Our friends at Niles District Library featured in their local newspaper!

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.”

Our friends at Benzonia Public Library featured in this May 2018 School Library Journal article!

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.”

Our colleague Kayla Carcucci’s work featured!

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.”

Great job, Kayla! Be sure to click through to the original article to see the photos!

Presentation for REALISD

Last month and again yesterday, I was happy to be able to share some of our work with the Alabama and Buffalo cohorts of the REALISD project, which provides thoughtful STEM-focused professional development for school librarians in rural areas.

You can find the slide deck here.


Decorative: Title slide from REALISD presentation

Michigan Makers at Scarlett, Winter 2018, Session 10: Smaller Notebooks & Videogame Breakthrough

Again, in response to a student request, we tried another, smaller version of handmade notebooks, this time half-sized, with less sewing and thinner cardboard. We also made great strides in Bloxels game creation as we introduced a storyboard to plan out levels. We challenged the students to create at least six rooms for the character to navigate through. More attention was also helpful for students to ask questions of the mentors and be challenged at every step of the way. Stay tuned for our final week this week!

MM@ Scarlett 4/5/2018

Michigan Makers at Scarlett, Winter 2018, Session 8 & 9: Small Sewing & Cardboard Challenge

MM@Scarlett 3/22/2018

The next two weeks we had smaller groups as students were eager to get to spring break or were balancing other responsibilities. We had a lesson on sewing small monsters, but some people stuck with pillows because they were so tired! The week after that was a Cardboard Design Challenge that had some good engagement at first, but quickly dissipated as they reached something that satisfied them. One student really enjoyed the simple action of punching holes in the cardboard and then screwing in the MakeDo screws.



Michigan Makers at Scarlett, Winter 2018, Session 7: Variety is the Spice of Life

MM@Scarlett 3/8/2018

This week we had a wide range of activities: we returned with the sewing machine for any applique additions to the notebooks, but also had stop motion with a great Lego book and Bloxels for the students first introduction to videogame creation. We had a lot of fun, but there was much more “testing” of the videogames than actual creation. We made some progress on introducing the concepts though!

Michigan Makers at Scarlett, Winter 2018, Session 5 & 6: Zines & Handsewn Notebooks

MM@Scarlett: 2/8/2018

This week, we made Zines with the students! Having a few artists in the group meant that they got the chance to shine, but all the students enjoyed getting a chance to write something that was important to them!

We also took a suggestion for the following week about making our own notebooks using hand-sewing techniques. This was probably our most successful project from start to finish! We prepped the “signatures” (collections of blank pages, to be sewn together), with thumbtack-punched holes (6) down the middle. We also prepped several hand-sewing needles. The method for sewing them together was a little difficult for the students to understand, even with demonstrations and diagrams, but most of them eventually completed the sewing together of the signatures.

We then had several pieces of old clothing in different styles for the students to choose from for their cover of their notebook. One student really wanted the breast pocket to be on the front of his notebook! Others chose leather as their cover. This project took the whole 90 minute session and students left with something that was able to be used right away. Some students wanted to created addtional appliques for their notebooks in the coming weeks as well.

MM@Scarlett: 2/15/2018