Teen Makerspace Program: Recycle Mania in the Library

DSCN1636When it comes to crafting, there are two types of people: those who want the detailed step-by-step instructions, and those who want the freedom to explore on their own. This month, at the Cambridge Idea Exchange, I made a deliberate effort to include opportunities for both types of people. For the instruction lovers I created 3 detailed photo instruction sheets and examples (folded book heart, origami paper rose, and magazine beads). For the adventurous crafters, I provided inspiration: I printed out a sign with ideas for book sculptures. I provided examples of illustrated book buttons. I created a bouquet with 8 different types of easy to replicate origami flowers to encourage innovation. I included bright pages for bookmark, card, or sign collaging.

This type of freedom to explore embodies the mission of my library, The Cambridge Idea Exchange. We shouldn’t just be telling people how to do things; we should be creating opportunities for people to imagine new things and make them a reality.



DSCN1652The folded book hearts were the most popular – several students and one teacher took home withdrawn books and instructions to make the craft at home.

One girl got inventive put two hearts in one book – one right-side-up, one up-side down

During period two, nine students sat at the flower/sculpture table. One girl got to work making a folded book heart. Three guys were interested in the items but ended up just using the space to hang out. The remaining 5 used the book pages, pipe cleaners, and straws to build towers and to decorate their uniforms – not their “intended” purpose, but evidentially a fun one anyway!

Challenges and Solutions

  • One concern is that students will confuse withdrawn items with collection items. I posted a tent sign stating that “Only withdrawn magazines (with the barcode scratched out) can be used for crafting.” It turned out to be a non-issue, and a couple people even double-checked about which items could be used.
  • During period 2 teacher gently reminded the 9 students using the makerspace that their assignment was due soon, and maybe they should be working on it instead of crafts. Space definitely is an issue when 2 classes are using the library at once. After a short conversation, some students began working, and others continued crafting.
  • Students complained that there was not enough space to eat lunch – they were encouraged to use the crafting tables and craft while eating (which they did). The seminar room was also opened for a small group of responsible students to eat/play tabletop games – they were reminded to clean up after themselves as a class was coming in after.
  • Many of the chairs at the maker stations were borrowed for eating while I was helping a student. This is difficult to monitor, and made the makerspace a less inviting space. Many students walked past, admired the illustrated buttons and folded book art, but did not have a seat to make one. They were encouraged to create anyway, and a few took materials and instruction sheets for later.
  • Students were not interested in magazine beads – perhaps too simple.


DSCN1637While running these events in the past I’ve noticed that the tables can get quite crowded, limiting the number of people able to participate. I decided to experiment by expanding the makerspace to one extra table – allowing for more groups to be involved.

I included a note at the bottom of the folded book instruction sheet about how to find more information for future crafting. This worked well – one student came to the desk and asked me to show her more sites. In future sessions I may create a handout resource of more resources for book sculpting.


Providing a mix between instruction crafting and inspiration crafting created an even more relaxed, creative atmosphere. I will definitely be repeating this approach in future makerspaces.

Since the complex craft was more popular than the simple craft, I will also try to include more impressive, difficult crafts in the future. I will continue to open the makerspace during the morning classes, as students on spare were interested.

Overall – a success and a good learning experience.

Downloadable Resources

Instruction Sheet Folded Book Heart
Instruction Sheet Book Rose
Instruction Sheet Magazine Beads

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I believe that there should be more collaboration and sharing in the library world. If you work in a high school or a public library free to use my resources – and let me know that you did! I’d love to see how other librarians run recycle mania events for teens. What recycle crafts have you tried?

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