You’ve probably heard the buzzword before: “Makerspace!” But what exactly is a Makerspace, and why should the library even care about them? Well, I want to answer these questions, and talk about why the “Maker Movement” is important to public libraries.
Put simply, a Makerspace is a community-operated workspace where people with common interests, often in computers, technology, science, as well as digital and electronic art, can meet and collaborate. Makerspaces are often fee- or subscription-based, and this is where some public libraries have been able to meet the needs of their communities: by offering Makerspace equipment, programming, and spaces at low cost to the general public. The themes of lifelong learning and collaboration are present in both the Makerspace and Public Library mission statements, and so they are a natural partnership.
Some Makerspaces are stand-alone facilities, such as London’s UnLab and Kitchner’s KwartzLab. These facilities are normally accessible 24/7 and are not actively staffed. Rather, customers pay a subscription fee to use the resources at their leisure. Customers work on self-directed projects, and have their own working knowledge of the tools and technologies available. Another type of stand-alone Makerspace is one that is geared towards children, such as Toronto’s Maker Kids. Maker Kids is also a subscription-based model, but they have staff on-hand at all times to assist the users, and lead programs and activities.
Many libraries are integrating Makerspaces into their services, using different models. The Toronto Public
Library’s Digital Innovation Hub has a technology focus, and requires that their patrons be somewhat self-directed; staff are not there to hand-hold through projects. However, they do have staff who offer “certification” classes, that provide customers with the basics of how to use their resources. Other libraries are more engaged, such as Innisfil Public Library’s IdeaLab. They allow experimentation, but also guidance when using their tools, which include a laser cutter. Another way that libraries are getting involved is by offering programs and activities using “maker kits”. This allows library patrons to experience new technologies, but without forcing the library to set aside a great deal of time and money towards a larger-scale project.
At St. Thomas Public Library, we have been fortunate to receive a donation of $50,000 from the Palmer Estate to help fund our own “Makerspace”, which we have branded our “Creators’ Community“! We foresee a model that blends together some of the aspects that other libraries are using: we want to offer 3D printers and audiovisual equipment to the public, as well as provide some training on how to use them. In addition, we will also offer in-house programs and activities using maker kits (such as Makey Makey, Arduino, Snap Circuits, etc), as well as integrate these technologies into our outreach activities. We believe that it is important to cultivate a strong sense of digital and technological literacy, as these skills are becoming increasingly important in our modern society.
When can you expect to see some “maker” programming at the library? We hope to have programs up and running as early as June! We want to give the St. Thomas community access to 3D printing technology, and foster some creative collaboration through new tech tools and programs.
Stay tuned for more information!
Want to learn more? Visit our website: http://stthomaspubliclibrary.ca/using-the-library/creators-community/
Have questions or comments? Email us! firstname.lastname@example.org
Submitted by: Sarah Macintyre