Service Review – Makerspaces

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    • #2086
      Chris Sonneveld

      Before our Twitter Chat on Makerspaces I had never heard of a Makerspace. After a quick search online to try and find out if there was a Makerspace in my area and I found one at my local library that had only just opened up two weeks ago. I contacted the librarian in charge of the space and they told me that to use the space I would have to undertake one of their introductory session are run twice a month. The librarian mentioned there was a group using the space for a couple of hours that Friday but suggested I visit before they arrive to check it out and ask questions about the new service.

      When I arrive at the Makerspace I was greeted by two librarians who were both overseeing the development of the space. You could see that they were excited and passionate about discussing their new ‘Baby’ as they called it, and were happy to answer the long list of questions I had about what they hoped to achieve with the space and about Makerspaces in general.

      The Makerspace consisted primarily of 3D printers, 3Doodlers (v1.0) and Raspberry Pi’s (v2.0). Seeing as this was the first Makerspace I had ever visited I had no preconceived idea of what a Makerspace looked like. The area of the library allocated to the space was no larger than your average library service desk, containing two small benches, three 3D printers and three monitors. However, there was quite a large open area next door that had up to 6 large tables that could easily be used for running groups of schools kids or library programs linked to the Makerspace.

      Once a library patron has completed the introductory session they are then allowed to enter the space and use it whenever it is available. This is great news for anyone wanting to use these technologies without supervision but it does make me wonder how they will monitor the technology offered in the space to ensure they are in working order and not stolen.

      I have read quite a bit about the different technologies that this Makerspace had but had never seen them up close. I got to see a number of 3D models and a couple 3Doodler models created by the Makerspace organisers. It never occurred to me that I could have access to these technologies without having to pay for them myself so it was amazing to have the opportunity. I attempted to create something with the 3Doodler but unfortunately it’s something that takes a couple of tries to master.

      You could tell from the conversation with the librarians who had created the Makerspace that they loved showing others how the technology worked even though they admitted to not being specialists. They talked about the different things they wanted to introduce to the space, like sewing machines as well as try and involve people from industry to help library patrons learn to use the different technologies. It was also mentioned that if library patrons wanted help with tech that had bought themselves they were more than happy to bring it into the library so they could be shown how to use it. I asked if there were any plans to introduce more Makerspaces at other branches but unfortunately it is too early to tell. I can see that they are using this new service as a trail run to see how popular it is. The organisers did say they were mindful that the demand could be limited at this time and they did not want to compete with other entities offering the same service and instead wanted to work in partnership with local businesses so that they could grow together.

      I am concerned that the Markerspace will struggle to gain traction with the local community as there was very little written about it online. However, the space is has only just been opened so there is still time for the public to learn what the space is all about and whether it is something they can benefit from. I can see there being a large demand for this Makerspace but it could easily suffer if no one knows it exists.

      I was so happy to have found this Makerspace as I am a big kid at heart and love emerging technology. It is also great to see that libraries want to introduce services like this one to engage with their patrons outside of a libraries traditional offerings. I’ll definitely be back to see if I can get my head around what a Raspberry Pi can teach me about computer science.

    • #2089
      Sarah Ross

      Hi Chris,

      I think the librarians’ enthusiasm rubbed off on you by the end.  I have only just got my head around 3D printers but a 3Doodler – will have to check it out.  Raspberry Pi I know about as apparently we have one?!  I don’t think it is in use as it was supposed to be a controller for a watering system and we don’t have one except for the watering can!

      I was interested that you felt they had not publicised or marketed the new makerspace.  This seems to be a problem for a lot of (public) libraries as I am constantly surprised at what is on offer and you generally have to a bit of a dig on the website(s) to find out – and when you do you find that you have to wait for the next class for quite a while.

      It is also a little worrying that once you have had your induction you can just rock up and use it – security issues come to mind and also inappropriate use?

      Thanks for your insight.

      Cheers, Sarah

    • #2215
      Stacey Larner

      It makes sense that you can use it whenever. In order to meet the needs of users, it should be accessible in the same way the library is accessible. If it’s only available as prescribed events then that would be easier to control but it wouldn’t put creativity and innovation firmly with the users at the centre. As a service, it should be widely and easily accessible. I think to market something like that they’d need to try to run some programs to get people in and aware of it, and then hopefully it will gain traction in the community as a space people can use. I’m curious to know where this is, because none of the libraries near me have makerspace services (only limited programs at set times) and I’d love to visit if it wasn’t too far away.

    • #2222
      Chris Sonneveld

      Thank you for your response Sarah. Their enthusiasm was definitely contagious. I can’t see how new-age services like this even exist without it. I mentioned to the organisers about the website needing a little more clarification about which library the service was being offered and they said they would look into it. They did say that they’re were having an official opening next month so maybe they’re in trial mode at the moment. I imagine that you can get so wrapped up in offering such a great service that you can forget the important things. I’m really looking forward to attending the introductory class and learning about the new technologies. I’ll follow up with the organisers on how they hope to monitor the equipment but I imagine if you break a $1500 3D printer you won’t be free to use any other library services for quite some time.


    • #2223
      Deborah Fuller

      That sounds a really interesting and exciting program Chris, hopefully we’ll get something like that in Brisbane soon. It was great to pick up on your enthusiasm and that of the librarians for the program. I’ll look forward to seeing how the makerspace movement develops locally.

    • #2224
      Chris Sonneveld

      Thank you for your response Stacey. I have posted some information about the Makerspace on our closed Facebook group as I didn’t want to post it here. I agree that a service should be widely and easily accessible because that’s what public libraries do best. If a library is willing to lend out 20+ items at a time there is obviously a great deal of trust between the library and its patrons so I can see how allowing access to expensive computer equipment is not all different. I would hope that the library would encourage people to let staff know if equipment was faulty as I would hate for someone to get blamed for something someone else had done. In the end, the library wouldn’t offer a service that is too expensive to support and I’m sure this was covered when they proposed the new service or else it wouldn’t exist. I’m excited to see libraries providing services like this one and hope it can prove to other libraries that they are important to the local community.

    • #2410
      Paola Beretta

      Hi Chris,

      I really enjoyed your post. That is great that your local library already has a Makerspace.  Through your description I felt that you were a bit like ‘a kid in a candy shop’, given your enthusiasm for emerging technologies! You raised some very pertinent questions that I have been considering myself like how they are going to monitor the equipment, promote its existence to potential users and the long-term interest in the new technologies. A great post, thank you for sharing your experiences!

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