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Library Innovation Studios

About the Project

The Library Innovation Studios: Transforming Rural Communities project used makerspaces, hosted by 35 rural and small libraries to support participatory learning experiences by providing access to technological and innovative learning tools not readily accessible locally. The project achieved success in stimulating creativity, innovation, and the exchange of ideas to facilitate entrepreneurship, skill development, and learning. Makers reported making and selling products, starting businesses, purchasing equipment, and gaining skills.

The Nebraska Library Commission used a $715,732 National Leadership Grant awarded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to carry out the project. The project began July 1, 2017 and concluded March 31, 2022.

In total 2,709 individuals/makers were certified to operate equipment at the Library Innovation Studios. On average, each individual was certified on 2.9 machines—for a total of 7,797 certifications. An average 77 unique individuals were trained at each host library (an average of 223 machine certifications).

Nearly all the libraries have purchased makerspace equipment and many have impressive makerspaces today. Over 320 pieces of equipment were acquired by the 35 host libraries—an average of 9 devices each. The estimated equipment value is over $450,000. Nearly all 35 libraries reported that the process helped them to develop local partners, brought new people to the library, and paved the way for the majority of host libraries to establish a permanent makerspace.

The Activities of the Multi-Faceted Project included:
  • Establish local Community Action Teams in 35 rural and small communities;
  • Purchase equipment and related materials for four rotating Innovation Studios hosted by libraries for 20 weeks each;
  • Develop instructional materials and user equipment certification processes;
  • Employ sustainability strategies for permanent studios;
  • Provide training on the use of the equipment, focusing on Train-the-Trainer strategies;
  • Certify “makers” on the use of studio makerspace equipment at the host libraries;
  • Assist with local marketing efforts and programming/events, including open houses and maker showcases;  
  • Host statewide annual makers’ showcases;
  • Conduct a 2022 Nebraska Makerspace Conference;
  • Conduct an outcome-based evaluation of the project; and
  • Disseminate information to enable national replication.


  • Rural community residents will be empowered with the tools and guidance to explore, collaborate, create, learn, and invent;
  • Libraries will transform their rural communities through participatory learning spaces, while establishing themselves as strong community catalysts for community change; and
  • Libraries (and communities) nationwide will have access to a replicable model.

Contact Information

JoAnn McManus, Library Innovation Studios Project Manager, Nebraska Library Commission, 1200 N Street, Suite 120, Lincoln, NE 68508-2023, 402-471-4870, 800-307-2665

This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services [grant #LG-95-17-0046-17].
Program Partners include: Nebraska Library Commission, Institute of Museum and Library Services, Nebraska Innovation Studio, 
	Nebraska Regional Library Systems, and Nebraska 4-H Extention