Saturday, December 1, 2012

Hands-on exploration with ‘makerspace’

Needlework books, yarn and knitting needles on display at Lakeport Library
Image source: Lake County Library on Facebook
As reported on American Libraries magazine’s AL Focus, a Brighton, Colo. library is gearing up for its “makerspace” grand opening on Dec. 5:
“Makerspaces are creative community workspaces where patrons have the option to build and experiment with art, craft, and technology projects while sharing tools and ideas with other community members. The makerspace at Anythink Brighton will be geared toward teens, offering a space where they can get free access to state-of-the-art tools and materials for crafts, robotics, textile design, digital photography, and 3D printing. Also included is a ‘computer guts’ area where teens can take apart a computer to learn how its various parts work together.”
With my background of crafting and do-it-yourself, the “makerspace” strongly appeals to me in the field of library service.

Here’s a close-to-home example of what a “makerspace” might involve. Lakeport Library featured a needlework display in November. Scheduled presentations included beginning crochet taught by Joanne Morgan and intermediate to advanced sock knitting taught by Barbara Swanson.

At Redbud Library in Clearlake, an origami club meets at 4 p.m. on Wednesdays. The Knitting-A-Round Club meets from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturdays to share the pleasures of knitting and mysteries.

With a “makerspace,” the opportunity to participate in these hands-on activities would not be limited to scheduled presentations or group meetings (although these would certainly enhance the community-building and learning experience). The tools for exploration and the space to do it in would be available at the library for community members to use.

As reported by AL Focus:
“Anythink Brighton staff members will be able to mentor teens in an environment that supports entrepreneurship, resourcefulness, and creativity. They will also use the space to enhance and expand the library’s existing programs for all ages.”
Many of the books that informed my self-exploration in crafting and artistry were obtained from my local library. It makes sense that the tools of exploration could be provided through my library as well.

A makerspace could work in partnership with LEGO Robotics activities and other avenues that promote the STEM disciplinary pursuits of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

As a “media lab,” the makerspace could promote community engagement through blogging and social media, perhaps in partnership with an area news publisher. Take for example the Oakland Tribune’s community newsroom and’s TC Rover.

Hands-on engagement is a place where journalism and librarianship naturally intersect. Both have an interest in promoting engaged and responsible citizenship.

Update, Jan. 26, 2013: The January/February edition of American Libraries devotes extensive coverage to makerspaces, including this perspective by Travis Good and magazine editors:
“Fundamentally, makerspaces are a technological leap past library knitting and quilting circles, where patrons and experts have often come together to learn new techniques and train others in a skill. The new tools are a lot flashier, and certainly more expensive than a needle and thread. The cost factor is what makes a makerspace so appealing to library visitors -- what one person cannot afford to purchase for occasional use, the library can buy and share with the community.”
The magazine features a list of “ cool stuff” to outfit a makerspace and a brief summary of Maker Monday programming at the American Library Association’s Midwinter Meeting.

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