Barnes & Noble has been expanding its selection of merchandise for a while now, featuring more toys and games and even action figures. This weekend, the bookstore will host its first Mini Maker Faire in stores across the country. The event may seem strange to those who still associates B&N with just selling books and journals, but it actually makes perfect sense.

As Simon Shen, CEO of XYZprinting and one of the sponsors of the event, explains, "One of our core goals is to provide communities with the tools they need to establish futures where technology is ubiquitous, and there is no better partner than Barnes & Noble – a company that already has close local and national connections, and has always been a leader in literacy and tech literacy.”

Participants of the Mini Maker Faire will be able to meet maker legends like Dale Dougherty, the Founder and Executive Chairman of Maker Media/Maker Faire, Simon Shen, CEO of XYZprinting, Ayah Bdeir, Founder and CEO of littleBits, Nader Hamda, Founder and CEO of Ozobot, Parker Thomas, Inventor of Maker Studio, Bill Ritchie, Founder of ThinkFun (go to the site to see which guest is participating at your closest store).

We spoke with Mary Ellen Keating, Barnes & Noble's Senior Vice President, Corporate Communications & Public Affairs, to learn more about the company's collaboration with Make.



How did Barnes and Noble decide to start hosting mini Maker Faires?

In May, Kathleen Campisano, Vice President of Toys & Games, attended a Maker Faire in San Mateo, CA, featuring more than 9,000 exhibitors and 130,000 attendees. She was very impressed with the wide range of activities, including technology demonstrations, hands-on learning events, and authors/speakers having conversations about new ideas and concepts. She realized that the concept of a Maker Faire is complementary to what goes on in our nearly 650 stores nationwide every day. Barnes & Noble is committed to tech literacy and experiential learning through a wide range of events and product offerings, and the Mini Maker Faire will shine a spotlight on that. The company is also committed to serving local communities, and this community-based learning event will inspire participants to become Makers and connect with people and projects in their local communities.

It’s great to see for-profits get involved in their communities. Do you plan on doing more Maker Faires in the future?

While we haven’t committed to doing Mini Maker Faires in the future, we will certainly assess this weekend’s faire, which we expect to be a big success from both a sales and traffic perspective.

Are you hoping to attract children or adults to the mini Maker Faires?

Yes, the Mini Maker Faire is for people of all ages and backgrounds who have a desire to create, learn and share, and who bring a DIY mindset to technology. Both adults and children will enjoy the product demonstrations, Maker presentations and collaborative activities we have planned in our stores. In fact, the collaborative activities will feature products like Extraordinaires Design Studio PRO and LEGO Architecture Studio for adults, and littleBits and LEGO Bionicle Bricks for the young ones.

What are you hoping to be the biggest take-away from this weekend?

We’re looking forward to hosting an amazing event that will excite and engage customers. And we think customers will love it, as they will have the opportunity to participate in a wide range of activities, including interactive product demonstrations to learn about programming, coding and 3D printing, collaborative hands-on experiences designed to stretch their imaginations, and educational talks and presentations from leaders in the Maker Movement and local Makers.

How did your partnership with Make come about?

After Kathleen Campisano attended the San Mateo Maker Faire, she reached out to Maker Media, publishers of Make: magazine, about the concept of Barnes & Noble hosting the first national retail Mini Maker Faire in all of our stores across the country. Maker Media loved the idea and has been very helpful in providing guidance and direction for hosting a successful event. We have also partnered with vendors like XYZprinting, littleBits and Raspberry Pi to provide an amazing product offering for our customers.  

And, because we have to ask, can you recommend any great books that makers should check out?

Yes, here are some great books exclusive to Barnes & Noble that we will be promoting during the Mini Maker Faire: Getting Started with Coding by Camille McCue, Making YouTube Videos by Nick Willoughby, and Modding Minecraft by Stephen Foster. We also suggest that you visit the B&N Maker Faire site to view some of the amazing products that are available.


Select stores are also giving out free backpacks from Make and other goodies. Also see if your store is featuring a Raspberry Jam event this Saturday, which will teach attendees how to use the Raspberry Pi.

The event looks fun, but also proves that the Maker movement is even more massive than anyone suspected.