Among the work with do with libraries is to show them how to do "Pop-Up Makerspace Projects", and there's no better way to do that than to host an Instructables Build Night! Any group can do a Build Night, of course, but for Libraries, hosting a Build Night has several useful outcomes in addition to anything cool built during the event:
- It functions as a way to familiarize library staff and volunteers with "Making" and Maker Culture.
- It engages patrons and the local community in a new, interactive way.
- It opens conversations about makerspaces in libraries, especially useful if a library is looking to expand or augment space.
- It can net the library some cool tools and resources.
This Instructable is a shorthand version of a longer discussion appearing in the new book, Makerspaces in Libraries, which I co-authored with Dutch librarian, Jeroen de Boer, and is out on shelves this summer.
Step 1: Open an Instructables Account
If you don't have one, go to Instructables.com and click "Sign Up." A new window will open where you can sign up for free membership. Your user name can be the name of an individual or the name of your organization or library, if you’d like to start curating Instructables projects as part of an overall strategy to enhance library programming.
If you do have one and you've just been going around looking at everyone else's Instructables, now's your chance to join in the fun!
Step 2: Consider Your Build Space
Do a build space inventory before embarking on any projects, to consider what type of projects can be reasonably supported. A few useful things to consider:
- Will there be dedicated build space where tools or other creative supplies can be stored, or will you have to completely clean up after every project, and store materials elsewhere?
- How big is the space you’ll be using? Are there tables that can act as workbenches? Do they need to be covered? How about the flooring?
- What types of tools are you able to use? Are you limited to basic craft supplies like scissors, utility knives, glue and tape? Or will you have access to hand tools or power tools?
- Is noise generation an issue if you're hosting at a library or other shared space? If so, is noise a problem only at certain times, or is there a general intractable culture of quiet?
- Do you have access to outdoor spaces that might work for messier build projects?
- What are rules on paint or solvents? Getting a handle on the type of space(s) that can be used for Pop-Up Projects will provide a sense of the types of builds that can be comfortably enjoyed at your library or other workspace.
Step 3: Have a Projects Team
If you want to do Build Nights on a regular basis, it’s really helpful to have some dedicated, well-informed, technically and creatively skilled core group who will be the points of contact for heading them up. These will be the folks who will select appropriate projects, and be responsible for organizing and preparing for build sessions, interacting with participants and providing follow through where necessary, like applying for project builds or posting Instructables after a project.
Ideally, project team members should have participated in a couple of individual or small group builds beforehand, show an aptitude for creativity and flexibility in their approach to build experiences.
Step 4: Know Your Budget and Materials Sources
The size of your project budget, taken into consideration with facilities resources, will determine, to some degree, the types of Pop-Up projects your library can undertake; “to some degree” because there are often work-arounds on budget limitations. Instructables Build Night, for example, typically provide the materials with which you'll be building.
Tools and other materials, however, you'll have to source yourself. So scrounge around in garages and sheds to see what you've got lying around that might form the basis for your Build Night materials and tools collection. Yes, there's a werewolf in our garage.
Libraries and other nonprofit community groups might want to check with local home improvement stores, which will often provide gift cards or deep discounts to nonprofits, allowing cost effective acquisition of supplies. Arts and crafts, and electronic supply stores can provide similar nonprofit support. It may also be possible to partner with local suppliers and hardware stores, who will provide free or discounted supplies in exchange for recognition, or as a community service.
Step 5: Pick Your Project
Select a project appropriate to available space, resources, budget and staff. It’s important that the selected project be achievable but not so simple as to seem patronizing to participants. Consider a project that brings added value to the group hosting the Build Night: things like educational displays, special tables, display rack, shelving, artwork, signage, charging stations, lighting, tool holders, workbenches , outdoor displays, garden items, seating or anything that can be considered a point of pride for makers and for the site of your Build Night.
Check out the current list of Instructables Contests for project ideas.
Step 6: Invite Participants
Decide ahead of time on recommended ages for a project, and how many people your build space can comfortably accommodate for a project. If there’s a good chance there’s going to be a lot of interest, consider multiple build teams and do two or more of the same project.
In the libraries we work with, the Teen Advisory Board or robotics team makes a great Build Night crew. Sometimes we just get together with Friends of Eureka Factory.
Whatever the size or ages of your group members, be clear on expectations and skill sets, identifying the types of tools that will be used during the build and whether the project will require basic, intermediate or experienced tool use, how to dress (closed toed shoes, etc.) and how much time the project is intended to take.
Most Build Night projects can take place over several session in the course of a month, so you can play around with the provided gear, experiment, brainstorm, get some ideas down, and then come back together on another day to do your actual builds.
Step 7: Build!
Go to town! Build, play, eat!
Step 8: Document and Share
Take photos along the way and video tape. If the project is part of an Instructables contest, good illustrations are vital. Photos can also be useful for creating a library of Pop-Up Projects for historical and reference purposes, and for sharing on social media and at library events.
For libraries building up a Maker community, the importance of sharing photos of Build Nights and Pop-Up Projects can’t be overstated. Sharing, especially on social media, as well as in library promotional materials, photos of patrons and library staff working together on creative projects can be a powerful motivator for others to join in and a catalyst for helping change library culture in an active and engaging way.
There's a couple of good Instructables around on - How to Write Instructables! (That one's particularly nice). But essentially, you just want to create clear and simple step by step instructions for whatever it is you created.
Step 9: Make It Your Own
And whatever you make, Make it your Own! Customize, put your own special brand on it. For maker groups of all kinds, and especially for groups like libraries trying to engage and inspire, Build Nights can become the new Game Night.
Like old fashioned barn raisings, library Build Nights, for instance, can build community around actual needs, like repairing library furniture, painting murals, enhancing garden areas with benches or artwork, and other basic DIY “home” style repairs and improvements. Engaging community members in active library improvement projects as part of an overall plan to build maker culture can create a sense of civic pride and ownership in the library, and a new paradigm of the library as an active cultural and creative hub.