The Monroe 2-Orleans BOCES School Library System (SLS) recently won over $7,300 in grant awards to update and expand its Makerspace Lending Library collection. The two grants, the Rochester Regional Library Council (RRLC) Technology Grant and the Harold Hacker Award for the Advancement of Libraries from the Friends & Foundation of the Rochester Public Library, will help SLS continue to support component districts’ school libraries with makerspace resources and staff training. They will also enable continued summer support to students through partnerships with regional public libraries.
SLS began developing its makerspace library back in 2014. There are now dozens of different kits available, including Ozobots®, Sphero BOLT, LittleBits®, Magna-Tiles®, Dash and Dot™, Cubetto and Lego Mindstorms®. In the 2017-18 school year, about 200 kit loans were made to school district libraries. In 2018-19, that grew to almost 400 loans, with participation from 80 percent of district libraries. As of Jan. 1, 2020, there are 315 scheduled loans ? on track to a significant increase by the end of this year.
The makerspace movement is about problem solving, critical thinking, research and inquiry-based learning. It engages students in hands-on, active learning. “By providing makerspace resources to our school libraries,” said Jim Belair, SLS coordinator, “we empower librarians to be leaders within their schools. Librarians are uniquely positioned to act as experts in technology and innovative use of resources, making them a valuable asset to the content area experts: teachers.”
“The makerspace library is a wonderful example of the power of a BOCES; of what we can do to help and support districts,” said Belair. “Our trainer and media specialist Lindsay Neumire works closely with librarians, showing them how to integrate any kit into grade-level instruction. Districts loan the resources through us. This levels the playing field. It equalizes opportunities for students to access materials they might not be able to otherwise. If a district opts to use a set of tools once or twice a year, it wouldn’t make sense to invest in it themselves. If they decide that a tool has real, long-term educational value, they may choose to purchase their own. Loaning through us is a great way to try-before-you-buy.”
The new grant awards will be used, in part, to replenish and update current kits. As the SLS team decides on additional kits to add, they consider feedback collected from participating districts. So far, two new 3-D scanners have been purchased with the grants to help round out the collection of available 3-D printers and pens.
The grants will also allow BOCES 2 to continue to lend makerspace kits to regional public libraries for their summer youth programs. “When school is out for the summer, our district students rely on public libraries. By collaborating with them, we can support the kids all year long,” said Belair. BOCES 2 will team with public libraries in component west side district areas, the Chili Public Library, the Holley Free Library, Newman Public Library and the Rochester Central Library.