This post originally appeared on the LAIP in November 2014.

If you’ve heard us speak at a conference or staff training, you know that the LAIP team is big on finding innovative ways to facilitate maker activities and programs even if your library does not have a traditional, permanent “makerspace.” Meridian District Library in Idaho found one way to handle this: a series of “Make It Take It” kits that patrons can check out and experiment with at home! ~ Laura

Library as Incubator Project (LAIP): First of all, please introduce yourself and “your” library, Meridian Library District! What is your position at the library? What is the community served by Meridian Library District like?

Cheri Rendler (CR): My name is Cheri Rendler, and I am Materials Services Manager at Meridian Library District, a public library in Meridian, Idaho.

My department is responsible for materials selection, ordering, acquisitions, serials, cataloging and digital services.  We contribute and help implement ideas at our library related to materials and digital services.  The Meridian Library District (MLD) is located west of Boise, and is the fastest growing community in the state.  Currently the District serves approximately 86,000 residents and is a member of the LYNX Consortium, sharing resources with other public libraries in the area.  The community served by MLD is primarily white (92%), educated and 42% of the households have children under the age of eighteen.  The District has approximately 49,000 cardholders.  The Meridian area is known for it’s public parks, recreational opportunities, and large variety of businesses.  The city of Meridian has received awards for “Best Place to Live” and “Best Place for Familes” awards.  MLD residents are also served by the West Ada School District, the largest K-12 school district in the state.

LAIP: I was so excited to see the LibGuides for the Make It Take Kits at MLD! Can you tell me a bit about how the decision was made to offer kits like these for your patrons?

CR: We had talked about it in our Management Team meetings, after a couple of staff returned from conferences and shared information about similar programs they had seen.  Our library was undergoing administrative changes that included the encouragement of innovation and trying out new ideas.  We had previously talked about checking out objects to people, and expanded on the idea to have “learning” kits.

LAIP: How did you decide what kinds of material to offer in the Make It Take It Kits?

CR: It was initially viewed as a way to expand the Maker programs we had going on with teens and kids, so we created kits for Arduino, Catapults, Raspberry Pi and Robots kits. We had received a grant for Maker materials, and wanted to offer the resources outside the library and encourage the development of technological skills. We added in non-tech options that we felt would be of interest to patrons (and we also surveyed staff to get suggestions).  

make_it_take_it_arduino

We tried to stay away from consumables since items would be going out on hold and be shared in our library Consortium, and we wouldn’t always be able to check condition or restock as needed.  But we felt that knitting was popular enough to include, and wanted to do “Cookie Decorating” before the Christmas holiday.  Cookie decorating has been retired (issues with cleanliness), and we put a note on the libguide and the kit containers, asking for donations of yarn or replace what you used.  We have a very large box of yarn now, to restock with.  We started with 8 kits, and now have 14 uniques ones, with multiples of the most popular ones (24 kits in all).  We added 6 new kits during the year. We also include a link on the libguide for the kits, asking for suggestions for new kits, and are adding another form so patrons can let us know how they used the kit, if anything was missing, etc.    
 
LAIP: How is circulation going? Which kits are proving the most popular?
 
CR: Circulation remains strong, with over 800 checkouts in our last fiscal year (and the program started in the third month after the year had started). In October 2014 we had over 100 checkouts.  Kits are loaned for four weeks, to provide an opportunity to learn.  The most popular kits have been Robots, Ukuleles and Knitting.  Kits are rarely checked in, so we have not had to deal with te issue of where to store them.  Rather, the challenge has been to get the word out about them, since they are not seen in the library.  
 
make_it_take_it_ukulele
 
LAIP: How does offering kits like this support the mission of Meridian Library District?
 
CR: The mission of the Meridian Library District includes lifelong learning.  We wanted to make learning more accessible and fun, and do in non-traditonal ways.  The idea was to make learning exciting and easy, by providing materials needed to learn a new skill or hobby that they could continue with, as well as expand on the STEM components of our exisiting library programs.  The current library mission is:

   “The mission of the Meridian Library District is to provide a safe and inviting place where residents can interact with each other; find information about their community and its offerings; investigate a wide range of topics pertaining to their work, school and personal lives; and develop a love of reading and learning that will continue throughout their lives.”

LAIP: I see that you have contact information listed so that patrons can recommend kit purchases. Are there any additional kits coming in the future?

CR: Yes, we are adding a 3D Printing kit (they design own object, get it printed at library), Makey Makey kit, Rainbow Loom kit (patron request), fitness kits of various types (variety of small weights, bands, calipers, books, DVDs) and bicycle maintenance/ repair kits. 

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