Anne Mlod

I am a school librarian at a K-6 elementary school in Auburn, NY. My school has approximately 400 students. I am passionate about helping students become lifelong learners and responsible global citizens.

Anne Mlod, School Librarian
Genesee Elementary School
Auburn, New York

Creating a Maker Space in an Elementary School Library

I am passionate about making my elementary school library for k-6 students become a place of creation, rather than just consumption, so I have purchased the items to create a makerspace. The materials include low tech items (origami paper, dowels, string, etc) as well as high tech (robots, circuit kits, 3d printers) materials. It is relatively easy to purchase the materials needed for a makerspace, however, the effective use of the makerspace program should be based on set goals, research, and input and feedback from both teachers and students.

For my action research,  I investigated the following question:

How can I design my library makerspace so that it is used effectively at all grade levels?

This action research is important because the role of the library and librarian in schools is continually shifting to meet the needs of students and teachers. The revised American Library Association Standards were released in the Fall of 2017, and focus on inquiry learning and equitable access. I hope my work will help others in making the shift to a maker culture.

Action Research takes place over time introducing well-planned actions, collecting data, analyzing and reflecting on the outcomes which lead to new questions and new actions. These cycles continue and often after a few cycles, the researcher is ready to report their findings.  On this site we developing our insight as we work so this is a report that will be continually revised as I work. 

Important to action research is keeping a journal so that change can be documented.  My blog can be found at

Maker Space Learning Environments

Throughout the country, as well as around the world, both public and school libraries are shifting their focus from providing resources and supporting research projects to providing learning environments that support inquiry, exploration and creation. One way this is being done is through the development of a library makerspace, which is also known by the names of idea lab, innovation zone, hackerspace, and more. There are many definitions of makerspace, but they all focus on what it can enable, not on the
tools. I like Diana Rendell’s definition: A makerspace is a place where students can gather to create, invent, tinker, explore and discover using a variety of tools and materials. (Graves et al, 2017).

There are multiple resources on setting up makerspaces, but few that reference a librarian - classroom teacher collaboration in the process. However, many of the articles listed the steps necessary to implement a makerspace project and one of the beginning steps always involved a planning team. The Maker Program Starter Kit from Autodesk ( includes this graphic listing the ten steps to starting a successful program.

The Horizon Report is the longest running publication of emerging technology trends. In the latest report, three of the six trends have a direct connection to makerspaces: redesigning learning spaces, coding as a literacy, and the rise of STEAM Learning.


My action research project is on-going, with a focus on the effective use of a makerspace in an elementary library setting. This action research is important because the role of the library and librarian in schools is continually shifting to meet the needs of students and teachers. The revised American Library Association Standards were released in the Fall of 2017, and focus on inquiry learning and equitable access. I hope my work will help others in making the shift to a maker culture. To assist in the process of this action research, I used as a resource the Collaborative Center for Action Research tutorials which can be found at

My Context:

My action research takes place in a K-6 school library in a Title 1 school located in a small city in upstate New York. I have been teaching therein the role of school librarian for over sixteen years.  Over the past ten years, a paradigm shift has been taking place in school libraries around the country,  shifting their focus from providing resources and supporting research projects to providing learning environments that support inquiry, exploration, and creation.

There are seven libraries in my school district; five K-6 elementary, one 7-8 middle school and one 9-12 high school. Last summer, one of the elementary librarians and I decided to pursue a grant to purchase materials for a library makerspace, an area of the library where students can problem solve and create, using legos, circuit kits, robots, paper, markers, scissors, and craft materials.  
Student engagement while using the makerspace materials is high, and I have offered teachers the option of sending their students at the end of the day to use the materials. In December, students used the makerspace to participate in the iEARN Global Holiday Card exchange . We received cards from Russia, Canada, Belarus, Taiwan, and Ukraine. Displaying these by the makerspace was a good way to bring positive attention to the area.

Cycle 1: Creating A Teacher Advisory Committee

The first problem is that while we have created the physical space, there needs to be some structure or set of activities that invite the students into the make space.  These could be projects like we tried in December, or challenges, or school projects, or other global projects. Since my goal is to make this a school-wide well used space, I decided I needed the help of the school teachers. 

My first cycle question is:
                           If I form a makerspace advisory committee of teachers, how will it affect
                           the use of the space and materials by both teachers and students?

In anticipation of this action, I did a force field analysis from the online tutorials we are using.  

Forces for Change:
     Administrative support from Principal and Asst. Superintendent
     Increased student engagement with use of makerspace materials
     Next Gen Science standards will require teachers to consider hands-on materials like those in the makerspace
     New American Library Association Standards focus on inquiry and support makerspace environment in the library
     A recent change in the library schedule opens up the library on Fridays from 12:30-3:15 pm

Forces Against Change:
     Teachers have no time for “extra things”
     Teachers don’t have (aren’t making) time to teach science
     Lack of clerical support in the library to maintain the organization and supervision of materials
     Lack of time to catalog resources
     Lack of time to connect Next Gen Science standards to materials
     Not all district librarians support the idea of a library makerspace

Plan of Action
The first half of the meeting was spent sharing with the teachers My plan was to form a Teacher Advisory Committee for the makerspace which would include one teacher from each grade level. I decided to approach teachers who were flexible in their schedule, and who would support their students use of the space and materials. I knew it would be difficult finding a common time to meet, and I was afraid once I set up a meeting time, some would end up with a reason they couldn’t attend.

