A Case for Maker Space
A library or museum maker space is a designated area where patrons of varying ages can work together, alone, or with volunteers on special projects. These spaces often give community members access to tools or technology that are not easily accessible in their homes or to purchase. The goal of a maker space is to allow patrons to learn through experimentation. Museum or Library maker spaces do not require specified areas; a pre-existing space can be modified and worked with to better suit the needs of its makers. It is more about the intentions of the makers than about the physicality of the space itself.
A maker space is, in the words of Fayetteville Library’s Transliteracy Development Director Lauren Britton, “a place where people come together to create and collaborate, to share resources, knowledge, and stuff,” then the public library is a natural setting for a maker space. The idea of a library or museum as maker space is not an unreasonable stretch of the imagination, as many already offer programs and services that facilitate making. These facilities including crafting and bookmaking programs, 3D printers, woodworking, sewing and even creative writing workshops. By helping our patrons to use new and existing technology to consume and create and share, we help the dissemination of knowledge. Knowledge dissemination is an essential part of a library or museum.
Building a Stronger Economy
In addition to facilitating literacy and learning, public library maker spaces help to build a stronger economy. In their press conference announcing the opening of their new maker space in July 2012, staff of the Westport, Connecticut Public Library argued that the model of employment in 21st century America is changing. Entrepreneurship is becoming increasingly important to our economy. Many of the fastest-growing fields of today didn’t even exist ten or twenty years ago. New technology jobs demand new skills, and libraries and museums are in a position to help develop those skills. Westport hopes that their maker space will help people find jobs and establish new businesses. By providing access and instruction in the use of new technologies to the general public – many of whom have no other means of accessing these new technologies – public library maker spaces can play an important role in developing a strong workforce.
The Instructional Role of Public Libraries
One of the traditional roles of the public library in society is facilitating the distribution of knowledge in the community. Today, the concept of literacy encompasses much more than just reading and writing; it has evolved into “transliteracy – or the ability to understand and communicate across all communications platforms, including sign language, speech, reading, writing, mass media, and social media.
As new technologies emerge in our communities, library and museum patrons turn to the community for instruction in the use of new technologies, for help and troubleshooting, and in sometimes their only means of access to those technologies. Most public libraries now provide public access computers and instruction to support computer literacy. A maker space is, in a sense, a new stage in the evolution of the library computer lab. The job now becomes providing access to new technologies and instruction to support new literacies.