A blog from the Southern Ontario Library Service

‘Team in’ Training – Collaborative Makerspace Training

Wondering how to get your staff on board with a new makerspace?  We have a guest blog post from Chantale Boileau, Adult Services Librarian for Barrie Public Library (and about-to-be-APLL-grad), outlining Barrie’s approach to training and staff engagement:

The Barrie Public Library (BPL) opened a makerspace called the Collaboratory (‘CoLab’ – a name voted on by staff) in December 2017 at our Downtown library branch. Engaged staff ensure the success of this new service point for adults and teens 13+.

We realize there is no one size fits all model for makerspace training but feel we have a model worth sharing. At BPL we treat our makerspace as a customer service and reference point where staff and customers learn alongside each other.

Staff look forward to their shifts in the CoLab and are engaged in taking these opportunities to learn new skills at their own pace.To help staff become comfortable with the CoLab, we ran a 6 month pilot. To start with we didn’t offer drop in hours, only programs.

The CoLab featured over a dozen tools and staff were asked to start with what interested them and to know at least a handful when we opened. For the first few months of open hours, customers were welcomed to use the other tools and learn alone or with staff.

Training Goals. The CoLab took a year to plan and implement. The staff training goals we continue to work towards are:

  • staff need to understand the CoLab’s purpose as an experimentation station and be familiar navigating in it,
  • staff need to understand the tools and the basics of how to use them,
  • all staff working with the public (including pages) should be able to explain the new space and its inventory when asked,
  • providing roving training for staff so they invite customers to visit.

Skill Building. We continue to run informal and formal training for multiple learning styles, in small groups and pairs, including:

  • making it fun! For example running a staff ‘drop in’ to co-design a Cricut card or vinyl sticker for a mug/cup (provided),
  • encouraging practice on a drop-in basis when the Lab was open or during a program,
  • make practicing productive create easy library branded projects, such as buttons and 3D printed key chains
  • opening 3D printing practice to all staff during work time,
    • it’s amazing how many conversations are started while it’s running!
  • providing access to reference books, manuals/instructions, database courses or SOLS workshops.

Staff Engagement. Engage staff to participate in the learning process by asking them to:

  • contribute ideas for maker programs the space or new purchases (before and after opening)
  • create and test instruction and project sheets for tools (these can be teachable moments),
  • become experts and help maintain a tool,
  • add projects to a ‘maker gallery’ display case to show what can be made with the tools,
  • and to be curious and ask questions, even anonymously.

Insights Gained Along the Way

  1. Staff are proud to advertise what they make in the CoLab. To encourage staff practice, there was no charge for anything created while learning how to use a tool.
  2. It’s important to invite staff for tours and bring maker materials to branches for orientations.
  3. Some materials from this space are bookable for pop-up maker opportunities at our branch library. As our maker materials can circulate for outreach or system-wide programs, we offered training on how to book them.
  4. BPL’s makerspace is like any other service point: many people staff it and they aren’t all there at the same time. As such, all changes need to be communicated: where things are, fees, logins/passwords for tech, new tools, location of your maker web page, etc.

Having trained staff that support your makerspace ensures effective assistance and boosts confidence in saying ‘let’s learn together’ to customers. Makerspaces stretch the technology learning curve even further for staff, so it’s crucial to help them be prepared. Knowledgeable staff create an environment for customer service excellence.

The Collaboratory has added new fun and learning to our jobs!