This past weekend, Making in Michigan Libraries took to Benzonia for a fantastic winter extravaganza! We spent a wonderful weekend helping out at Benzonia’s annual Holiday Party joined by Tori Culler and Caroline Wack from our Michigan Makers project.
Benzonia has a lovely tradition of hosting a holiday party to celebrate the approaching holiday season. The event started with baked goods, punch, and a puppet show hosted, as always, by Dr. Fizz and Boomer the Rat. The puppets asked the audience about their holiday traditions and sang Christmas carols. In case you missed it, Boomer likes all things cheese during the holidays.
Neil made reindeer balloon animals and other festive creations. He also taught the kids how to shape the balloons as well — all from his high-altitude position. He even made balloon creations upon request during the final hour of the event.
The final hour was a whirlwind … kids could get a custom balloon creation from Neil, get their photo taken with an elf straight from the Detroit Parade Company, and let their creativity fly. BPL’s Repurposeful Librarians organized an ornament and craft workshop on one side of the room, and we hosted a gift making and wrapping workshop, bringing back some favorite materials (like making your own LED-illuminated holiday card and using paint pens to create a one-of-a-kind glass votive holder) and adding some new ones (like decorating chalkboard frames for loved ones).
After everyone was done decorating and crafting they wrapped their gifts at the gift wrapping station with Caroline so they could give it to someone they care for later.
When we weren’t creating things, we enjoyed admiring Beulah’s decorated holiday windows, doing a little holiday shopping from local artists, and cheering on the holiday parade. It was a wonderful and creative weekend.
On October 18th, Kristin Fontichiaro and Benzonia Library staff members met with Senator Darwin Booher to talk about MML’s relationship with rural libraries through the University of Michigan School of Information. Mark Rivett created a news event on the University of Michigan’s Government Relations page, which can be found here!
The news event with wonderful videos can be found below.
Over the years, MML had the pleasure of working with 13 wonderful libraries! From Peter White Public Library in the UP to Niles District Library in the Southwest MML has been partnering with libraries all over Michigan!
MML Library Sites
Alpena County George N. Fletcher Public Library
Ann Arbor District Library
Benton Harbor Public Library
Benzonia Public Library
Coopersville Area District Library
Frankenmuth James E. Wickson District Library
Houghton Lake Public Library
Niles District Library
Nottawa Township Library
Peter White Public Library
Pickford Community Library
Saginaw District Library
West Iron District Library
We’re honored to have been able to work with and continue to work with so many wonderful libraries across Michigan. Thank you, to our 13 fabulous libraries!
School Library Journal (SLJ) wrote an article about MML’s resourceful low expense projects and events! This article was published in November 2017, but is just as relevant today. To view the article on SLJ’s site check it out here!
Cheap Thrills: Maker Projects that Won’t Break Your Budget
High-tech projects involving 3-D printers, laser cutters, and fancy video equipment are usually an easy draw for students, but ideas that involve cardboard, straws, and T-shirts can also deliver a big burst of STEAM without breaking the bank. We asked librarians and other experts around the country to share the most popular low-cost making projects they’ve seen or done. Here are some to try this year.
GRAB SOME STRAWS
Photo by Strawbees
Straws lend themselves to lightweight building and are surprisingly resilient Strawbees, which are stronger and more flexible than regular straws, are designed for inexpensive prototyping activities; a pack of 200 colorful Strawbees costs $10. “I have seen students build catapult projects, engineering projects, and weight-bearing projects,” says Heather Moorefield-Lang, associate professor at the School of Library Information Science at the University of South Carolina. “Afterward, you just break them apart and start something new. They just keep giving.” Strawbee connectors are available in a kit for $20; students can also scan and print more on a 3-D printer, suggests Moorefield-Lang. If your library is equipped with a die-cutter, you can create your own connectors from old plastic containers (#2 and #4 plastics work best).
