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Makerspace 101: Building a Makerspace for Library and Education Professionals

08-03-2017 11:53 AM CET | Science & Education

Press release from: Formaspace

Makerspaces for Libraries

Makerspaces for Libraries

Libraries and universities are taking an increasingly prominent role in establishing Makerspaces ( to encourage hands-on learning. We take a look at the key points library and education professionals need to consider when creating or expanding Makerspace facilities.

Maker Space Labs in Libraries and Universities support STEM and STEAM Educational Programs

In a world where preparation for compulsory testing has dominated the student curriculum landscape for decades, many leading educators are seeking to improve learning outcomes in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM*) by encouraging students to pursue increased self-discovery, independent experimentation, and hands-on problem-solving.

(* Many educators prefer the acronym STEAM, which adds the important A for "art" component to the student curriculum.)

In response, pioneers like Paul Baum in Vienna, Austria and Professor Neil Gershenfeld from MIT's Media Lab promoted the concept of Makerspaces.

Known by a variety of names around the world, including learning sheds, hacker spaces, and fab labs, Makerspaces are shared spaces; facilities dedicated to providing a safe, secure environment that encourages hands-on learning and experimentation.

In a time of rapid technological change, Makerspaces allow students to take on creative engineering challenges that help prepare them for tomorrow's careers – ranging from programming their own interactive virtual reality games to building artificial intelligence robotic devices, to designing new types of wearable tech powered by the Internet of Things.

Libraries are increasingly taking a lead role in Makerspace initiatives

Researchers from James Madison University and the Georgia Institute of Technology undertook one of the first comprehensive surveys of Makerspaces in higher education (

The survey, which was presented at the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) conference, found that by 2014, there were at least 40 Makerspaces up and running at the nation's top 100 ranked colleges and universities, with many more in the planning and implementation stages.

Interestingly, the survey found that libraries are the most common location for Makerspaces housed on college and university campuses.

This makes a lot of sense. Libraries have a tradition of providing access to expensive equipment and specialized resources for a wide range of users. They have the expertise necessary to plan and manage budgets (including grants) for acquiring assets, they are highly experienced in identifying community needs and providing necessary services for patrons, and they often already have the necessary real estate needed to host a Makerspace facility (or can find ways to obtain facility spaces through their existing budgetary processes).

How are university-based Makerspaces handling the day-to-day management?

On the other hand, traditional library personnel may not have the necessary expertise required to run the actual day-to-day operations of Makerspaces. This is not meant as a criticism; rather it reflects the operational challenges posed by the broad range of technological activities that can take place in these facilities.

The ASEE survey finds the day-to-day management approach taken by university Makerspaces falls into three camps:

• Faculty-run Makerspaces, such as at Case Western Reserve University
• Dedicated, Staff-run Makerspaces, such as at Arizona State University*
• Student-run Makerspaces, such as Boston, Columbia, and Harvard Universities

Other institutions pursue blended management schemes that rely on a combination of two of the above approaches.

What are the most common types of equipment provided by university Makerspaces?

Far and away, 3D printers top the list of equipment promoted by university Makerspaces, according to the ASEE survey.

The second most common type of equipment advertised on Makerspace websites was laser cutters for cutting metal, followed by woodworking and metal working tools.

Other common tools available at university Makerspaces include:

• Electronics prototyping and soldering equipment
• Computer Numerical Control (CNC) routers and mills
• Computer Aided Design (CAD)/Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM) software stations
• Printed Circuit Board (PCB) mills
• Plasma cutters
• Vinyl cutters
• 3D Scanners
• Welding equipment
• Sewing or quilting machines
• Virtual Reality (VR) equipment and green screen video backdrops

What are the top design considerations for converting an existing space or building a new facility?

Formaspace has long experience in supplying furniture for Makerspaces, including recent projects at Arizona State University ( and Seattle University. We spoke with the Formaspace Design Consultant staff to learn about the top design considerations when planning the layout of a new Makerspace facility or updating an existing one:


Read more ...

Formaspace advances the spirit of discovery and creation through the design and manufacture of custom business furniture. Our furniture marries form to function with flexible solutions for clients in the laboratory, industrial, and office environments.

Formaspace serves over 80% of the Fortune 500, as well as universities, governments, small businesses, and individuals.

1100 East Howard Lane, Suite 400
Austin, TX 78753


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