Makerspace Logistics: What Happens When I’m Not There

Makerspace Logistics: What Happens to my Makerspace When I'm Out | One question I frequently get is how much access my students have to our makerspace when I'm out speaking or sick. Here, I explain how I make it work.

This post is part of an occasional Makerspace Logisitics series, where I answer reader questions about the logistics of running our makerspace.  Here, I address what happens to my makerspace when I’m out

In an ideal world…

I would have a secretary and a second librarian and I would always get substitutes when I’m out.  Unfortunately, it’s just me in my library.

My district provides substitutes for sick and personal leave, but doesn’t for professional duty (i.e. conferences).  When I do get substitutes, they’re often pulled to cover other classes.  To help account for this, I usually try to schedule a reliable teacher to have their classes in the library when I’m out.  Usually, there’s a lot of demand for our computer lab, so I’m able to find a teacher who’s willing to keep an eye on the library.  Because the teacher copy machines and restrooms are located in the library, our administration rarely locks the room when I’m out.  So knowing that there’s a teacher in there gives me a lot of peace of mind.

I have student helpers who handle check in/out and shelving as one of their electives, so they take care of circulation for me.  I have two to three student assistants each period.

Speaking at AASL |
When I go to conferences to present, I don’t get substitute coverage.

Makerspace Logistics: What happens when I’m out

So that covers what happens to the library as a whole when I’m out.  In general, someone is watching the space and it is able to stay open.  Now we get to the next part – how much access do my students have to our makerspace when I’m not here?

Way back in the first couple of months of starting our makerspace, I was thinking about open vs. closed makerspaces.  As I was meeting with my student makerspace planning committee, we talked a lot about how we wanted to make our space work.  There were two things that came up during these conversations:

My students wanted to have access to the makerspace all the time…

During out first couple of months, the makerspace was several bins of supplies set out on library tables.  Any time something else was going on (book fair, classes at the tables, picture day, etc), students couldn’t get to use the makerspace.  This was why we decided to create our Maker Corner where our LEGO Wall, LEGOs, K’nex and whiteboard wall would be available.  This area is always open and available to my students as long as the library is open.  Like I talk about in my scheduling post, students can use this area anytime they come to the library with a pass for the makerspace.  The Maker Corner is what I consider to be our OPEN MAKERSPACE, and it’s always available to my students whether or not I’m there.  My student helpers usually help to keep it tidy when I’m not around.

It was important to my students to have access to our #makerspace no matter what was going on Click To Tweet
Student working on K'nex project |
Student working on a K’nex project in our open makerspace.

…But there were some things that they didn’t think should be left out

With all of our makerspace supplies out in the open the first year, we started to notice some problems.  The intuitive activities (i.e. things that students already know how to use or can figure out without help) did fine.  But things that were less intuitive (Snap Circuits, MaKeyMaKey, etc) were frequently being damaged, and small parts were getting lost.  My student planning committee decided that we should keep these somewhere else where students could still access them, but where they weren’t out in the open.  There’s a small AV Materials storage room located right in the Maker Corner, so soon we decided to create…

The Maker Room

The Maker Room and the Open Makerspace |
The Maker Room and the Open Makerspace

The Maker Room was originally the AV Materials storage room when I started.  It was stuffed with VHS tapes, DVDs, laser discs and even a handful of vinyl records.  After I weeded out all the items we weren’t using anymore (like the VHS tapes on the Soviet Union), I was able to relocate the remaining DVDs and VHS tapes to a shelving unit near the teacher restroom in the media center (meaning that the teachers would actually see them and check some out).    This freed up the space to create our Maker Room.

The Maker Room holds our technology and arts and crafts supplies, plus in-progress projects. |
The Maker Room holds our technology and arts and crafts supplies, plus in-progress projects.

The Maker Room holds all our technology (littleBits, LEGO Mindstorms, Sphero, Dash & Dot, MaKeyMaKey, etc).  It also holds our arts & crafts supplies, and one wall is dedicated to storage of in-progress project storage.  The Maker Room is what I consider to be our CLOSED MAKERSPACE.  When I’m at school, the door to this room remains unlocked and open, and any student who wants to can access the tools and supplies in here.  We have a couple of iPads kept in a locked case, and my student assistants have the key to open it for them.  On days when I am absent for one reason or another, the door to this room is LOCKED.  Students don’t have access to these items when I’m not there since most of them are more likely to get damaged or stolen without at least a little supervision.

To recap, when I’m not there, students can access our Maker Corner as long as there is a teacher covering the library, but they cannot access supplies in the Maker Room.  I’d prefer to keep everything 100% accessible all the time, but unfortunately, that led to damage to materials, so I found a compromise.  It’s not perfect, but it works.

What happens to your library and/or makerspace when you have to be out?  Do you get substitute coverage for conferences?  Let me know in the comments. 

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