Library as Makerspace: Creating and Nurturing Communities of Teen Writers

Original photograph by Buffy Hamilton

As part of our makerspace initiative this year (please see this blog post and this slidedeck here) and inspired by the work of the Sacramento Public Libraryone of my focal points is thinking about ways the library can support creating communities of readers and writers who are crafting and composing texts (and I use the term text rather liberally).  The Sacramento Public Library Winter 2012 “Write at iStreet Press” writing and publishing catalog offers a model of what the library as a makerspace for constructing texts looks like in a community through the public library.  Possible topics I’m interested in offering as “lunch and learn” sessions or after-school sessions could include (but are not limited to!):

  • Creative writing (memoirs, poetry, short stories, novels) and writer’s craft
  • Self publishing options (print as well as eBook/eInk)
  • Academic writing 
  • Digital and/or multimodal composition
  • Multigenre writing
  • Storytelling

While our library program has integrated pieces of these topics in the context of curricular study and collaboration with teachers for class projects over the last few years, I would love for The Unquiet Library to offer a dedicated space (physical and virtual) for more informal learning that would give students more latitude and agency in choice and topics for writing.  I see the library giving our student writing community a place where our teens could create, share, wonder, and experiment.   

While I feel comfortable in leading some of these workshops that I envision, I know we need the expertise and wisdom of our local and global community to help us connect our students with teaching artists (in the spirit of Sacramento Public Library’s iStreet Press writing program) and mentors (see the wonderful Chicago Public Library YOUMedia). Right now I’m in the early stages of reaching out to peers both near and far in my personal learning network to find people in our school community and the Atlanta/north Georgia area who could help facilitate these kinds of writing workshops; I’m also open to using Google Hangouts or Skype if there are mentors from afar who would be interested in facilitating and interacting through virtual means.   Additionally, I’d like to explore how our library could partner with other community groups and organizations (see this inspiration list from UC Davis Continuing Education); I think it would also be fun to collaborate with teen writing groups through other school and public libraries to extend the makerspace writing community!  As we grow the makerspace, I also see us tapping into our students’ talents and enlisting their help in serving as teaching artists and mentors to their peers.  I am hopeful that our makerspace writing community will create, share, and publish texts (individually as well as with peers) in a variety of genres that are personally meaningful to them.

I look forward to sharing with you our journey of this endeavor to make The Unquiet Library a true “incubator” for teen writers.  What suggestions or ideas do you have for the library as a makerspace for young authors and writers who want to craft their art in a variety of genres and modes?

*author’s note:  I’m delighted to share that this entry is cross-posted at National Writing Project’s Digital Is*

19 thoughts on “Library as Makerspace: Creating and Nurturing Communities of Teen Writers

  1. In the past I have had a few students participate in NaNoWriMo (http://www.nanowrimo.org/en or the student version, http://ywp.nanowrimo.org/). One of those students is on my Student Library Advisory Council (SLAC-ers), which meets regularly to promote the library in various ways. This student is going to promote NaNoWriMo heavily this year, and we are going to offer after school writing clubs during that month, with refreshments and a dedicated area for writers to help get the kids writing and realizing that we have a lot of creative kids in our community. This could be a fun month-long activity for your maker space too. If we were in the same time zone, our kids could work after school together with a web cam.. oh well!

  2. Once again you are blazing trails, Buffy, and I am awed and inspired! Love how you are making meaningful use of students’ talents! PS – love love love the quill pic!

  3. Buffy, since the students are writing and are ultimately building up the concept of makerspace, have them learn grant writing to fund additional resources for whatever tools they envision in their makerspaces. Provide them with sample grants and have someone come in and teach a mini grant writing workshop. This way they are creating the makerspace and will actually see their efforts come to fruition.

  4. Remember to contact local writers guilds. I offered an evening of authors a few yrs back that might be a good fit to kick off ur great idea. So many local authors will come just to share what they know. It yielded 17 authors in my out of the way school. From Marshall HS, Marshall, Tx

    Marsha Edney

  5. I have supported venues like this for years. I would love to participate in this project. Teens need to express themselves not only to be heard but also to learn how to HEAR.

  6. This spring I lead a poetry/social media project at Los Angeles Public Library, where we brought in leading Angeleno poets to serve as mentors & teachers to teen boys. I partnered with an art gallery to host a teen poetry reading, and we created a chapbook of the teens’ poems that we added to the library collection. The boys were so excited to see their work in print! Something that proved instrumental was partnering with a local charter school, which provided the boys with extra credit for showing up each week. It was win-win; they were already interested in poetry, but incentivizing attendance helped them succeed in school as well. Two of the boys I worked with only passed their English class because of the extra credit they earned at the library!

  7. This is really inspiring. With the community I serve, it would benefit them to know that there are opportunities beyond the four walls here, and beyond the brick walls that surround them. I would like to know more about the last project as well…and hopefully implement it this year!

  8. Buffy,
    Two years ago I started a Teen Writers’ Workshop in my library. We usually meet about once a month, when everyone is not otherwise tied up with school work. I would love to formalize this, and offer a larger program. I like Elizabeth’s idea of getting the teens involved in NaNoWriMo, and I think I will do a month-long promotion accordingly. Baby steps!

    Wendy Scalfaro

  9. Buffy,
    I had not seen that IMLS doc yet. This idea of “makerspaces” is new to me. I have been an Information Broker for the past 13-14 years focusing on Fed gov information and I am transitioning to school libraries. I am working at an elementary school in Fairfax County Public Schools, VA running the computer lab. This is the first time this school has used the designated space as a place to teach computer skills as a “special” – an integral part of the curriculum. Instead it has been a place teachers would reserve. I am working closely with the Librarian and the School’s IT Specialist to create curriculum that supports classroom instruction. Without realizing it, my goal for this year is to make it a makerspace and am so happy to see that this idea exists and I have some models to work with. I don’t have to reinvent the wheel, just make it better. Thanks for these resources! Lauren

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