Week 10 – Academic Library Makerspace

By October 8, 2017IFN614, Makerspace

Makerspaces are becoming a program that library’s are expected to have in some capacity. The concept revolves around providing a space and assets that individuals can use in creative ways. Libraries have always been establishments of collaboration and creativity promotion. Although makerspaces outside libraries are unique facilities within a library they are just an extension of what a library would normally offer.

Implementing a makerspace into an academic library has a number of challenges that are distinct from other libraries. Fourie & Meyer in their paper “What to make of makerspaces” discuss that makerspaces in academic libraries need to not only be social spaces but also ones that promote learning opportunities that are aligned with extending knowledge and disseminating new knowledge and experiences. Academic libraries therefore need to implement makerspace not simply as creative zones but ones where subject learning is a core component of the program.

Curtin University used a pop up makerspace to analyse the benefits and the potential for a permanent makerspace. It found that incorporating new technologies into the makerspace did indeed find interest however the use of them was limited. Individuals required encouragement to use such devices such as 3D printers. From the reflection it looks like Curtin used a number of technologies and creative spaces to engage with students not as a program but more to understand how the space would function and engage with students. The use of items like 3D printers was limited as there was no set learning program behind the equipment.

Curtin University

Image credit: https://maker.library.curtin.edu.au/2015/07/02/reflections-on-our-pop-up-makerspace/

Lee in her report “Campus-Library Collaboration with Makerspaces” found makerspaces offered an opportunity for libraries to engage with students that may not usually use library services by building a more accessible program. It made a good observation that a makerspace needs to be utilised in a manner that matches specific needs of students on campus. It also needs the ability to be dynamic and constantly changing as new subjects and technologies become more popular to use.

Implementing a makerspace in an academic library is a complex task. Using QUT as an example, it would need to take into account the four branches at Kelvin Grove, Gardens Point, Caboolture and the Law Library. It would need to also follow the QUT strategic plan as well as The QUT Library Collection Development Manual (CDM). Some of QUT’s strategic goals include:

  • Measurably strengthen our teaching quality and learning outcomes
  • Build QUT’s reputation as a selectively intensive research university
  • Develop a sustainable and highly capable workforce profile
  • Build further QUT’s sense of community

3D Printing

Image credit: http://3dprintingfromscratch.com/common/types-of-3d-printers-or-3d-printing-technologies-overview/

Academic library makerspaces have great potential. But introducing them requires stakeholders from library to individual schools to be included to ensure the library is still a neutral ground for all departments. A good example of a potential roadblock is 3D printing. The are a diverse range of technologies available. Different technologies may be suitable for different schools:

  • Stereolithography
  • Digital Light Processing
  • Fused deposition modeling
  • Selective Laser Sintering
  • Selective laser melting
  • Electronic Beam Melting
  • Laminated object manufacturing

The benefits for school of design and engineering students are obvious but what function does 3D printing have academically for other schools?

Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • yahya says:

    Thanks Tom , I interested in reading you blog , i agree that implementing a marker-space is a really challenging .Maker spaces and accompanying technologies are exciting new services being offered in libraries.But , these come with their own challenges and successes. Training for maker learning locations continues to be difficult to obtain. In service librarians rely on peers in the field and online resources for their training. Most preserver librarians are graduating each semester not knowing the skills needed to maintain and serve in maker spaces.thus , implementing marker space is bit complex task and it is needed to sustain the ever-changing library environment.

    • Tom says:

      Very good point. Librarians need to keep upskilling to meet ever changing demands of the programs that libraries offer. Things like 3D printing is a complex technology which also requires use of CAD software. This type of software is not a simple piece of software so attempting to learn more than basic functions would be outside the scope of a librarian. That is a big problem with some technology implementation as if staff are not capable or confident enough in using it, then it is hard to motivate and enable library users to get involved.

  • Mark Lamont says:

    This is a very insightful post Tom. I like the central point underlying your analysis is user need. This is the essential consideration before thinking about what types of maker space might work and the particular individual components that could be incorporated into them. These programs cannot be thought of as a ‘one size fits all’ arrangement. I could easily see how a particular maker space which is highly successful among one group of youths/teens could be a complete flop when applied to a different group and that each program would need to be tailored according to the user socio-economic or ethnic background for example, and on more obvious differentiations such as gender and age. Even more importantly, I think implicit in your discussion is that it is not just of importance now to cater to these groups, but to understand it is an investment in the future library community. There has been a traditional view that teens might lose interest in library participation but come back as they get a bit older. I think that’s probably no longer the case and that if we lose them not we lose them for life, so things such as the maker movement become part of the lifeblood of the libraries continued existence .

    • Tom says:

      Great point Mark. Targeting a demographic like teens would be an ideal scenario to attract them back to library use. The teen base scenario can be easily expanded out to general community interests. For example 3D printer use might be one that attracts teens but will also serve as a place for adults to play with the technology. Just rent the 3D printer first before committing to it.

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