In the spring, the Library as Incubator Project team started talking with Trent Miller and Jesse Vieau about the makerspace that will be part of the new Madison Public Library Central Branch.

Rather than being restricted to a physical location within the library, the “space” Trent and Jesse envision is more of a programming model – a suite of programs centered around a type of “making” and based almost entirely on community partnerships. So, MPL might host a two-week-long silkscreening program series in partnership with Madison’s Polka Press. The two weeks would consist of hands-on workshops, plus the opportunity for program participants to share their work with family and friends (online or in person). The programs that make up the silkscreening series, since they are not tethered by a permanent set of equipment, can “pop up” anywhere, from the Central Branch’s children’s room to a community center five miles away. Programs can be shared between library branches, and library patrons all over the city can easily participate.

Pop-up workshops/classes are not a new idea. Independent artists, designers, and sellers host “pop-up shops” everywhere from empty storefronts to public parks. Art and craft fairs are basically mass pop-up shops. Overhead is low, since the seller is not renting a permanent space, and flexible – but it requires a lot of coordination and publicity in order to be successful. Sound familiar?

Today there is a very cool pop-up makerspace opening in New York City. Hosted by the Invisible Dog Art Center, and facilitated by HTINK cooperative, the NYC Makery “will host workshops and classes around technology, art, crafts, and making” for two weeks this month. Jaymes Dec from HTINK sent me some background information on the Makery, and why they opted for a “pop-up” model:

Our technology education cooperative ( wants to open a community makerspace, a place where people can come and use shared tools and other resources to make things and learn about making.

We had been looking at real estate options in Manhattan and Brooklyn for a few months but it was becoming apparent that we’d need more money or more luck to make it happen anytime soon. So we switched gears and decided that a pop-up makerspace model could work well.

We asked around about possible spaces where we could set up a makerspace. Some of our friends run a technology camp, Beam Camp, at the Invisible Dog Art Center in Brooklyn. So they introduced us to the owners of the art gallery and it was a perfect fit. It is a big, raw space not being used in August and it is located in an area with lots of families. We agreed to a two week lease on the space.

This will be the first in a series of pop-up makerspaces, or Makeries. Pop-up refers to the fact that we are setting up the makerspace temporarily. One day we’ll set up, two weeks later we’ll be gone, only to pop-up in another community a few weeks later. Through the pop-up process, we hope to quickly learn about the best practices of setting up spaces and designing experiences that encourage communities to come together and make things with technology.

During the day at The Makery, we will run workshops for children (and parents, if they want) that teach about computer programming, physical computing, and digital design and fabrication. The idea is that a child comes in and chooses from a menu of things they can make. We will provide all the supplies and some expert educators and makers to help them through the process. If they have their own idea, we can help them with that too. In the evenings, we plan on holding events for families and other members of the community. We may bring in digital artists or designers to run workshops. We also plan on hosting some workshops for teachers to teach them about the digital tools in the space. We will have a bunch of MakerBot 3D printers, a vinyl cutter, soldering irons, laptops and other tools used for making things with technology. We are not planning any online components right now.

We are all educators that work with kids and making for our jobs. I think that this is the seventh makerspace for kids that we’ve setup in the last four years, so we have a lot of experience planning these types of programs. We’ve been meeting a lot and reaching out to our networks of educators and makers for help. We’ll see how it goes.

We hope to make some mistakes so we can learn how to plan it better next time!

This last comment from Jaymes is what appeals most to me about the pop-up programming model for libraries. Programs that are not tethered to a specific set of equipment or space make the programming possibilities more nimble, able to change and adapt depending on the community’s needs without having to renovate a space or invest in a lot of new equipment.

Note to NYC area libraries: NYC Makery can pop up in your library! Contact to learn how to partner with them.

Making spaces in libraries can, do, and should come in many forms. The tech- and equipment-heavy examples offer much in the way of digital and technical literacy development, while the pop-up/partnership model can offer a similar set of skills even for communities whose libraries cannot support a full-blown Fab Lab or Digital Media Lab.

Check out these links for more information about:

How might you employ a pop-up programming model like the NYC Makery in your library? What questions do you have – about funding, policy considerations, etc.? This topic will crop up again – soon – and we want you to be a part of the conversation. Add your comments here, or chat us up on Twitter or Facebook. ~ Laura

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