Makerspaces: Making Libraries Creative Spaces

On the corner of Broadway and Swinney Avenues in Fort Wayne, in the old Allen County Sweeper shop, something exciting has taken place:  the Allen County Public Library and TekVenture have opened a permanent TekVenture maker station.

As a maker station, TekVenture is a sort of makerspace on steroids, featuring “digitally controlled rapid prototyping and “personal fabrication” tools including a CNC router and milling machines, 3D printers, a metal lathe small injection molder, a vacuum forming prototyper, assembly areas, and other tools for making things” (TekVenture, 2015).  What do people do there?  Well, they make cool things–really, really cool things like this kinetic chandelier made of recycled dinnerware.  Inspired by TekVenture’s really cool stuff, I decided to focus my technology exploration this week on makerspaces.

Makerspaces have become a hot technology topic in libraries over the past several years, but they are still a relatively new phenomenon.  So just what is a makerspace?

Quite simply, a makerspace is a place where patrons and community members can come together to create, use, and share new materials and ideas.  It’s a place to make stuff at the library, which presents a place and an opportunity to learn that libraries are about more than just books and overdue notices.  There is no formula for making a makerspace–while 3-D printers are a common technology for libraries to start adding to existing technology to create a makerspace, it’s uncommon for these places to be identical.  Makerspaces are as unique and diverse as the communities they serve.

Makerspaces require physical space, planning, resources, staff, and–of course–money.  Utilizing specialized equipment requires training, which requires more time, staff, and even more money, yet many librarians see the value in adding these unique learning spaces.  In TechTrends, one librarian notes, “Libraries are, in general, in a fight for their lives where it’s change or die.  If nobody comes to your library then no one is going to fund you” (p. 109).  Makerspaces can provide a unique feature that adds value to the library and draws in patrons who may not be regular library visitors.

While makerspaces present a unique opportunity for libraries to attract patrons, they also pose some challenges to librarians.  While many librarians expect to utilize technology on the job, few are fully trained and prepared to step into management of a complex creative learning space.  Additional training is often required, which can demand flexibility from the newly minted or comfortably seated staff.

At the end of the day, I am excited by the opportunities presented by makerspaces in the library.  These unique learning environments encourage creativity, foster community, and present libraries with an almost unparalleled opportunity to introduce patrons to something new.

The Lowdown:

What new knowledge, skills or understanding have you gained? (Description)

This week, I learned about makerspaces.  I read about what they are and the directions that some libraries are taking in creating these spaces.  I read about some of the challenges and opportunities of creating a makerspace.

How can you use what you have learned? (Application)

Makerspaces are becoming more and more common in libraries, particularly in public library settings.  I can use the information that I have learned to continue following this trend with a more informed approach.  In the future, I will be able to discuss the benefits of makerspaces while acknowledging the very real challenges that they may present in budgeting, staff training, and management.

How does it relate to library work? (Reflection)

Anyone interested in public libraries should be aware of the makerspace trend and should be able to discuss makerspace technology with a certain level of comfort.  Even if one is not interested in direct management of a makerspace, it is important to be able to discuss the community-building opportunities created by integrating new ideas and resources in the library.

What resources (activities) have helped you to understand and/or have been interesting to use? (Activities/ Resources)

Dixon, Nicole, Michael Ward, and Eric Phetteplace. 2014. “The Maker Movement and the Louisville Free Public Library.” Reference & User Services Quarterly 54, no. 1: 17. Advanced Placement Source, EBSCOhost (accessed February 4, 2016).

ELuthy, C.  (2015).  Educating librarians about makerspaces.  Computers in Libraries, 35(9), 4-8.

Harris, J., & Cooper, C. (2015). Make room for a makerspace. Computers In Libraries, 35(2), 5-9.

Moorefield-Lang, H. (2015). Change in the making: Makerspaces and the ever-changing landscape of libraries. Techtrends: Linking Research & Practice To Improve Learning, 59(3), 107-112. doi:10.1007/s11528-015-0860-z

TekVenture.  (2015).  Retrieved from:  http://tekventure.org/

 

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