Today we bring you a feature on the Makerspace at the College of San Mateo Library. Director of Library Services Lorrita Ford shares some of the fantastic pop-up programs that the library hosts in conjunction with student clubs and academic departments. This is a wonderful example of the partnership-driven makerspace model that can inspire libraries of any type! ~ Laura

by Lorrita E. Ford, Director of Library Services

College of San Mateo is a two year community college located between San Francisco and the Silicon Valley. The College of San Mateo’s “Making the Future: The CSM Library Makerspace Incubation Project”   launched during National Library Week in 2013. It is designed to introduce the culture of “Making” at College of San Mateo (CSM) and to stimulate the College’s imagination in re-visioning the role of academic libraries in the 21st century.

The first step of our process in developing our Makerspace was to invite faculty from STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math), career and technical programs and liberal arts disciplines for an exploratory meeting to gauge their interest and potential engagement in developing and supporting “Making” at the College.  Faculty were uniformly supportive. Subsequently the library submitted a successful college-based “innovation grant” proposal that provided seed funding for equipment, supplies, publicity, staffing, training, and the establishment of a tool lending library that is currently under development. Information about the tool lending library can be found at

Faculty at CSM learning about the tool lending program at the Library Makerspace.

Faculty at CSM learning about the tool lending program at the Library Makerspace.

Because we don’t have a permanent physical space or dedicated staff we have intentionally solicited classroom faculty partners and student clubs to lead workshops and activities. Our most successful collaborations have been with faculty from Astronomy, Biology, Engineering, Art, Electronics, English, and Astronomy and students from the Engineering Club, Fashion Club, Fine Arts Club, and the Architecture Club. The College recently started a student Makerspace Club. Currently Librarians serve as advisors for the club.

While most events/workshops occur in the library many activities occur at other locations on campus.  A partial list of  past activities includes:  Learn to Solder, Lei Making, Gingerbread Houses, Up-cycled Clothing, Salsa dancing, 3D printing, Terrariums, Solar Cars, Arduino Basics, African Inspired Masks, Soda Straw Architecture: Geodesic Domes,  Sestinas: Collaborative Poetry Making, Cyanotypes: Printmaking With the Sun, Jewelry Making, Knitting, Holiday Ornaments, Molds  and Casting.  A fuller list of workshops and events that were offered in 2013 and 2014 can be found at Information about our program can also be found in John J. Burke’s “Makerspaces: A Practical Guide for Librarians” (2014).

Our primary target audience is CSM students faculty and staff and we generally don’t advertise to the public.  However last fall we were invited by the Math and Science Division to participate in their annual Family Science and Astronomy festival which was updated to the “Family Science & Astronomy Festival + Makerspace”. This event targets local elementary and secondary schools.  Our participation in the festival was partially funded by a grant from the Pacific Library Partnership. It was very successful venture. The event program can be found at:

3D printing demonstration at family day.

3D printing demonstration at Family Day.

A visitor makes a string art project at Family Day.

A visitor makes a string art project at Family Day.

College of San Mateo Library is committed to building a sense of community within our community college.  We have a long strong history of outreach and collaborative public programming with classroom faculty. What has really excited us about the makerspace initiative is the breaking down of barriers to teaching, learning and sharing between faculty, students, and staff.  No one knows that the person who is leading the jewelry workshop is a biology professor or that the person leading the workshop on building geodesic domes is an architecture student. An unexpected surprise has been the number of classified staff participants who primarily work in campus offices and rarely have the opportunity to engage in college events outside of their departments.

In our opinion, makerspaces are a logical next evolutionary step in academic libraries’ traditional role of providing access to information, people, and technological resources that support discovery, teaching, learning, creativity, and application of new knowledge.

We are very fortunate to have a team of talented and generous librarians and staff who go out of their way to work to support each other and make these programs work.  Because most of our staff is part-time, sustaining this program involves a lot of coordination and mutual support. Communication and flexibility is paramount. While we have some staff who have expertise related to our workshops we also learn by getting a book or watching a video or somehow figuring it out on our own.

There are a lot of great resources out there to support library makerspaces. We learned a lot from going to local Maker Faires, colleagues at academic and public libraries, similar initiatives at colleges and universities, websites, books, conferences, webinars and DIY workspaces operated by private and community organizations.

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