THROW A NO-SEW COSTUME PARTY
Adult-size, secondhand T-shirts can turn into all sorts of togs with a pair of scissors. “Kids can wriggle through the neck holes of an adult shirt and, using the ribbing as a waistband, create a T-skirt,” says Kristin Fontichiaro, clinical associate professor at the University of Michigan’s School of Information. She suggests cutting off the hem of a second shirt to make belts or braiding the strips to use as a hairpiece. Turn T-shirts into knights’ tabards by cutting a line straight down the shirt from the shoulder to the bottom, or create capes by cutting off the shirt front from the shoulder seams, leaving the ribbing intact. Discarded sleeves can become knit caps. Then kids can dress up in all these new garments to enact scenes from their favorite books. Fontichiaro recommends the activity for third graders on up; students need to be able to manipulate fabric scissors.
ROBOT ON THE MARCH
To publicize a Cardboard Challenge event at the Benzonia (MI) Public Library, this cardboard robot and puppet “marched” in a local parade, with information about the challenge—open to kids and adults interested in inventing, building, and crafting with cardboard—on its back. The robot was created by Jimmy McLaren, who is married to library director Amanda McLaren.Photo courtesy of Benzonia Public Library
CREATE A CARDBOARD CHALLENGE
When then nine-year-old Caine Monroy built an arcade entirely of cardboard, he launched a movement and a website. Students can join this year’s global challenge—or be more open-ended and design their projects. To start, you’ll need to provide cardboard, glue guns or duct tape, paint or markers, and some cardboard-cutters. Robert Pronovost, a maker space consultant and founder of EmpowerMINT, dedicated to empowering students through making and innovation, likes to have students work with Makedo’s kid-friendly saws, which are included in a toolkit ($12.95 each, make.do). Diana Rendina, media specialist at Tampa (FL) Preparatory School, also recommends a battery-operated cutter from Skil (about $40 on Amazon.com).
Pronovost gets kids’ creative juices flowing by giving them stacks of cardboard, tape, butcher paper, and tools to build a cardboard city. Librarians can start by constructing one building, with or without student help, and have them work alone or in groups to add on. Spurring them on with questions leads to planning and innovation: Does this city need an airport? Would hotels be useful? What about a reservoir or city hall? The beauty of this project is that students of all ages, even preschoolers, can join in.
Heather Lister, a consultant for Mackin Educational Resources and a former teacher librarian, put a new spin on the cardboard challenge by giving her students the chance to create a plaything for her then two-year-old son. They asked him questions about his likes and dislikes and then crafted toys, including a marble run. The only parameter: every part of their creation had to be DIY. “What I really like about this project is that it not only focused on the invention and design process, but involved research and knowing your audience,” Lister says. She also liked that kids were creating for someone other than themselves, fostering empathy, and suggests that students could design for one another or for kids in other classes.
Michigan Makers participants sort through recycled materials to create gifts. Photos courtesy of Michigan Makers of the University of Michigan School of Information
OPEN UP THE JUNK BOX
Free building material is all around, if you just look: It’s not too difficult to collect empty cereal or cracker boxes, toilet paper tubes, yogurt containers, broken toys, and more. Then add scissors, tape, glue, and a stapler to your stash. “Students can create the slowest marble maze or board games, prototype the next holiday must-have toy, or invent their own creations,” says Fontichiaro. Best of all, preschoolers on up will be able to make something—and tap into their problem-solving and design skills.
MAKE SQUISHY CIRCUITS
Play-Doh plus LED lights, a nine-volt battery, some wires (repurposed from old tech), and alligator clips can give kids the chance to fashion light-’em-up creations—including flags, animals, and motor circuits, among other projects. Pronovost suggests checking out SquishyCircuits.com for ideas, along with instructions for making your own conductive or insulating dough.
Michigan third graders take apart a toy guitar to see how it works (left);
multicolored squishy circuits.
