The Idea Lab – How do we use it in the library?

The Idea Lab is the SPLAT team’s new resource for librarians across the state. It is an opportunity to explore and test new ideas without having to sacrifice a tight budget on something new. Currently it is stocked with Maker Space ideas, the hot new trend in library services. As the SPLAT team has travelled and presented the Idea Lab, there is one common question we are asked:

“How do I use these things in my library?”

It is a good question and here are a few suggestions.

Explore, learn, and play with the tool

On the surface many of the items in the Idea Lab look like toys. The Sphero is a prime example. Kids are immediately attracted to this roly-poly robot and will play with it until the battery dies. But the Sphero can do so much more, such as allowing someone to code their own interactive program. This is true with all of the items in the Idea Lab. Before we can leverage greater learning or maker activities, we have to understand the tools well. With the 3D printer, we have to spend time making prints so we can help others with their projects. The circuit blocks are an interactive, yet simple tool that teaches basic circuitry. It is important for the librarian to understand basic circuits.

Leverage existing programming

Your library already has some kind of programming. Look at the various programs already offered to see if you can introduce some kind of Maker or STEM activity. We usually think of children’s programming and this is a great place to start. Storytimes, after school groups, the chess club, table top gaming group, Lego club etc., all present opportunities. The little kids will love the circuit blocks and Sphero. Older kids might like to try 3D printing a board game or Lego piece, or begin to explore coding to control a device. But think broader than that too. An adult book club, knitter’s group, tutoring, homeschoolers, nursing home, etc., may like a demonstration or drop-in activity.

Start a Maker Space

If your library does not yet have a Maker Space, then consider adding one. A Maker Space can start small and focused to a particular community need. Introduce new ideas and tools as time and budget permit. Create a mission statement to help explain your Maker Space to library boards and community members. If I were to craft a mission statement it would state something like:

A library is a community resource which provides opportunities for engagement, learning, exploration and growth. This is achieved through printed material, media, digital resources, and tools. A Maker Space in a library provides a place and means for individuals to use tools to engage, learn, and explore new ideas as they grow.

Please feel free to borrow the Idea Lab and begin some exploration of your own.