Surrounded by content resources, library spaces can be easily imagined as content creation spaces. School Libraries in particular, can be seen to have an almost ‘goldilocks’ environment, just right for a Makerspace. From outside, it may seem almost as easy as just making some space for crafting materials, robots and other digital technologies, and letting students tinkering away. However, the dimensions of space and resources in a School Library are just one small element of the programs and activities of a School Library, as defined in the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) School Library Guidelines. In a recent podcast, Why we need qualified teacher librarians for the digital future, Holly Godfree, a Teacher Librarian with the Australian School Library Coalition described the influences of School Librarians on curriculum and teaching as often being “invisible”. It is this same ‘invisible energy’ of librarians who are the hidden faces of School Library Makerspaces.
Through a case study from the Digital Technologies Hub (Education Services Australia & Australian Government Department of Education and Training), I found out about two inspiring Teacher Librarians who have in partnership, created a thriving community in their School Library Makerspace. Jackie Child and Megan Daley are both Teacher Librarians at St Aidan’s Junior Girls School in Queensland, Australia. Jackie was inspired by her own hands-on experience in Makerspaces. Megan, brought her incredible passion for children’s literature into the Makerspace planning and both led their School Library into the creative adventure of establishing its own Makerspace in 2014. Jackie Child blogs about coding, tinkering, libraries and makerspaces at tinkeringchild.com Megan Daley, blogs and reviews children’s literature at childrensbooksdaily.com
Alongside already diverse responsibilities as Teacher Librarians, Jackie and Megan are hands-on in the School Library Makerspace. They conceive, plan and support student learning.
What is your role in the activities that happen in your school Makerspace?
“Our role varies with the activities provided in the Library Makerspace. The girls have access to a selection of materials, electronics and technology which, providing they have had experience with or lessons in using, can be freely utilised to invent, create and make. We are present to assist and guide if required. Other times we may provide challenges for the girls and we would be facilitators to directly teach and help students. An example of direct assistance is in loading and programming the 3D printer.”
Jackie shared an example from her blog of an activity where students were encouraged to dismantle a laptop, using reference books to explore the components and terminology, including how the activity links to the Australian Digital Technologies Curriculum.
Can you share a particular challenge(s) you faced establishing your STEM Makerspace in the School Library, and how you overcame it?
“Space was a big challenge. We overcame that by culling older non-fiction books (as we have many online data bases for our upper primary students) which allowed us to free up book-shelves while still retaining a very viable and well used print book selection. We then purchased boxes from IKEA to place on the shelves to hold materials. We have since removed the bays of shelving and have purchased units again from IKEA to hold the boxes and given ourselves more floor space for mobile furniture including folding tables. We also needed to find a suitable place for our 3D printer, tools and technology which needed supervision. This became possible by expanding our space to incorporate a meeting room which could be closed off from the main area.”
Do you need to measure or assess the impact of the Makerspace activities that your students undertake?
“The Makerspace is a space for students to engage in activities they can enjoy without assessment or stress. They have opportunity to explore, play and learn by creating with or without technology.”
Jackie provided an example of the mix of relaxed informal learning supporting the wellbeing of students alongside more formal class-room led activities:
“Teachers and their students do use the equipment and space for creating artefacts as part of Inquiry research presentations.”
My final question to Jackie and Megan was about how their own passions influenced the success of the Makerspace:
You both mention the value of your partnership as Teacher Librarians. How has this teaching partnership contributed to the evolution of the Makerspace?
“We complement each other in our own skill sets and passions. Megan is passionate about literature and the role it plays in a child’s life. Jackie is passionate about the possibilities technology has in education. Together we heard about and researched the maker movement. We saw it as a natural fit for our library, a place where information is disseminated, and technology is housed, therefore access to create, invent, design and learn was perfect.
Where ever possible we use literature to inspire making and creating.
Throughout Jackie’s blog there are examples of activities in the Makerspace where literature and technology come together while Megan’s blog has a focus on books which promote tinkering in the garden, with craft and sewing and with inspirational and aspirational thinking.”
Teacher Librarians and Makerspaces
The St Aidan’s Makerspace may be an inside space, but it doesn’t seem in any way bound or limited by its walls.
As Teacher Librarians, Jackie and Megan are able to intentionally remove the physical boundaries of the School Library through the Makerspace, connecting the School Library to other teaching and learning approaches, including outdoor spaces. There are even links to the ‘inside, outside and beyond’ scope of nature-pedagogy and MIT’s Media Lab Projects, Passion, Peers and Play approach of “lifelong kindergarten”.
School Libraries and Makerspaces for all?
In 1999, the IFLA/UNESCO School Library Manifesto: The School library in teaching and learning for all was released, specifically supporting the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. (2015 IFLA School Library Guidelines Appendix A)
Nearly twenty years on from the manifesto, School Library advocacy is ongoing, and becoming increasingly urgent. An online campaign in the UK to ‘halt the decline of school libraries’, included the voices of popular authors and included people from all over the world sharing stories through the #ThankALibraryWorker hashtag.
In Australia, as in other countries, the Australian School Library Association (ASLA) is launching the School Libraries Matter a campaign in March 2018 to include parents in the task of advocating for school libraries and Teacher Librarians.
Supporting the school community to play and learn together in the School Library Makerspace, is one way that Jackie Child and Megan Daley as Teacher Librarians were able to invite the wider community to understand, care and value the St Aidan’s School Library. It began with a shared vision between two School librarians who created the connections to establish a new community within the library. A community that ultimately values making things together.