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Do Space: Tech For Everyone

Rebecca Stavick

Rebecca Stavick

Rebecca Stavick, Executive Director of Do Space, introduced Do Space and said it has been in operation for a little over a year. It is a community technology library in Omaha, Nebraska. Its mission is to empower our community through access to technology and innovative learning experiences. It is privately funded but has partnerships with public libraries. The digital divide is still a problem in our communities; Do Space is located in the middle of Omaha at the busiest intersection in Nebraska; 100,000 cars pass the intersection every day. Do Space is the beginning of a movement to tackle the digital divide, boost digital skills, and drive innovation, creativity, and invention in the region.

Do Space provides access to basic and advanced hardware ad software, such as PCs, Macs, industrial-quality 3D printers, laser cutters, robotics, as well as AutoCAD, the Adobe Creative Suite, and about 200 other types of software.  It offers a diverse array of free technology learning programs and events for all ages: Littles Lab for preschoolers, Cyber Seniors for older adults (seniors learning and teaching each other in weekly workshops), workshops in the 3-D lab, community-led technology meetups, and other fun things.

Just like public libraries, Do Space serves everyone: families with small children, teenagers, working adults, senior citizens; job seekers, entrepreneurs, students, etc. Membership is free; anyone can join, regardless of where they live (bug they must physically visit the site to obtain their membership card). It has been very well received; 4,000 people came on opening weekend.

Do Space's 28,000 square foot building

Do Space’s 28,000 square foot building

  • They have industrial quality 3-D printers, 56 laptops–both PCs and Macs, a variety of games with learning aspects. The second floor of the building is leased to a non-profit community college that provides access to higher-level experiences.
  • A volunteer program manages a lot of the activities. There are about 150 volunteers and a coordinator. A mentorship program–a network of volunteers who sign up to help people individually with technology questions–is in place.
  • Hack Omaha is a new program to engage people to work together and solve technology problems of the community.
  • I Heart Do Space allows people to put what they are doing into a system, and the postings are displayed on a video wall. These generate considerable interest.
  • A fellowship program to bring in 3 Fellows for the summer was recently announced.  They get a $10,000 stipend to create innovative projects in 3-D printing, robotics, and software development.

Community response last year was 223,834 visits, 44,480 members, 12,325 people attended 1,010 programs, 89,692 hours of computer use, 12.035 volunteer hours, 100% awesomeness achieved.

Lessons learned

  • Membership cards do flush down the toilet;
  • You can never have enough sanitizing wipes;
  • A bean bag can be used as a weapon!
  • Community spaces are powerful;
  • Stationary workstations are cool again; people don’t need high-powered machines at home any more;
  • People don’t ask them reference questions, but if somebody asks one, they will connect them with a librarian (users mostly ask questions about the technology);
  • Empower people to lead their own learning experience.

Trends for libraries

  • Community lab spaces which defy categorization
  • People want experiences; facilities are everything
  • Offering something people can’t get anywhere else
  • Harmonious mixture of old-school and new-school.

Advice

  • Technology moves faster than you think
  • Strongly enforce your mission (one thing that is hurting libraries right now is that they don’t know what their mission is)
  • You live and die by your user; they are the only ones that matter
  • Constantly strive for a diversity of thought. Diverse teams challenge each other.

Further information is available at www.dospace.org.

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