Those who have been around libraries for a while understand that they are changing, and have been doing so quite rapidly for the past quarter century. In the last 2 years, there has also been a lot of excitement at library conferences about maker spaces, computer controlled fabricators like 3D printers, and the maker movement in general. While some may think this is just a lot of hype for a passing fad, the truth is that combining maker spaces with libraries offers a very practical and achievable solution that benefits communities and saves libraries from following in the footsteps of the dinosaurs and the dodo.
In response, librarians have been looking at their values to determine big picture goals, and considering how to re-shape the library space to meet those goals in an age of computers and information glut. These goals have been worded many ways, but my personal favourite is authored by David R. Lankes, who proposes in The Atlas of New Librarianship that “The mission of librarians is to improve society through facilitating knowledge creation in their communities.” To many librarians, this means:
- providing barrier- and judgment-free access to various types and forms of information and entertainment media.
- being a physical location to build community networks and exchange knowledge.
- identifying and promoting proficiency in the multiple “literacies” that are required to interpret and interact with the many types of designed media we encounter every day, including books, websites, apps, social media, magazines, tablets, PCs, art, online articles, blogs, operating systems, consumer goods, video, audio and electronic games.
- encouraging and empowering members of our community to engage in the sharing and preservation of knowledge and self expression through the creation of their own media.
Media creation, however, poses a number of new and interesting challenges not yet tackled by many libraries. It requires investing (often scarce) funds in (often expensive) equipment, training staff and members in its use, and then making the equipment readily available to those who have received training while supervising it to ensure those without training do not accidentally damage the equipment or themselves. Consider also that “Instructional Design” and “Gadget Collection Maintenance” are not courses in any library school I know of, and it becomes clear that providing access to these tools leaves many librarians fumbling for answers entirely in the dark.
Fortunately, there are individuals and organizations that have experience in doing just this, and they also happen to have core values that align almost exactly with our own. It is now time to introduce the makers, and the spaces and organizations they belong to and maintain.
Continued in Part 2…