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Does the Shoe Fit? Assessing a Potential Maker Space for Your Library

Thursday, May 22, 2014  
Posted by: Nathan Swartzendruber
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Should you open a maker space in your library? That’s a lousy question. It poses a solution before it even states the problem. It’s the problem that’s worth discussing: What should your library be doing to meet your community’s needs?

At yesterday’s Data-Driven Innovation session, Anastasia Diamond-Ortiz and Tim Diamond shared some solutions from Cleveland Public Library and invited us to ask some tough questions. There are questions you might want to skip if you see a project succeed somewhere else or it’s just a project you like. We can probably use some practice asking questions.

Pie ChartWhat Questions?

Here are the questions we asked yesterday, restated so they could apply to a potential future project.

  1. What is the community need this is supposed to meet?
  2. What other questions should be asked? (Who will use this, how much will it cost, which of the library’s needs will this meet?)
  3. What data should be gathered before choosing this solution? (Outcomes of similar projects at other libraries, available space or grant funding.)
  4. What conditions should be met before moving forward? (Funding in place, community partnerships, designating space.)
  5. If you go ahead with the project, what data would you want to capture to measure its performance? (Number of users, increased circulation or card-holders, number of joint projects with faculty.)

These questions often come up in conversation, where we talk about audience or funding or how we could measure success. A big benefit of documenting those conversations is that you don’t forget them.

These really are data questions, too, though there might not be that many numbers involved. This is research that helps you discover which version of an idea best fits your community or discover that the time isn’t (yet) right for it.

What Project?

SWON’s Maker Space Grant is putting up $2500 toward equipment for a maker space in one of SWON’s Supporting Member libraries. What kind of maker space? That’s up to you.

Whether you want to install a 3D printer or sewing machines, applications will be judged by your answers to questions like the ones we asked yesterday. We want to help you make an impact; we want to know what impact you expect, and if you’re the winner, what impact your maker space actually has.

If you have questions about the grant or grant process, write or call us. Call soon! The deadline for applications is May 31. Click here for full details.

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