By Susan H. Hildreth Director, IMLS Today I had the pleasure of joining President Obama at the first-ever White House Maker Fair. It was quite an event with dozens of exhibits. My favorite? A larger than life-size electric giraffe! More than four hundred participants had the special opportunity to walk with robots, play life-size board games, and glimpse the world through a cell phone microscope. Outside the White House, we know that the maker movement is capturing the imagination of libraries and museums and helping us think about new ways to engage learners. IMLS is investing in making at the institutional and national levels with funding for research and projects that place museums and libraries at the center of this participatory, hands-on learning movement.
At the event we announced three new commitments to making. We announced that this year we expect to award $1 million in grants for maker-related projects; we are working with our super partners the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum, Chicago Public Library, the North Carolina State University Library and the Exploratorium to develop a makers toolkit for all libraries and museums and we are encouraging museums and libraries to join the Mozilla Foundation Maker Party initiative and celebrate making this summer. These commitments build on a long history of IMLS support for engaging learners in hands-on creative activities with tools as diverse as soldering irons and sewing needles leading to the creation of everything from high fashion to low riders. Libraries and museums nationwide are helping get people excited about making, reaching out to girls and minorities who are underrepresented in STEM careers, and just having a great time letting creativity reign. And the number of makerspaces at public libraries continues to grow. Share your maker activities on Twitter with #NationOfMakers, and let us know how your library or museum is getting involved.