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Libraries: Innovative Spaces to Dream, Think, and Create

Libraries: Innovative Spaces

This session was an appropriate followup to the one by Susan Considine on Innovation and Transformation. Chad Marin, Library/Innovation Lab Manager, St. Petersburg College, led off by noting how he wrote a paper in graduate school comparing librarians to Prometheus. (Prometheus was a Greek god who stole fire from Mount Olympus and gave it to humanity.) The analogy is relevant because librarians offer people intellectual sparks to develop innovation.  Marin said that a makerspace can easily support and enhance a library’s mission for lifelong learning; so libraries become knowledge performance spaces. If you have space, share it and do meaningful things with it!

Every age has thought it was the modern age, but this one really is. Technology is interwoven into everything, and makerspaces help people to see this. Many librarians want to know how to create a makerspace, or they need funding. Money is available; there are grants everywhere! Narin recommended reading Grants & Funding to learn about resources.

Makerspaces are all about fostering collaboration. They cultivate imagination and stimulate creativity to enable people to explore their potential. Share experiences and facilitate discovery. Support inventors who want to test their ideas and prototypes for patents. The maker lab is a technology playground, and watching kids play with the technology is exciting.

Narin’s library developed a Maker Boot Camp geared to 10-14 year olds. It was funded by a $7,500 grant to create the camp.

Maker Boot Camp

Here is a list of the workshops that were held at the camp.

Boot Tamp Workshops

After the video gaming lecture, the kids built a video game. They also love SnapCircuits and used them to build an MP3 speaker.

To be successful with your makerspaces, create partnerships, be integral to your community, and share with what you do.  You will be amazed at how many people want to participate. Big things can happen with small spaces and small budgets.

Other projects are underway in the maker lab, including tactile 3D graphs for blind math students, building tech labs for young students via eSmart recycling, and use of the Farmbot platform to help feed people in need. You can connect with the lab and get more information through its Facebook page.

Kelvin Watson

Kelvin Watson

Kelvin Watson, Chief Operating Officer, Queens, NY Library, described how the Queens Library was brought out of its four walls. Shortly after joining Queens Library, Watson downloaded an eBook using the Library’s Overdrive program.  It was a painful 19-step process, and he immediately decided something had to change. So a Virtual Library was built. It eliminates obstacles and silos and brings the library to users on demand. It is an integrated system created to improve access to eBooks and all services for public library users in either physical or digital spaces, and it answers today’s challenges by clearing the clutter that plagues legacy library tools. Library systems are no longer chained to seldom-used tools. Users have flexible options to consume information and media on their own terms through a superior customer experience.

Three simple goals  changed how they thought about technology were developed.

3 Simple Goals

Watson has over 60 people in his IT department. The entire library is using agile thinking now, and things are built very quickly.

Development of the Virtual Library proceeded in 3 stages:

  1. They got a donation of 5,000 Google Tablets, invested in a custom interface, and created a mobile solution as a response to a tragedy (Superstorm Sandy). They also obtained 2,250 mobile hotspots which are loaned to users.
  2. Built a mobile phone app. Began working with the New York Public Library’s simplyE eBook reading platform and cut the 19 steps for downloading a book to 4 or 5. Everything is done in the app and launches directly into the material.
  3. An additional 2,500 tablets and 1,100 mobile hotspots were added to continue to bridge the digital divide. Tablets are loaned for 4 months. Children can borrow them with parental permission. The only app users see is the Queens Library app. The content is available at any time; tablets are updated when they are connected to Wi-Fi. The tablet is the “mobile discovery and delivery” tool. It is a new experience for people when they get the app. They can access Facebook and the internet. Most people like the experience.

The library works with a number of vandors, and when bugs are found, they are immediately reported and fixed. Axis360 from Baker & Taylor is their primary eBook vendor; Overdrive is used only for foreign language material. The phone app only displays material that is available for checkout.

The Virtual Library is everywhere so it should focus on how the customer wants to interact with it. They are working with magazines and the local hospital and built a new product called Digital Q so that library users can browse magazines at the hospital. If you don’t have a card, you can be given an e-card, which can be traded for a physical card if you want to borrow physical materials from the library.

The library has begun a partnership with LinkNYC, a program to replace pay phones with tablets in kiosks in the 5 boroughs. The Queens Library will work with them to filter and put Queens Library materials on the kiosks. It is another way to connect with people.

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