Photos courtesy of Michigan Makers of the University of Michigan School of Information (left) and Robert Pronovost
TAKE APART OBSOLETE TECH
“Most schools have a closet somewhere that has a ton of old technology,” says Lister, whose own school had desktop computers dating back decades. Kids can dismantle old computers and repurpose what they find inside. One of her students made an exhaust system from the fans found inside the computers. Lister repurposed the wires to serve as conductive material for other projects—and for making cool jewelry. Not all schools have tech closets; if that’s the case, parents and community members are usually happy to donate. You’ll probably get a number of obsolete objects, including camcorders and cassette players.
BUILD SOME BRISTLE BOTS
Toothbrushes make great little robots, especially when you go to a dollar store and buy packs of battery-operated toothbrushes, says Lister. Snap the head off the toothbrush and find the vibration motor inside the motor. Then tape the vibration motor and battery on top of the bristles. Make sure the bristles are angled, Lister notes—if they aren’t, you can angle them by placing a heavy book on the bristles overnight. Bots can run races or be used as drawing machines by attaching markers.
GET ARTISTIC WITH BEADS
Students can make amazing creations with heat-fusible plastic beads known as Perler beads, says Rendina. She buys them from Amazon, but cheap ones are also available at Walmart. Kids can use plain, clear pegboards (also at Amazon) to create their own designs or depict their favorite fictional characters, using free, downloadable templates online. After the students have finished their bead artworks, place parchment paper over the designs and iron the beads to fuse them together. Rendina ironed her students’ creations and trained a few responsible eighth graders to help out.
INVEST IN SILHOUETTE PORTRAIT
This $99 digital cutting tool was originally designed for scrapbookers, but Fontichiaro also likes the fact that it doubles as a low-budget vinyl cutter that’s easy for children and grown-ups to use. Students can cut shapes to decorate laptop lids or smartphone shields. Fontichiaro also suggests that kids cut stencils from self-adhesive paper (like Contact) and use them, along with fabric paint or etching cream, to create designs on T-shirts or glassware gifts. As for materials, glassware and T-shirts are often available for $1 or less at secondhand stores, she notes.
Pizza boxes transformed into green screens. Photo courtesy of Heather Moorefield-Lang
PUT PIZZA BOXES TO USE
Pizza boxes can make excellent portable green screens, as Travis Nelson, library media consultant at Richland County School District One in Columbia, SC, demonstrated to Moorefield-Lang. Nelson starts by painting the interior (top and bottom) of the boxes green. Then he attaches little characters to green straws procured from Starbucks and uses the Green Screen by Do Ink app ($2.99, iTunes) to make videos of puppet shows and stories.
The University of Michigan News wrote a lovely article about Making in Michigan Libraries: Customizing Community Libraries! The article covers our partnerships with Benzonia Public Library and Niles District Library.
The following objectives of MML were identified in the article:
1. Build a sense of community
2. Help people take advantage of tools and shared resources to solve problems they have in their own lives
3. Build the next generation of thinkers
These objectives are why we have continued to do this work. We’re so thankful for our wonderful partnerships and all the opportunities we’ve been given!
Niles, Benzonia, other Michigan cities work with U-M to engage residents in creative ways
ANN ARBOR—The noise level at the Niles District Library is not very library-like some days. Voices are well above whispers. Things look out of place and the tables are a tableau of objects lying in pieces, patrons busily studying them, figuring out how they work and what other ways they can be used.
While the library’s guests aren’t focused on finding a book at the moment, there most definitely is an interesting story behind what they are doing.
It’s called Making in Michigan Libraries, a project that pairs rural librarians with the University of Michigan’s School of Information, taking libraries and making them into places to create, get active, connect with the community and learn in different ways.
“People are trying to find ways to stay engaged in their community,” said Laura Hollister, adult services team leader at the Niles District Library.
A partnership project like this accomplishes that, she said, and is “changing how the library functions in our community.”
There are costume creation labs, hack-a-toy events, smartphone photography workshops and a range of makerspace and STEM-based projects that bring benefits to local residents of all ages, she said.
