How to make a $1000 makerspace for your library

Last week we explored ideas for building a $100 library makerspace. This week we’re increasing our budget 10 fold and exploring how to build a $1000 library makerspace. While our budget has gone up significantly, we’ll still have to be strategic about how we spend our money.

Should I buy a 3D printer?

We get asked this question a lot and there isn’t a single right answer. 3D printers are amazing and can be used to create interesting, educational, and useful objects. When deciding whether or not your library needs a 3D printer keep three things in mind: time, upkeep, and cost.

3D printers require a lot of time investment. Inexpensive printers (like the Printrbot Simple we use on the MakerBus) require a huge amount of initial time investment to assemble and get up and running. It took us at least 16 hours (spread over several days) to assemble our printer. It then took our team member James dozens of hours to calibrate our printer and to get it to the point where it works reliably.

Once you get your 3D printer up and running, you have to keep in mind that printers need a lot of upkeep. 3D printers are extremely precise objects, even slight misalignments will cause prints to fail. Even more expensive 3D printers, like those MakerBot range of products, require regular maintenance.

Before buying a 3D printer, decide whether you have the time and patience to invest in making sure your 3D printer is properly calibrated.

People also ask us how much a 3D printer costs to operate. In general 3D printer filament costs between $30-40 per kilogram. Most prints only weigh a few grams, so you’ll likely get a few dozen prints from a single spool of filament. But when budgeting for a 3D printer, remember to take filament cost into consideration.

The $100 makerspace vs. the $1000 makerspace

In general, all of the advice given in our $100 library makerspace post applies to the $1000 makerspace – creativity, thoughtfulness, and community will be the backbone of the $1000 library makerspace. If you’re building a library makerspace, make it known to your community that you’re doing it. People are always willing to donate supplies (especially if it means they get to clean out their basement).

Consider putting a donation box for technology and supplies in your library, though be warned, people may donate too much – only put out a donation box if you have room to store all the donations you receive.

Great donations include:

Tools – ask for small hand tools like screw drivers, hand saws, and wrenches

DVD players – a lot of people are trying to get rid of used DVD players. DVD players can be disassembled to find a variety of lenses that can be used to make macro lenses, as well as a number of gears and components that can be recycled in other projects.

Fabric – we’ve been surprised by the number of people who offer to donate unwanted fabric. Fabric can be used in a number of projects and it never hurts to have extra.

What I’d buy with a $1000 budget

$100 – Everything from the $100 makerspace

$45 – Adafruit beginner LED sewing kit (x3)

Conductive thread is an awesome way to get learners (both young and old) to create their own wearable technology. These kits include everything you’ll need to get started, though if you’d like to save a bit of money you can purchase the pieces individually if you’d rather not use kits. What I like about conductive thread is that it’s a great way to promote cross-generational learning. Older people with experience with sewing and knitting can help younger people experiment with sewing LEDs into fabric.

$90 – Rasberry Pi Starter Kit (x2)

If you’re interested in expanding your library’s computer lab without spending a lot of money, then Raspberry Pi micro-computers are a perfect solution. For $45 you can buy a pocket-sized working computer. These computers run Linux and are a great way to encourage people to learn about computer programming. You will need to supply a USB mouse and keyboard as well as a monitor to get them working – but look for a blog post about how to hook a Raspberry Pi up to an old SD television later this week.

$40 – USB mouse and keyboard (x2)

You can use these with your Raspberry Pi, though it never hurts to have extra USB mice and keyboards lying around.

$100 – Used monitors (x2)

Keep an eye on sites like Kijiji or Craigslist for cheap, working used monitors. They can be paired with your Raspberry Pi’s or attached to the computers in your library as second screens. Library makerspaces thrive on access to information, having extra monitors is always useful.

$105 – Microsoft Kinect

While the Kinect may not be the greatest video game accessory ever created, it does offer an exciting range of possibilities for makerspaces. From 3D scanning to creating interactive art experiences, the Kinect offers unique learning experiences at a variety of learning levels.

$51 – Learn to solder kits (x3)

Soldering can be dangerous, but with proper instruction and supervision, soldering is a fundamental skill for many maker projects. These kits include a soldering iron and a small circuitry project that involves soldering a speaker to a circuit board. With patience and a touch of skill, completed boards can be de-soldered and reused.

$5 – Solder (x2)

$54 – 12 x 18 cutting mats (x3)

Cutting mats provide safe, non-slip surfaces and keep library tables from being damaged. Cutting mats are definitely your friend.

$200 – Shelving

Organization is key to a successful library makerspace. With donations, patrons, and classes clutter can quickly become overwhelming. Find a shelving solution that works for you and don’t be afraid to invest in it. Some people like to use many smaller boxes arranged on shelves to organize materials (here’s a good example). Other people prefer to keep everything out in the open (here’s a good example). Explore sites like Pinterest for examples and find a solution that fits both your space and your needs.

$24 – Wire Strippers

Even when you’re on a budget, don’t be afraid to invest in a higher quality tool. There’s a massive difference between a good and a bad pair of wire strippers – spending a little extra will save you a lot of headache in the long run.

$74 – Tool Kit

I like tool kits because they come in self-contained, labelled, and pre-organized cases. Having a specific place for a specific tool keeps things from being put away in the wrong place and disappearing. Decide how much you’d like to spend and what kind of tools you’re looking for and see if you can find a tool kit that suites your needs.

$19 – Magnetic tray (x3)

If you’re working on any projects that involve taking things apart, magnetic trays will help keep screws from getting lost. Remember, a tidy makerspace is a happy makerspace.

$90 – Miscellaneous funds

As a rule of thumb, makerspace will always cost more money than anticipated. Having some extra money in the budget for miscellaneous expenses will serve you well in the long run. Whether its a cool new piece of technology that you’ve just discovered, or money needed to top up popular supplies, make sure to set aside some rainy day funds.


As I said in the last post, don’t view this list as prescriptive – view it as a starting point for your own creative library makerspace. A lot can be accomplished with relatively little money. With creativity, time, and a supportive community, you’re well on your way to making an amazing library makerspace.

-The MakerBus Team


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