4 December 2020
3D Printer. Image credit: Altadena Library.

The COVID-19 pandemic has radically changed how patrons and library staff utilize and learn in makerspaces or within their maker communities. Beyond topics of public health and politics, this pandemic has shown the importance of the skills and sense of community that one may gain in makerspaces. A perfect example is masks and other PPE supplies. In many ways, programs and classes where patrons have learned to sew are lifesaving! Let’s review some best practice suggestions to reopening a makerspace safely during this or any pandemic!

Timed Appointment Based System

To ensure that there is a continued equitable approach, there needs to be an emphasis on safety. Mask requirements, social distancing, extra cleaning, and an appointment system.

  1. Timed appointments. Common appointments vary between 30-minutes to 60-minutes.
  2. 15-minutes to 30-minutes between appointments to clean and sanitize seats, used equipment.
  3. No more than two people per appointment. This gives youth patrons the opportunity to visit with a guardian. Overall, no more than 3 people consistently in the maker or learning space (one staff member, up to two patrons).
  4. A maximum of two appointments per library card to to offer continued equitable access. Each appointment should have two bins: the first bin should include items that patrons may use in the space (scissors, rulers, levels, paint brushes, seam rippers, vinyl cutter tools). At the end, items should be placed in the second bin labeled “To Sanitize.”
  5. It may also be a best practice to require and provide patrons to wear face shields so items do not have to be quarantined if used (thread or a vinyl cutter mat).
  6. All files created should be emailed to the patron(s).

Distance Instruction

  1. If someone needs help, ask them to step/move six feet away. Once they are, disinfect the workspace, tools, and the chair (or have a separate chair). Finally, explain and try to show the process that you are using to troubleshoot.
  2. Demonstrations. If there is a computer with the same software available in the space, connect it to the large screen and demonstrate the process via HDMI. Remote computer access. The following are popular remote access software from libraries in the Chicago area: Splashtop, RemotePC, Vision for Education, Chrome Remote Desktop App (Free installation) TeamViewer
  3. Handout and Video Instructions. Handout instructions for major makerspaces processes can be helpful under pandemic and non-pandemic circumstances: Short videos to demonstrate these processes edited together using screen recordings. Laminate printed instructions to simplify cleaning processes and save paper. Or provide instructions digitally.

Makerspace Programs

Libraries may want to pursue “Round Table” sharing programs. Participants can share projects or new skills in a virtual meeting session. This keeps users engaged and promotes the sharing of ideas -as makers do. This program could also be geared towards different age groups (Adults, Young Adults/Teens, and Youths (elementary aged patrons). Library programs are a perfect opportunity to include and use any curbside services to your advantage! Staff can prepare “pick-up kits” with the supplies necessary for a related program.

Quarantining Items

Sanitization becomes slightly more difficult with certain items: i.e. sewing and embroidery thread, and vinyl cutter mats. If these items are used, then quarantined for 72-hours as recommended (CDC, WHO 2020), it can create hindrances as to item accessability. There is also more recent information about the coronavirus’s existence and risk of spreading through surfaces as it is somewhat less of a risk than initially communicated (Goldman 2020).

Suggested approaches to this issue:

  1. If the budget should allow, purchase additional thread or embroidery floss, or vinyl cutter mats.
  2. Require and provide patrons to wear a face shield in addition to their mask. Sanitize their hands before handling any thread or sticky mats.

It is also suggested that any project that is brought to the library be washed and dried or sanitized before use.

Digital Media Labs

Suggestions to re-opening a digital media lab with recommendations from the Schopes Mikrofone Company and recent musical performances. 

  1. Cover microphones with plastic bags. This removes the need to quarantine. Recycle each plastic bag accordingly or disinfect.
  2. Clear/acrylic microphone shields. Easy to disinfect.
  3. Masks and Microphones. It is of suggested best practice to require a mask and a face shield in a digital media lab. Microphones are designed to capture high quality sounds. If Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande can perform at the Video Music Awards while wearing masks and social distancing (Insider 2020), it is not an unrealistic expectation for patrons to wear masks while recording. 


There are ways to keep yourself, patrons, and other library staff safe in makerspaces. While there are limitations in place, none are unrealistic and they do not reduce the underlying mission of a valuable learning experience. Keep your maker community going, share and inspire others with these suggested best practices, and learn and teach to sew masks like our lives depend on it…because they do! 

Our guest blogger today is Jimmy Gonzalez-Vicker. Jimmy is the Experiential Learning Lead at the Skokie Public Library. Jimmy is also a convenor of the RAILS Makerspace Networking Group and a Master’s of Library and Information Science (MLIS) candidate from the University of Illinois.


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