Hacking Toys. Image credit: Michigan Photography
Turning libraries into more active spaces is at least a decade-old approach to maintaining libraries’ relevance, but the maker movement in libraries is novel. Making in Michigan Libraries provides resources and support to librarians who have found ways to use hands-on learning to customize their libraries to fit their communities’ needs.
At the Niles District Library in southwest Michigan, the Making in Michigan Libraries project spanned a year as the library converted basement storage space into a Skillshare Space. Skillshare was designed to help Niles residents improve their homes by loaning them tools and offering DIY training in repairs. This effort took on particular urgency when the area was flooded in February.
In northern Michigan, the project’s multiyear partnership with the Benzonia Public Library is continuing its events, which started in September with a course in improving smartphone photography. Benzonia’s community courses go through April and include a popular end-of-year activity connected to the holiday parade—the town’s biggest event of the year.
Kristin Fontichiaro – Clinical Associate Professor, School of Information. Image credit: Michigan Photography
Nearly every library that participates in Making In Michigan Libraries covers large rural areas, which, like anywhere, has needs for social engagement, said Jean Hardy, a doctoral student at the School of Information. He works directly with librarians to execute their visions.
“Rural communities are interesting places,” Hardy said. “They are simultaneously really diverse and rich in culture but lack population density and the sort of resources to make spaces like this happen.”
Local librarians are the idea people behind the projects. The School of Information assists the libraries as they determine what events most resonate, launch them and then run with them on their own—or come up with new ones. They collaborate with the School of Information, which provides assistance and funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the School of Information’s Founders Fund. The Library of Michigan has helped select sites and provided insight as projects were developed and implemented.
Together, the librarians and the School of Information determine what events most resonate, launch them and then run with them on their own—or come up with new ones.
Skillshare, for example, will go beyond the flood recovery work and into other DIY repairs, as well as launch a collaboration with an alternative ed program located in the basement of the Niles library, said Kristin Fontichiaro, a clinical associate professor at the School of Information who oversees Making In Michigan Libraries.
“Libraries are embracing a much deeper interpretation of their original vision,” she said. “Sometimes that comes from books. Sometimes that comes from the inside of a toy.”
Fontichiaro said the goal is “to help libraries explore the maker movement, to diversify who comes in the door, create new points of interaction with the community, encourage creativity and create opportunities for community to gather.”
And to solve at least three challenges:
Build a sense of community
Help people take advantage of tools and shared resources to solve problems they have in their own lives
Build the next generation of thinkers
“For a long time, libraries focused on how to do more for patrons that came in the door already,” Fontichiaro said. “What we do is part of a larger trend in librarianship: bring in new people, welcome different and more diverse interests and users, and explore concepts like libraries as hosts of online selling groups, and so much more.”
We started off another great year of partnering with Benzonia Public Library with a day of photography workshops.
The University of Michigan School of Information photographer Jeffrey Smith was our professional mentor for the day. Jeff has visited Benzonia before as a photographer and videographer for Making in Michigan Libraries, but this was his first time giving a presentation. He did a marvelous job! In fact, Benzonia’s director Amanda McLaren tells us she just ran into someone from the weekend workshop who was still raving about it days later!
Jeff’s session was broken up into two parts. The first part was on Saturday morning from 10 to 12 where he explained tricks for taking high quality photos on a smart phone. Such tricks included holding your fingers down on the screen to lock focus, moving your finger up and down on the screen to adjust exposure, and using the volume buttons while in the camera app to take a picture. After he showed a few tricks for taking photos he then went on to demonstrate how to edit photos on your smartphone with an app called Snapseed and everyone got up and moved around to try it out!
A break was given for lunch and then patrons met up in downtown Beulah for the photowalk! The photowalk gave individuals with smartphones and more standard digital cameras a chance to practice their skills and learn about perspective, light, framing, etc. from a professional photographer.
Jeff took patrons on a walk around town in unexpected places. Our first stop was near a dumpster behind a building. Jeff explained that although this would not typically be viewed as a great photo opportunity the bright blue color and texture of the wall led to stellar shots. It just required a matter of framing things so that the dumpster didn’t show.
