Play-Doh models with lights

This project, an off-shoot to the MakEY project, was led by Dr Liz Chesworth, and was funded by the University of Sheffield’s Knowledge Exchange and Impact Opportunities (KEIO) Scheme.

This project's aims were to:

  • Work with three library services (Barnsley, Sheffield and South Shields) to provide makerspace workshops for 3–8 year-olds and their families.

  • Compare and contrast the success and challenges of the workshops in relation to the nature of each library context, for example a pop-up makerspace, permanent provision, drop-in event, or bookable session.

  • From these workshops, develop a set of guidelines and resources that can be used by other library services who wish to develop makerspaces for children aged 3–8 and their families.

  • Collaborate with the Libraries Taskforce, DCMS, to disseminate the materials to libraries nationally via a national conference and through newsletters, blogs and more.

Adult making things with a child

The Libraries Taskforce, in its strategy document Libraries Deliver: Ambition for Public Libraries in England 2016–2021, emphasises the role of libraries in supporting delivery of seven outcomes in the community. A number of these are relevant to this project, including:

  • Outcome one – cultural and creative enrichment.

  • Outcome three – increased digital access and literacy.

  • Outcome four – helping everyone achieve their full potential.

In particular, the document describes the aspiration that, by 2021, “people see libraries as local creative hubs where exploration, experimentation, pursuing of cultural interests, and making are encouraged” and “people perceive public libraries as being places they can go to co-create and share expertise using cutting edge technology, for example, through makerspaces”.

The role of makerspaces in libraries also featured strongly in the government’s Digital Strategy (published in March 2017) in recognition of their value and impact in helping people develop high level digital skills while democratising access to the latest technology. In it, the government committed to ‘bring together people from across sectors to collaborate and support the expansion of makerspaces in public libraries in England’.

CMS (via the Libraries Opportunities for Everyone (LOFE innovation fund) invested £1,424,151 in makerspaces in libraries in this financial year. This area, therefore, was a key element of the national strategy.

Woman with child in a makerspace

This project concluded with a range of tried and tested materials for use by all library services. This attracted younger children to libraries, who were a key target audience. The project encouraged young children and their families to visit libraries, and research indicates that early use of libraries is beneficial for ensuring longer-term use of provision.

The project was undertaken during the summer and early autumn of 2018, and was reported in a conference on 7 November in Sheffield.

MakEY guidance and resources for libraries (PDF, 1.7MB)


Beth Nutbrown

School of Education, the University Of Sheffield.

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Dr Liz Chesworth

Project Coordinator, School of Education, the University Of Sheffield.

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Patrizia Baldi

Project Administrator, the University Of Sheffield.

Professor Jackie Marsh

Project Co-Coordinator, School of Education, the University Of Sheffield.

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Barnsley Libraries

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Libraries Taskforce

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Sheffield Libraries


South Tyneside Libraries

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