Week 9 – Service Review – The Edge, SLQ

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    • #2081
      Stacey Larner

      In the twitter chat on Monday night we discussed makerspaces, and why they are important. The consensus seemed to be they meet a community need for fostering creativity, hands-on learning, and collaboration. Makerspaces are spaces that offer products (such as 3D printers and sewing machines) and programs (such as workshops and inductions), but the physical space itself, the overarching concept, can be considered a service. While some makerspaces are run as programs, with allocated timeslots, specific outcomes and bookings required, The Edge is a library makerspace service run by the State Library of Queensland. It is open six days a week, is a specialised space for collaboration, creative connection and creation, which anyone can access. Once induction training is completed, products can be used without needing to book into a workshop (however some resources should be booked in advance to ensure access). Patrons can access The Edge just to sit and work in a comfortable environment, using the free Wi-Fi.

      The Edge meets the SLQ’s Strategic Plan 2015-2019 through the key services commitment of “free access to spaces, meeting rooms, wi-fi, and centres of engagement with… arts, science technology and enterprise…” On the website, it states:

      With a mandate to empower Queenslanders to explore creativity across art, science, technology, and enterprise, The Edge is a visionary space for ‘creating creatives’; a melting pot of ideas and innovation, capacity-building, experimentation and innovation.

      I had never been to the Edge before, and wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I tend to feel excluded from environments such as the one described on the website, perceiving them as male-dominated and only for specific subcultures (of which I am not a part). This runs counter to the idea espoused by The Library as Incubator Project that “Creativity is not “for” a “special sort of people.” It is for and inherent in everyone.” As such, I’ve avoided it as “not my space”, even though it does aim to be an incubator for creativity. I probably would have continued avoiding were it not for the need to find a service to review! Nothing on the website particularly encourages me that I am welcome, and I’m sure there are plenty of people like me (creative people, artists and writers and people with big ideas) who feel similarly. Likewise the fees for inductions may be quite substantial, doing nothing to help overcome the digital divide. I understand the need for a contribution but it does exclude people whose disposable income is limited.

      The Edge window bays
      Photo by Mal Booth on Flickr

      The space itself is modern, comfortable and well-designed. There are ample powerpoints and the window bays can be partitioned off with curtains for a bit of privacy if needed. They can be booked (free) in advance to ensure access. The free wi-fi makes it a winner for group meetings (also, there is a café. With coffee. Excellent!) The labs and studios are free to access but you do need to book them in advance (and some require inductions before you can access them). I would have liked to see some displays of works created there (you can see some on the website, but I think it would be a useful addition for newcomers to the space, to have examples of what kind of work goes on at the Edge).

      There was a good mix of people from different cultural backgrounds, so in that sense it is achieving an inclusive atmosphere, but I did see a definite gender imbalance. I realise that there is a gender discrepancy in STEM and I think the Edge could be a leading agent in combating this imbalance, with the right strategies. Now that I’ve been there once, I do feel the ice is broken and I feel more confident in returning, whether alone or in a group setting. I’d also like to get involved in some workshops and events. The Edge is a solid makerspace service, but could be more accessible to a wider range of people. As it is, it does exclude some segments of the creative community, whether directly, through a financial barrier or indirectly, through not doing enough to counteract ingrained, problematic gender imbalances in STEM. This exclusion may result in an atmosphere of elitism that further alienates segments of the community. As outlined by Bagley, with its mandate to support innovation and creativity in the community, access should be equalised, to ensure it meets the strategic vision of the State Library, and the needs of users (and potential users).

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    • #2231
      Deborah Fuller

      I read your post with interest Stacey, as I have heard other students mention it but wasn’t really sure what it actually was. I am ashamed to say I didn’t realise we had anything like this locally. I think it s a great idea, but probably not something I’d used at this time. It was interesting to read about the induction costs, which whilst understandable would preclude some people from using the facilities. Your idea for the inclusion of some of the works produced is an excellent idea as I feel it would encourage increased use, particularly amongst those of us who are visual people. I also agree that SLQ is in the ideal position to reduce the gender discrepancy  in STEM, and could perhaps run special events during thee Girls in Science and Engineering weeks, with special events for school girls at the Edge.

    • #2240
      Stacey Larner

      Thanks for the reply Deb! I think it would be fine just for groupwork meetups too, you know? After having the internet drop out on me at QUT the other day I said we should go to the Edge next time ;). Your idea about the Girls in Science and Engineering weeks is great! We should tell them :D.

    • #2256
      Katherine Lee

      Great reflection Stacey! I really appreciated your discussion of tech-based makerspaces like the Edge being spaces for a certain male-dominated subculture. I have always wanted to go to something at the Edge, but have always been put off by the thought that I wouldn’t fit into that scene. I was glad to see that you felt the same way. It is amazing how some spaces can feel gendered and exclusive, although I’m sure the creators of the Edge did not intend it to be perceived that way.

    • #2284
      Shannon Franzway

      I feel a bit intimidated about entering The Edge too!  Maybe I do just need to do it once to break the ice.  I wasn’t aware that you could simply use the space for group meetings and comfortable wi-fi access – I’ll file that under ‘good to know’ 🙂

      Interesting point regarding induction fees – I quickly looked through the upcoming sessions and most are $25 . . . . except the recording studio sessions which are $150 for 3 hours, if the person doesn’t have any skills at all.  That’s definitely priced at a level of exclusion.  And I would be curious to know how many people are in that session – more than a handful and you probably wouldn’t get enough out of it to proceed to a recording studio booking.  I’m sure there’s a good reason for this cost, but 50 bucks per hour, per person is pretty steep!

    • #2288
      Stacey Larner

      Katherine yes I’m sure it’s intended as an inclusive place. I just know how certain groups can tend to dominant a space and that’s enough to make me avoid them. A concerted effort to welcome people who might not consider themselves to belong to a tech culture would go a long way I think.

      Shannon, yes the $150 one was the one that stood out for me. Even $25, though it doesn’t seem like much, is possibly too much for people who are struggling to pay rent. I definitely went through a phase of my life not too long ago where I couldn’t justify paying $25 for something “indulgent”. I don’t know what the answer is, though. I understand there are costs associated with such things.

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