Our next locations were the top of a high hill that overlooked a few rooftops with a view of Crystal Lake in the background, shooting from behind weeds on a beach because layers help make a better image, and capturing action shots of seagulls. After the photowalk the group headed back to Benzonia Public Library for a tutorial on editing photos on a computer through Photoshop. The event ended with a showcase of the beautifully shot and edited photos taken on the walk!
It was a wonderful way to spend a Saturday — trying to view the world in a new perspective. If you want to see more photos from the event feel free to check out our album on twitter here!
We were excited to see a flurry of local interest in the Niles District Library’s Skillshare space and Library of Things. Check out the summary below or enjoy the full article here!
Library workshop series offers skill sharing
by Kelsey Hammon, Niles Daily Star Monday, August 27, 2018
NILES — It is not always cost effective or timely to wait for a repair man to show up and mend that cracked drywall or wayward appliance.
Thanks to the efforts of the Niles District Library, those looking to spare their wallet and learn to be handier around their home can gain the tools during a new workshop series called SkillShare.
How it works
For the past month, volunteers have been lending their skills to locals, teaching them how to do everything from household repair and maintenance to skills in the kitchen. The workshops are free and open to the public and people are welcome to make suggestions for workshops via the library’s Facebook page.
Those without a diverse toolbox need not shy away from this workshop series. Part of SkillShare is also offering participants a whole tool closet, called the Library of Things. Here, people can check out and return the tools needed to complete a project.
Laura Hollister, the adult services team leader, who was among those with a vision for SkillShare, saw it as a way to help her community garner new skills while saving on resources they might not have.
“Instead of spending $30 on drywall mix to fix two screw holes, spend $3 on a little bit of spackle and you check out the drywall kit,” Hollister said. “We are trying to provide the tools to go along with the information.”
Those who visit the space can also experiment with their own Do It Yourself project during Open Shop, which takes place 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesdays and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays.
An example for other communities
The idea garnered not only a response from the community, but also the University of Michigan. The partnership helped to transform a portion of the library’s basement into a thriving workshop space.
Kristin Fontichiaro, a clinical assistant professor at the University of Michigan School of Information, first took an interest in the project about 11 months ago. Fontichiaro had visited the library to host a workshop of her own, when she struck up a conversation with Hollister about the vision for SkillShare.
“We were really captivated by the scope and the scale of what Laura was trying to share with SkillShare,” Fontichiaro said.
Through the partnership, Fontichiaro said the university donated about $1,000 in funding and some of the tools residents can find in the Library of Things.
To help, Fontichiaro said the university served as a “peer and thinking partner,” while those involved also studied how the Niles District Library got the project off the ground. Now, SkillShare in Niles will serve as an example for other communities, Fontichiaro said.
On Friday, university students shot a commercial at the Niles District Library and captured the project. The footage will debut in a couple of weeks and be used on the university’s social media platforms and YouTube.
“It was exciting and humbling to have them identify us as an example of what they are trying to help communities accomplish,” Hollister said. “It was exciting for them to be able to be in place where the community was so active in this space. This is not an example of us doing something for the community. It’s an example of us doing something with the community.”
Hollister welcomed people to contact the library and teach a workshop or make a suggestion for something they would like to learn. People are also asked to donate their unused tools or decorations for the Library of Things.
Without community support, Hollister said SkillShare would not exist. Volunteers’ desire to teach classes and the community’s donation of tools are aspects that will help to keep it going and making it a success.
Additionally, SkillShare is part of a larger transformation to utilize the basement space of the library. In the future, Hollister said the library hopes to have adult education classes and even a café and vocational training space in the downstairs space.
As for the overall goal of SkillShare, Fontichiaro said she could see it serving the community.
“Laura thinks about not just what any library could do, but what Niles District Library can do for the community of Niles,” Fontichiaro said. “She’s being very intentional about using this thing to solve real challenges that Niles citizens face every day.”
