Viewing Tools in Service of Program Goals

The New York Hall of Science (NYSCI) has been a leader in maker programs in museums for several years. In particular, the Little Makers Program, Design Lab and the Makerspace are innovative spaces for design with youth of all ages. In their design-focused approach, it is the design that determines the tools and materials more than the tools and materials determining the design. Viewing the tools and materials of a maker program in service of the goal of that program is one way of ensuring that there is alignment or coherence in your overall program. Taken to its extreme, NYSCI aspires to someday have youth participants build their own tools and then use the tools to carry out their design.

Aligning Maker Goals with Tools and Materials

The tools and equipment that fill TechCentral have been intentionally selected to align with Cleveland Public Library's mission of enabling patrons to be creative, collaborative and able to bring their ideas to life. Library patrons are able to use the collection of high-tech equipment—including a laser engraving and cutting machine, 3D printers and a vinyl cutter—as well as current software for learning, practicing and producing photography, videography, graphic design and music. While the current arrangement of tools and materials of TechCentral are heavily tech focused, the team is finding that as they expand maker programs tolibrary branches, the tech and digital focus may need to shift slightly to accommodate a variety of patrons.

Activating Lifelong Learning with Tools and Materials

The Fourth Floor of the Chattanooga Public Library has been lauded for its innovative library services: their mixture of high-end and low-tech tools, the Giglab, and co-working and special event space. Less well known, the Second Floor offers a similarly innovative yet more scaffolded maker experience for kids, tweens and teens, to serve as a catalyst for and a bridge to lifelong learning. The Second Floor staff intentionally select activities that expose the patrons to new and old technologies, which seek to expose the inner workings of machines and demystify the building process, while still being driven by the patrons’ interests.