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Insider Article [February 2014] [02/04/14] (Tinker, Maker, Soldier Pie)
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Tinker, Maker, Soldier Pie: Makerspace & Libraries

Making things is fun, engaging, and draws students, faculty, community and staff together in ways that are tied into their disciplines and interests.  Our profession should always be seeking new strategies for dynamically connecting with users, and creating a maker space or hosting maker–themed events is a means to engage with those who might not normally interact with library staff or facilities.

Makerspaces are simply spaces equipped with tools and materials of various types, and are often based on themes and user communities. They are collaborative learning environments where people come together to share materials and learn new skills. As libraries already tend to support active and participatory learning environments, creating maker spaces gives us the opportunity to reconfigure our educational spaces in order to foster peer-to-peer collaboration in an innovative, integrated way. It also gives craftier library staff a chance to share their eclectic skillsets.

Makerspaces have evolved from tech-focused hacker spaces, makerfaires and community project cookbooks, to creative DIY library-hosted destinations. From high tech arduino and 3D printers to lego, origami and down home arts and crafts, these spaces have become homes to creativity, inspiration and breaking down barriers to play.  Last year BoingBoing teamed up with libraries to create LibraryLab, a place to show the world how incredible libraries are -- one of LibraryLab’s projects was MAYker Mondays, which called on libraries to create and host maker events every Monday in May. The UC San Diego Library signed on to participate, hosting one activity a week. We wanted to create simple, cheap, and fun activities that involved our users, so we made Origami (by teaming up with engineering faculty), designed a quick “Love Your Library” logo and screenprinted shirts,  made duct tape crafts and buttons, and participated in the UCSD wide Junkyard Derby. Each was relatively easy to coordinate.

Here are a few ideas for how your library can get started with hosting maker spaces and events:

  1. Use what you have
    You would be amazed at the resources you already have in your staff,  colleagues and students. Someone knows how to screenprint.  Someone tinkers with robots, legos, or models. Someone is fermenting kombucha or kimchee, and someone is almost certainly participating in renaissance fairs or comic conventions. Put a call out asking what people are playing with in their free time, and you will be happy you did.
  2. Don’t be an expert
    You don’t have to be perfect at something to have a workshop where everyone is learning. A great example was our solder Make button craft we did as a part of a Maker Fair we put on this month. I had made one once before, read the directions again, ordered a bunch from the Make folks and found someone in our library comfortable with a soldering iron. Viola.
  3. Give the people what they want
    Look at your community and assess needs and potential desires. In southern California maybe it looks like a workshop on changing skateboard trucks or repairing minor dings in surfboards. Working with an engineering club? Let them guide you to a fun activity like designing something for a 3D printer. ComicCon in town? Do a zine making or comic workshop and display in the library... a little user research goes a long way when you’re creating maker activities.

Creating a maker space is a simple and crafty way to connect engaging learning to discipline-specific, hands on practice. There are many great resources out there to get you started, many of which we have linked to here. There are also maker library groups on Facebook, google communities and more, so start exploring what will work best for you!

Lia Friedman UC San Diego & Gayatri Singh UC San Diego
 

Lia Friedman is the Director of Learning Services at UC San Diego Library, @piebrarian on twitter
Gayatri Singh is a Reference and Instruction Librarian at the UC San Diego Library, @socaldesi on twitter
Lia Friedman and Gayatri Singh presented: Tinker, Maker, Solder, Pie: Maker Spaces and Libraries at CLA 2013.