In getting organized for the new school year, I realized that we had never blogged about our friends Finn McLaren and his mom, Benzonia’s director Amanda McLaren, being featured in School Library Journal! Enjoy the excerpt below, and click here if you have an SLJ subscription and want to read the entire piece!
Making the Difference; More than cool materials and DIY learning, makerspaces build confidence, expand worlds, and teach life skills
by Marva Hinton School Library Journal, May 2018
FINN McLAREN WAS A SHY TEEN who never showed an interest in sports or school clubs. He hadn’t quite found his place or an activity that sparked his interest. But when a group from the University of Michigan conducted a maker workshop at his local library in the summer of 2016, his mother saw “a total transformation.”
“It lit something up in him,” says Amanda McLaren, Finn’s mom and the director of the Benzonia (MI) Public Library that hosted the workshop.
Now 15 and a high school sophomore, Finn runs the Benzie Guild of Makers, a club he created consisting of mostly fourth to sixth graders. He is also thinking about his future.
“Because of the maker program and working with the younger kids, I have thought of a career teaching math and science, so I could incorporate making,” he says …
Makerspaces and the maker-centered educational philosophy of open-ended, student-driven learning through discovery and experimentation can change kids’ lives. Like Finn did, many children build confidence in a makerspace. They find a place where they belong. Children who are without many friends can develop a social circle of those with like-minded interests. Students who struggle in a traditional academic setting experience success. Those who are afraid to try and fail discover how much can be learned when things go wrong. They feel the satisfaction of perseverance and problem solving …
Finn McLaren is the mentor. His group meets at the library twice a month and … one of their favorite things to do is deconstruct mechanical toys.
“They learn how things work,” Finn says. “It’s a lot of fun.”
Finn’s mom finds joy in seeing his confidence and emerging personality.
“The kids are so drawn to him, and he is so patient and lovely with them, that I could not be more proud,” she says. “He’s just completely come out of his shell.”
We loaned some MML equipment we wouldn’t be using this summer to Kayla Carucci, a doctoral student at U-M School of Information. Check out what she’s doing with it! From the article on My Central Jersey:
You might think that a nursing home is the last place you will find an innovative workshop where people can create works of art, on their own schedule, using some pretty high-tech gadgets.
But think again, because that’s exactly what’s going on at Reformed Church Home in Old Bridge this summer.
The brainchild of Kayla Carucci, a Middletown resident and PhD student at the University of Michigan, “Creations with Kayla” has found great traction among RCH residents as they explore traditional crafting using some pretty cutting-edge technologies — ones that might even surprise some millennials.
And the best part is, they are creating mainly on their own, with little instruction from Carucci herself.
The concept is known in popular culture as a “makerspace,” but Carucci has added her own spin by applying the fundamentals of the maker movement in the senior, long-term care setting. Her goal is to determine if the well-being of long-term care residents can be improved by offering self-directed sessions using low- and high-tech tools to create whatever the participant chooses …
“I hope to empower residents to make the decision to come at their convenience and create to their hearts desire. It’s a chance to do something different and challenging. There’s no reason seniors can’t take advantage of spaces that are in place in libraries, schools, and commercial settings,” Carucci said.
Indeed, the makerspace model has been around since the early 2000s, fueled mostly by an interest in computer science and robotics. It has evolved to become a hands on learning environment for children, DIY-ers, crafters and entrepreneurs. Equipment used in some makerspaces include 3D printers, iPads, digital embroidery equipment and even sewing machines, all of which are in place at Reformed Church Home for the residents to explore …
“I could do this all day, I really enjoy it,” says Mary Puskar, an assisted-living resident at the Home. “I’m learning so many things, like candle making and how to paint on an iPad using a stylus. We even digitally embroidered my name on a sweater so I wouldn’t misplace it again.”
Nursing home resident Sabina McCarthy agreed. “I have arthritis and can’t write or do much with my hands, but I can design something on the 3D printer and watch it print,” she said. “I can finally do crafts again.”