Crossing the Threshold: Visiting an Actual Maker Space

It didn’t occur to me until after visiting the Teen Tech Center at Hennepin County Library on Monday that for all that I’ve heard about maker spaces, I had never actually been inside of one.

Recording studio at Hennepin County Library’s Teen Tech Center. I was really impressed by the amount of music production tools they had here. For some reason, I hadn’t ever associated music and maker spaces.

I was very impressed with both maker spaces we visited: the Teen Tech Center at Hennepin County Library and Createch at Saint Paul Public Library, although they have  different goals and approaches. The Teen Tech Center was very much focused on making and learning, with very little structure. There were no formal programs. The space was the program, and all the members were not only potential learners but potential teachers and sources of knowledge.

Picture of the Teen Tech Center at Hennepin County Library.

On the other hand, Createch had a goal of being a safe space for teens. Entry and participation seemed less restricted in some ways (you don’t have to sign up to be a member, you can come and go, and there are areas just for hanging out). This makes sense for the space, because it was based HOMAGO (hanging out, messing around, geeking out). However, it was more restricted in other ways, with more structured programming and some instances where teens couldn’t use a resource (like the recording studio) without training or permission. From what was said, it sounds like they are taking steps to increase the opportunities to “geek out”

The Teen Tech Center had a definite messy feel, but a good messy. The center felt well-used, and the mess showed that creative, engaging things were happening here.

Overall, I don’t feel that one teen maker space was better than the other. In both places, the maker space staff had clearly built a community. They knew their members by name and knew what they were interested in. The Teen Tech Center better put some of the ideas we’ve been reading about into practice (peer-to-peer learning, learning as inquiry, learning directed by individual interests and passions). However, Createch also has done a great job of creating a community hub for youth.

A few final thoughts. Both maker spaces were connected with and based on a larger model: the Teen Tech Center was part of the Computer Clubhouse Network while Createch was part of the YOUmedia Network. These networks offered a model, an approach, but also ongoing support for these maker spaces. Is being part of a maker space network the norm for library maker spaces? Are there networks for adult or general library maker spaces?

Next time: I’ll finally talk about my own project I’m working on for class!

This post was originally published on the St. Kate MLIS WordPress website.


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