As an elementary educator for most of my career, I’ve had the privilege of working with a variety of learners—from inner-city students in North Carolina to university-level students in Chicago—but I found my true calling as the librarian at Hubbard Woods Elementary in Winnetka, Illinois. I’ve been called the “Willy Wonka of school librarians” because I transformed our traditional library into what I call an IDEA (Innovation, Design, Engineering, and Art) Lab complete with flexible furniture, robotics, engineering tools, iPads, laptops, and sewing machines.

To get started, I used my experience as a classroom educator to create a cross-curricular library curriculum that supports classroom teachers’ lessons, marrying the idea of books and bytes. Daily activities include robot bowling, using robots to paint pictures, and filming and producing music videos staring (you guessed it) robots!

Related content: How to transform a library into a makerspace

For other districts that want to turn their libraries into IDEA labs, here are some insights into how we made it all happen.

4 steps to turning your space into a 21st-century library

1. Create a dream binder. In 2015, I received a lump sum of funding to help transform our traditional library into a flexible, collaborative makerspace. One of the conditions of the funding was that we needed to spend it in a certain amount of time, so we had four to five months to make some big decisions.

How I created a makerspace in my school

Related Content:

eSchool News STEM, STEAM, & Makerspaces Guide

The eSchool News STEM, STEAM, & Makerspaces Guide is here! It features strategies to help you integrate STEM, STEAM, and makerspace education into classrooms, and it offers a look at how these tools engage students and give them valuable skills. A new eSchool News Guide will launch each month–don’t miss a single one!

About the Author:

Todd Burleson is a library media specialist in the Winnetka School District in Winnetka, Ill. School Library Journal named Burleson the 2016 School Librarian of the Year. Read his blog here, and follow him on Twitter @todd_burleson.


Add your opinion to the discussion.