This article is the sixth and final in a series about creative spaces in libraries. For a definition of library creative spaces, read the first article in the series.
When one hears the phrase “creative spaces in academic libraries,” a makerspace is probably what comes to mind. For the uninitiated, makerspaces are places where the focus is on building, producing or constructing something, whether that creative work takes the form of 3D printing, woodworking, circuitry, or even creative problem solving. The people who use such spaces are considered part of the so-called “maker movement.”
Makerspaces are as likely to be high tech as they are to be low tech. Low-tech makerspaces will have equipment like markers, paint, fabric, LEGO blocks, clay, power tools, and even (non-electronic) hand tools. Other makerspaces may focus on the technological side of making by purchasing virtual-reality headsets, 3D printers and scanners, Makey Makey or Arduino circuitry kits, or video game consoles. The best way to determine which kind of technology is most likely to be used is to conduct a needs analysis before moving ahead with a project. Another important step is to talk to patrons using the space and assess the offerings in the space once it opens.
In the US, makerspaces have often been found in K-12 schools and public libraries. Recently, however, academic libraries’ status as the “third place” on campus where people come to gather and share ideas has led them to start offering makerspaces for their students. In a university setting, makerspaces are usually associated with entrepreneurship and innovation efforts on campus. Unlike the other creative spaces that have been discussed in this short article series, makerspaces may charge a small cost for the use of materials. Space for events is sometimes included, and these can host outreach activities such as workshops, “maker faires,” and design competitions. A showcase space is usually available to show off projects created in the space. Some libraries are clearing out microform rooms or areas of the stacks to make way for a makerspace, while others are creating mobile spaces. At Elon University, the makerspace is a metal cart that can be rolled to dormitories and other campus locations.
Student workers, community members, and trained volunteers tend to work in makerspaces, bringing expertise in different forms and functions of making. It is not likely that one librarian can staff the makerspace and answer all patron questions. Georgetown University, the subject of one of the case studies in my book, uses a community service model in which community members volunteer to help others in the makerspace in exchange for receiving 24/7 access via a keypad.
My book, Development of Creative Spaces in Academic Libraries: A Decision Maker’s Guide (2018) from the Chandos Information Professional Series, includes case studies of a few of the many academic institutions that have decided to offer a makerspace in their library. This democratic focus on teaching people to use the space’s materials and tools is commendable and could be repeated at other institutions.
We are pleased to offer our Library Connect readers an exclusive look at the book by providing a PDF of Chapter 26, “Case Study: East Carolina University, Teaching Resources Center’s Ann Rhem Schwarzmann Production Center.” Download PDF.
Webb, K.R. (2018). Development of creative spaces in academic libraries: A decision maker’s guide. London, U.K.: Chandos Information Professional Series.