So, yeah, makerspaces. It’s one of those neologisms that has become common library parlance over the past few years, though the notion itself is nothing all that revolutionary. Dedicating library resources (and for many libraries, actual physical space is extremely valuable) to the creation of new things? A bit scary. But also, perhaps, the start of something big.
Libraries comport themselves as institutions of education, but the traditional methods of a library (books) function only for a certain type of student: those able to self-educate by reading. Not everyone learns optimally by reading print on a page or screen, or even listening to audiobooks. Many learn best by doing. For someone whose interest and creativity are engaged by hands-on activities and do-it-yourself projects, aka “participatory learning,” a makerspace is the ideal approach to developing skills and knowledge.
A lot of attention is given to the idea of 3-D printers (and let’s face it, the technology has come down in price pretty significantly, and will continue to drop) but that isn’t the only approach to makerspaces out there. Find a tech-savvy volunteer or make a community partnership (kudos to Auburn Public Library!) to teach kids or adults real computer skills with old computers or parts from your local swap-shop. With Raspberry Pi devices at $35 a pop, creating an entire network of computers isn’t much more expensive than buying one of each title off of the New York Times’ bestseller list.
If not computers or technology, why not gardening? Sewing? Writing a sestina? (Dover Town Library incubated eggs, with each participating child given a specific egg to nurture.) The idea that makerspaces attempt to capture is that there is the opportunity to learn through experience, either with mentoring or without. Some libraries capture this knowledge in video form and share it like any part of their collection.
In any event, many believe that makerspaces and libraries make a very cute couple, and that it is not all HYPE. (Some even have excellent taste in WordPress templates.) Makerspace.com has gone through the trouble of making a playbook for schools or libraries interested in starting their own makerspace.
Does a makerspace fit into your library’s plans?