Krista Robinson, Systems Librarian, Stratford Public Library – @lilmisslibrary
“Maker” fever is spreading across libraries in North America. The theme of making is weaving its way into our programs, our spaces, and even our culture. And the outcomes are fantastic! People are being empowered to learn in new ways and move from consumers of information to also creators and innovators. Stratford Public Library has caught the maker fever and we are getting excited for the renovation of a staff office to create a dedicated MakerSpace in late 2017. However, we did not want to wait that long to get cool technologies in the hands of our customers. That’s where Maker Kits come in.
In late 2016 we decided to create a circulating Maker Kit collection as a lead up to our MakerSpace. The collection was funded by a small surplus in library’s computer operational budget. Makers Kits contain the tools and materials needed to experiment and create in many different subject areas.
We are starting with a collection of junior kits. Each of the kits include a form of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) technology, a book about the tool, and a laminated information sheet about the kit. All of the contents are stored in clear backpacks for easy browsing by our customers. The junior kits include fun tools such as littleBits, Strawbees, T4 Transforming Solar Robot, Spool Knitting, and an Ozobot. The teen/adult kits, which will be launched in March, include Makey Makey, Arduino, Google Cardboard and Stick Bots. Our kits circulate for 1 week each and there are no renewals or requests allowed.
It is said “build it and they will come”, so to draw attention to the new kits, we created a permanent ‘Maker’ display. The ‘Maker’ display not only holds the kits, but also a number of STEAM themed books. The display is located across from our public service desk making it easy to assist customers with any questions they may have.
The one question we had was how to ensure that the check in staff were able to easily check the kits for all the parts and pieces when they were returned. We created a binder with a listing of all the parts, counted by colour and a photo of the pieces. Check in staff have been most appreciative of the photos. Another concern was replacement costs. Since customers will be charged the replacement cost of a kit if lost or damaged beyond use, we tried to minimize the costs of items in each kit. The average cost of a kit is $50, with littleBits being the most costly at $129 and the Spool Knitting being the least costly at just $9.
So far the kits have been successful! ‘Maker’ books and kits are flying off the shelves and feedback from both staff and customers has been very positive. We hope the families using them are having as much fun with the kits as we did putting them together!
Full details on our Maker Kits can be found on SPL’s Maker Kit webpage – www.stratford.library.on.ca/makerkits