Dyan Branstetter | January 2017

Libraries, Makerspaces, and STEAM Labs: What’s the Difference?

Recently, my school district formed a committee to explore the idea of making our libraries relevant again. With drastic budget cuts a few years ago, our elementary had more or less been reduced to book circulation with a part-time librarian that shares three elementary schools. Relevancy is not a word that I would use to describe it. However, the future is bright, as this committee has the backing of a forward-thinking superintendent and is comprised of administrators and K-12 teachers of art, music, tech-ed, general elementary, and our librarian.

Creating a Library of the Future

EducationCloset’s Connectivity Conference and various articles have taught me a lot about how the Maker Movement is sweeping through districts as a powerful way for students to learn. My district is rather traditional, and while I know it is possible to incorporate a Makerspaces and STEAM Labs in my classroom, I didn’t think it would be a district initiative. Many districts that have had a Makerspaces and STEAM Labs in their library are now encouraging their pedagogical concepts to permeate all classrooms instead of staying in a centralized location.

As my committee learned about the goal for this Future-ready library, we heard the words Makerspaces and STEAM Labs, library commons, and 21st-century libraries being thrown around. In order for us to move forward, it was necessary for us to define these terms to make sure we were able to explain it to others and further define our vision.

Working with a Vision

Our vision: For students to be engaged in an innovative curriculum that through the strategic use of technology, empowers them to control their learning and development by fostering the essential skills of critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity.

We want to make sure that anything we plan can hold up to that vision, therefore not using technology for the sake of technology, or creating a Makerspaces and STEAM Labs because it is a current trend in education. In addition, one of our schools wrote a grant for a prototype STEAM Lab. Would this be swallowed up as part of our libraries initiative, or would it be a separate entity that would continue in our other buildings?

Defining the Terminology

While we are still in the beginning stages of research and dreaming about this future space, we have centered on our definitions of some of the terms that we need to clarify. My favorite EducationCloset infographic perfectly describes the difference between Arts Enhancement, Arts Integration, and STEAM.  I used the idea of this and recreated it to define Libraries, Makerspaces and STEAM Labs. As our work progresses, I expect to add more information to the infographic, but for now, it will serve as a way to explain our ideas to teachers and to make sure we’re all on the same page with terminology.

Stay tuned for more on this Libraries, Makerspaces and STEAM Labs topic as the school year progresses! Have you created a Future-Ready Library?

About the Author

Dyan is a fifth grade teacher in a public school district in Lancaster, PA and has over 16 years of classroom experience. With a Masters of Science Education and a passion for dance and music, she strives to integrate the arts into the curriculum whenever possible. Dyan has a background in teaching advanced learners, and is devoted to using project based learning to help her students achieve 21st century learning skills and master the PA Core Standards.