Today, knowledge is easily accessible and highly digital. But interest in the more tangible and analogue form of knowledge, for instance the sort that can be practised in a makerspace, is also growing. In a makerspace, you can create, learn, be motivated and puzzled, and the concept attracts users of all ages and backgrounds in a technology-based community.
The term makerspace is used broadly to indicate a workshop 'where you create'. In a makerspace, you can learn by creating, experimenting with machines, and developing ideas into finished products.
A makerspace can attract people who would not normally frequent a library. At Ballerup Library, for instance, the establishment of a makerspace has led to a significant increase in the number of male visitors, in addition to children, entrepreneurs, artists, senior citizens, technology enthusiasts, schoolchildren etc.
Creating a makerspace
If you consider setting up a makerspace at your library, it is worth considering a number of things, e.g.:
- Is the makerspace to be set up in a room of its own, or should it be placed centrally along with other activities?
- What machinery, materials and prices do you want to be able to offer?
- Who is to man the makerspace, know the machinery and help the users get started?
- What activities do you want to hold in the makerspace area?
- Do you want a makerspace or, more specifically, a fab lab?
A fab lab is a special type of makerspace, where the library joins a community, subjecting itself to a specific framework for the content of the workshop. Both solutions have advantages and disadvantages, but the more general makerspace solution provides the widest possible framework for working creatively with the concept and designing it as a real library option.
In a makerspace, users can pit themselves against machines that can make prototypes. These include, among others, 3D printers, laser cutters, vinyl cutters and heat presses, and computers with graphics programs to support the machines. You can also acquire machines that can be used for producing marketing material, for instance an A0 plotter for large posters and banners.
It takes quite a lot of knowledge to facilitate a makerspace, and prioritisation will be necessary, either in the form of in-house competence development or calling in external help. When selecting machines for your makerspace, it is also important to consider the users' needs and competences.
In addition to this, it is of course important to provide instruction, good signage about the different materials, price lists, lists of special rules etc. to help users operate the machinery.
The manning structure must be considered and organised depending on how you want your makerspace to be set up. Guides must be available to help users operate the machinery. You can provide safety, stability and a good basic service if the staff handle the task themselves, but this is also a good opportunity to involve volunteers. For instance, you can prioritise in such a way that the makerspace is manned by staff during the library's opening hours, while volunteers handle activities and events. The important thing is that the manning structure is considered and organised.
It is essential to include the staff in any decision about establishing a makerspace, so that everybody understands the concept and knows how to tell users about the option. For instance, you can do as they have done at Ballerup Library, where all members of staff have had a basic introduction to the library's makerspace. Here, the library's own staff use the makerspace facility extensively to create things that can support activities and communication in the rest of the building, e.g. posters for the children's library, exhibition elements and T-shirts. In this way, the makerspace is a part of the building as a whole.
Activities in the makerspace
The extent to which different activities can be offered is determined by a fixed framework, such as space, machinery, manning and the competences of staff and users. Is your makerspace to be open every day, or is it better to limit it to a couple of days per week, creating a higher concentration of activities? How many hours per day should citizens be able to walk in off the street and get help for specific projects, and how great a part of the opening hours should be packed with planned events? Activities can consist of introduction courses, events, clubs, expert days and similar.
In many ways, a makerspace is ideally placed at a library. The individual user can either experiment with his/her own projects or meet others to create something together. Users can get together around a shared interest in technology and concept development - this means that a makerspace can create room for learning at a new level.15. Feb 2017 at. 14:41