Makerspaces are becoming more a part of the library world as we evolve to remain relevant. They are a great way for patrons to continue learning and to foster creativity. While a wide variety of wonderful experiences can be facilitated by these spaces, librarians must consider any possible dangers or issues that might arise from their use. Specifically, I’m referring to the kind of makerspace that provides tools–like hammers, saws, and drills. Having flexible policies–as well as appropriate safety materials–in place and available can help everyone have an enjoyable time while limiting potential problems.
If you’re thinking about starting a makerspace, the good news is that other libraries and organizations have blazed the trail. Whether it has to do with payment for materials or safely handling tools, policies you can pull from already exist. Fayetteville Free Library has great information about their makerspaces for interested library staff to look at, including their Safety Guide.
Non-library organizations can also be a great resource for information. If you plan on providing possibly dangerous tools in your space, you need to think about how you’re going to handle safety, and what requirements you will want for use of various items. Looking at creating levels for tools might be something to consider. Club Workshop in Denver, Co., created categories for their tools using ski slope classifications – something most people in the area are already comfortable with as a guide for difficulty and danger.
The Makerspace Playbook, while still in draft form, can also provide you with good information for safety. Particularly look at Chapter 3, “Tools and Materials,” which contains a section on safety and training, and Chapter 10, “Resources,” which has a sample liability waiver and a safety plan. The High School Makerspace Tools and Materials document also has recommendations for specific safety items and how to handle various types of making situations.
If you decide to provide potentially hazardous tools, your organization will probably want to look at having a liability waiver. Fayetteville Free Library’s Maker Agreement has several liability statements. While working on the policies and agreements for Pikes Peak Library District’s soon-to-open makerspace, our insurance company was also able to share a sample waiver with us. After you have things written up, you can have your library’s lawyer and your insurance company look over your forms.
Providing tools, and the possible issues that can arise from doing so, can seem daunting. However, one of the key tenets of libraries is creating lifelong learning. Facilitating knowledge of hands-on arts fits into that core belief. Learning these skills can also be costly, so providing tools and training to our patronage for free or low cost brings a new opportunity to those who would otherwise not be able to afford it.