Week Nine Activity: Making and Makerspaces – *Service Review*

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      Will Wood
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      The prime river side space beside the State Library of Queensland that was once a high class restaurant has been re-imagined and renovated through state funding  to become ‘The Edge’ – a makerspace and meeting place that focuses on empowering users through creativity, art, science, technology and enterprise. This now thoroughly modern space allows users to collaborate on projects in a fully equipped environment that features beautiful river views.

      Brisbane River view

      In an interview and brief tour that I had with a friendly staff member I discovered that The Edge is a popular destination for technically minded creatives who welcome the chance to share their knowledge, passion and ideas with other like-minded individuals.

      We discussed how the rise of internet access has necessitated a change in the services libraries offer. Many people now feel that they are able to seek their own answers online to questions they have rather than utilising the knowledge found in traditional libraries. This has meant that libraries have focussed on becoming hubs for the local community and the facilities at The Edge are a perfect example of how the current needs of users can be met with innovation in practice. It is not just about the technology that is offered for use here but the options that the space itself provides to those who wish to verbalise ideas, create, share and work with others. The Edge also provides opportunities for artists and creators in residence by catering to ongoing practical research and development for individuals termed ‘catalysts’. The current artistic catalyst has a science background and is attempting to grow furniture from fungi and the previous artist in residence was working on making clothing in partnership with QUT fashion students using the organic bi-product of kombucha.

      Fermenting Kombucha for clothing production

      This space takes the empowerment that self-directed learning in traditional library environments provides a step further by allowing individuals to not just teach themselves a new skill but to practically apply it and leave with something tangible that they have created. This is where the focus on enterprise comes into play for The Edge. Users can take an idea from concept to marketable prototype all in the one location using the following available programs, services and facilities:

      Facilities and Venues:

      • Digital media lab with industry standard software
      • Multiple private window bays for group discussion and creative meetings
      • Large auditorium for seminars
      • Meeting rooms bookable for larger groups
      • Innovation lab – bookable for large meetings and seminars: seats 30+

      Services and Equipment:

      • Free wifi
      • Short courses and workshops
      • Online learning portals and talks/presentation
      • Near professional recording studio and equipment
      • Projection, specialist tools and audio equipment
      • Charging station for devices
      • Equipment hire

      Upcoming programs and events:

      All services, equipment and facilities (unless otherwise promoted as free) can be used after an induction has been completed that educates potential users on safe practice and instructs them on appropriate methods, procedures and handling. Software and equipment that could cost individuals thousands of dollars to purchase themselves are available to be hired and used freely after these $25 induction courses are completed. This creates opportunities for many people who would not normally have access to such advanced facilities.

      3D Printer

      On the day I attended they had two induction programs scheduled. One for instruction in the use of hand tools and soldering methods and another that provided an induction for the use of the recording studio equipment and software. As the recording facilities are state of the art this induction costs $150 per person but again this one-time fee then allows this equipment to be booked and used whenever it is available.

      Some events are scheduled on a weekly or fortnightly basis including ‘Hack the Evening’ on every Thursday which gives participants an opportunity to interact with others and educate or share experience and ideas. ‘Brisbane Jelly’ is held on Fridays and is used to promote collaboration by providing a venue for freelance meetings and communication.

      As I finished my tour  I raised the question of why I had not seen more promotional material or advertising of the programs and services available. I had not even known this space existed until quite recently. I was not surprised to hear that they did not need to promote it any further than they do because all paid events and offered programs are booked out almost immediately and free services are fully booked instantly. To deal with the popularity of services and facilities they had even had to limit their use to those who were truly using the  hardware and software to create and not just for personal Facebook and YouTube. This tells me that maker spaces are more than the fad they are made out to be by individuals like Hugh Rundle who in his article ‘Mission creep – a 3D printer will not save your library‘ states that:

      The harsh truth is that there is no business case for public libraries to provide 3D printing. What this is really about is technolust and the fear of being left behind…They are also nothing to do with the core business of libraries.

      After visiting The Edge I could not disagree with this more. I feel that user needs dictate the core business of libraries and not the librarians who curate them. Similar opinions to this have led to collections being crafted and censored by individual bias. Hugh goes on to say that:

      As librarians we deal with intangibles. Tying your library to something like a 3D printer moves you in the wrong direction.

      Is increasing patronage the wrong direction? Is service innovation the wrong direction? I feel that if libraries embodied the traditionalist and nostalgic standpoint that Hugh is clamoring for then they would have even fewer users than the already dwindling patronage statistics show. This article is just as sensationalist as Hugh feels the 3d printing phase is.

      Tim Bajarin however raises legitimate concerns in the face of the maker culture in his article ‘Why the Maker Movement Is Important to America’s Future‘ by revealing that the majority of participants are of privileged backgrounds. While it is a community focused on inclusion and cooperation there are as yet not enough minority groups represented for the maker movement to reach its full potential and give voice and expression to all who would wish to participate. Without all groups being represented the innovation that can occur becomes blinkered by shared circumstance instead of being furthered through distinct ideas and experiences.

      In my mind this issue really just necessitates greater funding from governing bodies in order to make maker spaces as inclusive and accessible as traditional libraries have endeavoured to be. Maker spaces could become vast hubs for job and concept creation and pools from which up coming talent could be approached by businesses. I see them as an extension of our education system – a place where practical skills can be developed, extended and applied and a creative expression of life long learning.

      They offer something to people who would not otherwise have access to it and that is after all the main goal of libraries everywhere.

      • This topic was modified 5 years, 1 month ago by Will Wood.
      • This topic was modified 5 years, 1 month ago by Will Wood.
      • This topic was modified 5 years, 1 month ago by Will Wood.
      • This topic was modified 5 years, 1 month ago by Will Wood.
      • This topic was modified 5 years, 1 month ago by Will Wood.
      • This topic was modified 5 years, 1 month ago by Will Wood.
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    • #2218

      What an amazing experience!

      And what a great argument to support the inclusion of makerspaces in libraries. Nothing succeeds like success, as the old adage goes. I couldn’t help but compare your experience with Peldon’s very different one at Mt Gravatt library, where for 2 hours not a single library staff member approached her and only one other person was (briefly) involoved in the program. It seems to me that extraordinary commitment and imagination have gone into designing, planning and implementing activities at the Edge and that this degree of effort is paying dividends. This is a great lesson as we try to design and plan our own programs!

      Thanks for sharing this Will, I have a young son who would love to visit The Edge. Although I have to say I might have to draw the line at him growing furniture from funghi in the kitchen – a bit smelly perhaps??? But maybe worth it, I could do with some new lounge chairs 😉

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