In a makerspace or maker program, patrons of varying ages can work together, alone, or with library staff on creative projects. These spaces often give community members access to tools, technology, and social connections that may not be easily accessible otherwise. The goal of a makerspace is to allow patrons to learn through direct experimentation and from each other. Makerspaces do not require specified areas; a pre-existing space can be temporarily modified (or “made”) to better suit the needs of participants. It is more about the intentions of the makers than about the qualities of the space itself.
A makerspace is intended to allow community members to experience technology or activities that they previously were not able to access. As many maker spaces include technology like 3D printers, sewing machines, soldering guns, coding, robotics, and wood carving machines, patrons are invited to experiment freely. The purpose of a maker space is often expressed to be inspiring an interest in science, technology, design, and lifelong learning in the people who are served by the library. Over time, it is expected that the available activities within each individual maker space will grow to reflect the interests of each community in which the library is housed. Makerspaces are also intended to allow minorities or underrepresented populations, like women, or people with disabilities, to become involved with technology and fields they may not have previously considered.
There are many types of makerspaces offered. They are usually developed around a certain type of medium, technology, or even patron age group. Some examples include computer programming and coding, CryptoParties, digital privacy workshops, Free Software advocacy, robotics and electronics, 3D modeling and printing, laser cutting, board games, and traditional arts and crafts. Although experts in the area may be available, the community atmosphere of the space allows patrons to learn from each other and experiment rather than receive lessons.
The force behind the initial “maker movement” is believed to be the creation of Make: magazine in 2005, which published information about maker-related projects. The momentum grew when the magazine devised a series of venues for makers to express themselves and share their creations deemed “maker faires”. Libraries took notice and began offering programs and redesigning spaces to address related interests within their communities. The first public library with a maker space was the Fayetteville Free Library.
Maker spaces have also grown to allow patrons to take classes to develop a certain skill, like cooking, sewing or yoga.