate.  Depending on the budget of your system, you can hand out $5.00 food gift certificates to teens who return their completed surveys to the circulation desk and let them put it directly into an envelope to help make sure their are no faces associated with comments.

6.  Compile your data and run with it.

Sample Survey 

Teen Summer Reading Club

Did you participate in the 2012 Teen Summer Reading Club?     Yes     No

If yes, what is your overall grade for the club?   (Excellent)  A     B     C     D     F (Poor)

How do you prefer to keep track of your reading?

Number of Books Read                Amount of Time Spent Reading     Other ____________

What types of activities would you like to see included in future Teen Summer Reading Clubs?

What did you think of the prizes?         (Excellent)  A     B     C     D     F (Poor)

What types of prizes would you like to see in the future?

Comments about the Teen Summer Reading Club:

Teen Programs

Did you attend any of the teen programs in the last year?     Yes     No

If yes, what did you think of the programs?         (Excellent)  A     B     C     D     F (Poor)

What type of library programs are you interested in?

Crafts   Trivia   Games   Speakers   Book Discussion    None     Other ________________

Suggestions for future programs:

What is the best day of the week for you to attend programs?    

Monday     Tuesday     Wednesday     Thursday     Friday

What is the best time of day for you to attend programs?

3-4 PM     4-5 PM     5-6 PM     6-7 PM     7-8 PM

How do you hear about our programs?

Website     Newspaper     School     Friends     In Library     Other  _________________

Teen Contests

Did you participate in any of the teen contests in the last year?     Yes     No

If yes, what did you think of the contests?  (Excellent)  A     B     C     D     F (Poor)

What was your favorite contest from the past year (and why)?

Suggestions for future contests:

The Teen Area

What is your overall grade for the teen area?     (Excellent)  A     B     C     D     F (Poor)

What parts of the teen collection do you use?

Nonfiction                   Never     Monthly     Weekly     Other _______________

General Fiction           Never     Monthly     Weekly     Other _______________

Graphic Novels           Never     Monthly     Weekly     Other _______________

Inspirational Fiction    Never     Monthly     Weekly     Other _______________

Audio Books               Never     Monthly     Weekly     Other _______________

Teen Magazines           Never     Monthly     Weekly     Other _______________

What are your favorite genres? (Circle all that apply)

Realistic Fiction     Historical Fiction     Science Fiction     Inspirational Fiction     Horror

Mysteries     Humorous Fiction     Fantasy     TV/Movie Tie-ins     Graphic Novels     Nonfiction