I was fortunate to get off the waiting list for the RUSA MARS/RSS pre-conference and see what public and academic librarians think about the maker/create/collaborate space trend.
The overwhelming message was the “maker/createspace” was not just about 3D and Audino, it was anything that isn’t reference or readers advisory. You don’t need to be a coder to be a creator, you can be a knitter, calligrapher or a rubber stamper (or another type of creator). This is a message that we need to remember as we create our spaces: it’s about the creation, not the tools. At bottom, doesn’t “maker” meet our mission as librarians, helping people explore their passions? In schools especially we’re supposed to help students create new things with the knowledge they acquire – and a maker/create/collaborative space does just that. Thinking about the space is a great way to start the strategic planning process, too, as it will involve people from different constituencies.
One important thing is to not be a closed shop: be open to all platforms (iOS, WinTel, Chrome, Lynix) and allow people to use all those during the programs. A diversity of experience and resources can spark really interesting ideas. It’s also critical to remember that not everyone can afford the tools necessary (it’s also important not to go broke providing for people using the space – finding that happy medium can be difficult).
How should you start? Ask the community what they want, and what they can bring to the space. Consider an Idea Studio (a la Warwick PL). NCSU’s Hunt Library has a 270o Visualization and Teaching Lab (home of the Virtual Paul’s Cross Website).
Final words: balance what the users really do want and need with what they’re told they want and need (by the media, the library administration, etc.). It’s a difficult process, and an on-going one, but very worth it.
Other pearls of wisdom:
- outside funding, but BYOP[roject] is also good
- Facebook and Twitter are great sources of ideas for what other libraries are doing – see how you can re-purpose their ideas
- helping people with digital curation is as much “maker” as it is “archivist”
- consider putting large windows in the space, so people outside can see what’s inside and get inspired
- students like whiteboards, flexible seating and furnishings