After discussing my plans with the Assistant Superintendent, she was able to come up with funds to pay the teachers to meet twice with me for a total of one and a half hours. Each teacher I approached agreed to be part of the committee and seemed excited about it. We set a meeting date for forty-five minutes after school, and only one teacher had a conflict. I was able to meet with him in school the following week.
     ● Librarian will do an orientation session with each of the seven classes
     ● Librarian will make passes and distribute two per class (see Appendix B)
     ● Librarian will recruit high school students/parent volunteers to come 2:30-3:00
     ● Librarian will present at faculty meetings and staff development days
     ● Librarian will take photos of student creations and post
     ● The suggestion was made to shorten the name of makerspace to i-zone
     ● I have conducted I-Zone orientations for three classes so far (Kindergarten, first grade, and second grade) and will be doing the rest over the next two week period.

Data Collection Plan

In my proposal, I noted that data would be collected from student and teacher surveys, and a survey of the Library Makerspace Advisory Committee. Because of state ELA, Math and Science testing that went into June, I am behind schedule in terms of the formal collection of data from students and classroom teachers for the project. I did survey members of the Library Makerspace Advisory Committee (see Appendix E) on
their familiarity with materials and use guidelines before our meetings, the productivity of our meetings, and the likelihood they would send students to the I-Zone, with the following results (all on a scale of 1=Not at all to 5=Very Familiar).

      1. Familiarity with materials in I-Zone prior to meetings Average: 2.2
      2. Familiarity with guidelines for I-Zone use prior to meetings Average: 1.8
      3. The productivity of meetings in terms of developing I-Zone Average: 4.4
      4. Likelihood to send students to I-Zone Average: 5.0

Other comments: “I cannot wait to get students involved in the I-Zone. Time is hard to schedule.” “I think the materials are great.” “My class enjoys using them and they are learning without realizing it.”

I also documented the number of visits to the I-Zone, which have quadrupled (from an average of 3 per day to an average of 12 per day) since I implemented the suggestions from the Teachers Advisory Committee Meeting. I also have feedback from students, which includes: “I am so happy I got to come down today,” and “Mrs. Mlod, this is so awesome, thank you for making this for us.” I took the first photo of a student’s creation
(see Below) and seeing the photo on the wall is extremely motivating for the other students. I look forward to completing the orientations and surveying the teachers on student behavior, engagement and skill development.


This was my first action research project. I was fortunate to have the guidance of Margaret Riel, Director of the Center for Action Research at Pepperdine University. One of the biggest surprises of this project was the buy-in from the teachers after the first forty-five-minute meeting, as well as the ideas generated by brainstorming with them. As the other six libraries in our district (as well as other libraries in our BOCES)
develop makerspaces, I will be able to share the mistakes I made and provide suggestions, which include setting up a Teacher Advisory Committee. I didn’t realize that teachers really didn’t understand the purpose or the guidelines for using the I-Zone, and once that was made clear, they were very willing to send students down, and the students were engaged. Doing an orientation for the classes gave the students ownership for the I-Zone and generated excitement for using it.

Another benefit of conducting this action research is the change in my mindset; as I consider the problems I face in my library, I now do so with an Action Researcher mindset. As I write this report, I am in Istanbul, Turkey for a conference for school librarians around the world. I presented on how I used action research to increase the effectiveness of my library. As I prepared my presentation and reflected on the process, I realize how having this mindset can make me better at my job. Now that the I-Zone is starting to be used as I envisioned, I am wondering how older student volunteers and members of the community can play a part, and I will use the action research steps I learned to investigate this!


Abram, Stephen. "What's in the pipeline? Teacher librarians as STEAM vents."[email protected], Jan.-Feb. 2017, p. 8+. Computer Database, Accessed 20 Feb. 2018.

Cross, Ashley. (2018). Tinkering in k-12: an exploratory mixed methods study of makerspaces in schools as an application of constructivist learning.10.13140/RG.2.2.14564.88965.

Freeman, A., Adams Becker, S., Cummins, M., Davis, A., & Hall Giesinger, C. (2017). NMC/CoSN Horizon Report: 2017 K–12 Edition Austin, TX: New Media Consortium. (accessed Feb. 22, 2019).

Graves, C., Graves, A., and Rendina, D. (2017). Challenge-based Learning in the School Library Makerspace.
Libraries Unlimited, an Imprint of ABC-CLIO.

Meyer, Leila. "Planning and implementing a makerspace in your school: our experts offer 14 tips for adding a makerspace to any K-12 school." T H E Journal [Technological Horizons In Education], Apr.-May 2017, p. 26+. Computer Database,
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L. Phillips, Abigail & Lee, Victor & M. Recker, Mimi. (2018). Supporting School Librarian
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