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Library Makerspaces

We are no longer simply consumers of information–we have become creators.  Library users create information every day; how can we incorporate that into our services? Technology has changed the way we interact with each other and our environments.  We need to expand our definition of literacy to incorporate these changes and support a read-write culture as opposed to read-only.  The Fayetteville, NY Public Library (FPL) has launched some makerspace activities.  Sue Considine, Executive Director, and Lauren Britton, Transliteracy Development Director, described some of their activities in this area.

Moe Hosseini-Ara (moderator) and Sue Considine. Not shown: Lauren Britton (she attended virtually via Skype)

Makerspaces developed out a do-it-yourself (DIY) culture and are areas where people can share technology and create things.  A new book, Makers, by Chris Anderson describes makerspaces, which give people tools to create, hack, and remake their world for the better.  What could happen if librarians could facilitate bringing their creations to light?

Why would a library get involved in makerspaces?  They give everyone an opportunity to view the world differently.  We can provide a platform where people can collaborate, (this is different from education).  Community members are at the heart of makerspaces; the library facilitates the process by providing access, training, and permission.  Experts in the community can be recruited to help people.

It is important that culture is fluid enough to support disruptive changes.  We are in a culture of innovation, where risk taking is encouraged, ambiguity is acceptable, and failure is expected.  We need to stop proving our relevancy and just be relevant.

Take risks on behalf of the community.  Staff support and enthusiasm for this new environment is necessary.  They must not feel that this is “just one more thing I have to learn”.  Innovative librarians understand that their ideas of a library’s role need to be flexible.

Barriers to innovation are:

  • Funding.  Why would it be appropriate to develop new services in a time of diminished resources?  We need to figure out what we should stop doing to get funding for new ventures. There is often support in the community for things to improve the library.
  • Decision makers.  You must understand the agendas of your board and know the issues they are pushing, and then align your sales pitch to their agenda.
  • Space.  A common misconception is maker activities require lots of space.  They can be located in a relatively small space, and they can even be made portable and  brought to where people are.
  • Safety/liability.  This is an administrative issue.  All of us work with insurance vendors. Work with the experts and don’t be fearful of this.  Provide hands-on training on how to use the equipment.

Here are some tools and technologies that you can use.

Many free online resources will supply program ideas.  Here are some.


Joe Murphy

FPL is Joe Murphy’s local library.  Murphy, Tehnology Trendspotter, LibraryFuture, noticed how people began talking about the library after the makerspace program began, showing that it was well received by the community and indicating that the next stage in the evolving role of libraries is a shift toward creation.  3D printing is an appropriate technology to put in libraries. It can be reactive to time-sensitive hardware need, and we can solve problems with it or produce products we need.  Thus, the power of the consumer can be expanded.  The library can play a role in this by providing the enabling technology.


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