Baker & Taylor recently began offering its public libraries the option to purchase unique makerspace materials, helping them expand their offerings and build greater community among their patrons.
Makerspaces have become increasingly popular among both public libraries and their patrons. A makerspace is a space and tools or services provided by a library for patrons to use to create intellectual and physical projects. Patrons may use a 3D printer to design and print a physical object, for example, or they may learn a new skill, such as sewing, or creatively express themselves by using a green screen, computer and audio capture and editing tools to create and edit videos.
Follett has sold makerspace materials for years and has seen the popularity and success of this innovative library programming.
“Throughout the country we’ve been seeing a revolution in the use of libraries and in how libraries are serving their community,” says Jill Faherty, Vice President of Library Programs with Baker & Taylor. “They are being viewed as a community center where people can go not just to read and access books, but to make, build, explore and tinker.”
Many libraries have dedicated rooms for makerspace activities where children, teens, and adults can gather. Activities may be freeform, where friends casually gather and use the materials provided, or activities and lessons may be organized and lead by a librarian. Faherty says that almost every library she and her team has encountered at Baker & Taylor has a dedicated area for makerspace programming.
Baker & Taylor has established a microsite at makerspace.baker-taylor-site.com where libraries can view the more than 650 individual items available for order. Baker & Taylor also has been able to benefit from the strong vendor relationships that Follett has established and offers specialized kits and materials available only through Baker & Taylor or Follett. LEGO, for example, has assembled proprietary kits available for Baker & Taylor and Follett public library customers.
Available makerspace materials support the following subjects: 3D printing, A/V production, coding and programming, drones and vehicles, electronics, games, LEGO, robotics, science, sewing and crafts. Offerings run the gamut from individual supplies to full kits. Libraries can order filament for a 3D printer or a 3D pen. Or they can buy a kit that lets patrons build a solar-powered robot using a kit, for example.
“We’ve already sold several sewing machines in a short amount of time. They’ve proved very popular,” Faherty says. “This type of crafting option seems to be something unique for public libraries to offer.”
Faherty says she also sees a lot of teens producing videos. “It’s one of the teens’ favorite things to do,” she says. “They aren’t always looking for something physical to create. Sometimes they want to explore their creative ideas and share their talents in a different way.”
Baker & Taylor is continuing to build its inventory based on demand and feedback from its customers. Faherty says she saw tremendous interest at the American Library Association’s 2019 Annual Conference she attended at the end of June.