How to make a $1,000,000 library makerspace

In the final instalment of our three-part series exploring how to create library makerspaces on different budget ranges, we’ll be exploring what to do if you secure a large amount of funding, and we’ll attempt to answer the question – what would a $1,000,000 library makerspace look like?

If you receive a million dollar grant for a library makerspace, the single most important thing you could do would be to give one-time donation of $900,000 to the MakerBus.

And that concludes our post examining what to do with a million dollar library makerspace….

….in all seriousness, while $1,000,000 sounds like an astronomical amount of money, money alone does not guarantee a successful library makerspace.

More Money, More Problems

Any successful makerspace is an outgrowth of its community – simply putting equipment in a room will not create a successful makerspace. While a $1,000,000 makerspace could have some of the best and newest toys, good makerspaces focus on people first and equipment second.

Sure you could afford to spend tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars on a high-end, full colour 3D printer, but you’d have to reflect upon the role that printer would play in your community. Are you going to allow anyone to use the printer? Will you offer mandatory training? Will you charge for materials? Will access be first come, first serve? Will you allow users to sell their prints? By offering free access to a super high end printer, will you be competing with local companies, causing ill-will with your community members?

Every piece of equipment in your makerspace should serve a clear purpose for your community. Be cautious of using a scattershot approach to spending grant money – more isn’t necessarily better.

$1,000,000 isn’t that much money

While I’m sure that $1,000,000 sounds like an astronomical amount of money, depending on what you’re looking to do, it’s amazing how quickly it can be spent. Salaries quickly eat up grants. If your co-ordinator makes $30,000 a year (which isn’t much money for a full-time, high-responsibility position), then in three years you will have spent nearly 1/10 of your budget. Factor in hiring consultants, technicians, and support staff and salaries will quickly eat into your grant.

Construction is even more costly. Will you be building a new structure or expanding your library to house your makerspace – then prepare for a significant amount of your $1,000,000 to go towards construction.

If you build it, will they come?

Keep in mind that building a world-class facility will not guarantee success. Simply dropping a $1,000,000 makerspace into a community doesn’t guarantee the community will use it. Working with the MakerBus we are given the opportunity to speak to a lot of people in our community about the maker movement, and the vast majority of people we speak to are completely unfamiliar with the concept of the maker movement. It’s easy to get caught up in a bubble with other educators and assume that everyone knows of and advocates for the maker movement, but this fledgling movement is still in its early stages.

If you want your $1,000,000 makerspace to be successful, you’ll need to focus on two things: good marketing and outstanding programming.

Once again, marketing isn’t cheap and will eat into your budget. Outstanding programming takes time to develop and requires equally outstanding team members – both should be supported with proper funding.

The Edmonton Public Library is likely Canada’s most well known and well funded library makerspace. The space is open to the public and is available for school bookings. Watch the follow video produced by a local news station.

Even with the country’s most well known library makerspace, the local news station creates a very introductory story about the makerspace. I think this point illustrates just how much work needs to be put into communicating what your library makerspace does in the community. Money alone won’t guarantee an audience.

What should I buy with $1,000,000?

Many library makerspaces tend to focus on media production rather than physical fabrication. Physical fabrication, things like wood-working, metal-working, and mechanics, tend to be loud, messy, and in the wrong hands, dangerous. This is why most library makerspaces focus on media production – things like podcasting, video production, and digital media design.

While it’s more than possible for a makerspace to focus equally on both media and fabrication, it is often easiest to pick one speciality. Having power tools in use next to a recording studio can be problems, so pick an identity for your space and tailor equipment purchases to that identity.

Unlike the previous two posts, I won’t break down a budget for the $1,000,000 makerspace since such a large amount of money offers too many possibilities for one list to achieve. Instead, I’m going to outline my ideal library makerspace.

My dream library makerspace

As jobs in large-scale manufacturing become fewer and fewer, our society needs to move towards a sustainable model of small-scale, artisanal production. In this model individual, or small collectives of, makers will produce items, ideas, or products with a degree of originality and craft that foreign, large-scale production cannot match. My ideal library makerspace would give communities the tools, knowledge, and inspiration they need to develop their own artisanal creations.

Imagine how many more people would crowd-fund their dream ideas if they had access to recording studios and expert advice to create their pitch videos? Imagine how many brilliant makers would launch small business if they had access to tools like laser cutters, 3D printers, and electrical equipment?

My ideal library makerspace would be a community hub that would inspire our communities to embrace arts, crafts, and creative entrepreneurialism. This would require 24 hour public access, free classes, passionate staff, and access to as many different tools as possible.

With $1,000,000 my ideal library makerspace would be the heart of a city’s creative production.

If you liked this story, visit our past posts exploring how to make a $100 and $1000 library makerspace.

To learn more about the MakerBus, follow us on twitter at @DHMakerBus or like us on Facebook at DHMakerBus.

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