What are Makerspaces?


The turn of the 21st century has signaled a shift in what types of skillsets have real, applicable value in a rapidly advancing world. In this landscape, creativity, design and engineering are making their way to the forefront of educational considerations as tools such as 3D printers, robotics, and 3D modeling web-based applications become accessible to more people. The question of how to renovate or repurpose classrooms to address the needs of the future is being answered through the concept of Makerspaces, or workshops that offer tools and the learning experiences needed to help people carry out their ideas. Makerspaces are intended to appeal to people of all ages, and are founded an openness to experiment, iterate, and create. The driving force behind Maker spaces is rooted in the Maker movement, a following comprised of artists, tech enthusiasts, engineers, builders, tinkerers, and anyone else who has a passion for making things. The formation of the movement stems from the success of the Maker Faire, a gathering that launched in 2006, and has since propagated itself into numerous community-driven events all over the world.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to academic and research libraries?

  • - kevin-johnson kevin-johnson Apr 1, 2015 Already present in public and K to 12 libraries, this movement taps into the current zeitgeist where everyone is a maker - it may have some application in academic and research libraries, but I cannot authoritatively speak on that as I work in the K to 12 field.
  • - lcshedd lcshedd Apr 9, 2015I agree with the notion that "everyone is a maker" in the context that makerspaces are popping up in many divisions on campuses. I think the library role in this is to serve as collaborators, even if the space is not housed in the library. On our campus, we have at least three areas that identify themselves as "makerspaces" (the largest being in the College of Engineering), as well as a media production center and 3D printing in the libraries. While house in engineering, I and another librarian on on the advisory board for the engineering space and are actively leveraging collaborative partnership between that space and our library services.
  • These are becoming more prevalent in libraries as most libraries are centrally located and the spaces are open to all. I have found that makerspaces in other areas of campus are usually limited to that department. Libraries can offer the spaces as well as the training for the tools in these spaces. We had a faculty member that had a grant to purchase a 3D printer and wanted to collaborate with the library to house it so it would have support and be available to all. - dianeb dianeb Apr 10, 2015 - jan.howden jan.howden Apr 12, 2015Libraries have always been makerspaces. Recently we have embraced more active collaboration in the library. Libraries now provide a variety of learning environments, signalling to students and faculty a variety of legitimate activities that enable you to thrive in your studies. Within these environments we enable people to see others using a variety of technologies. We encourage adoption of technology by a wider group of users and the potential for interdisciplinary projects. Why would we not offer technology beyond the current basic offering? Why would we not invite a community of users to support each other and enable people opportunities to apply their knowledge to different scenarios. This could be event driven as well as offering a routine hub for engagement and exchange of expertise between faculty and students alike. most technology within campuses will probably remain on closed or restricted access but their is still an opportunity for libraries to support open creative engagement supported by technology. - paul.signorelli paul.signorelliLove the statement (from Jan?) that "Libraries have always been makerspaces." It complements R. David Lankes' oft-stated thought that if libraries aren't makerspaces at a deeply significant level (far beyond just having tech tools available), they are doing it right. The relevance to academic and research libraries is that makerspaces and a makerspace approach support the strong learning component of what these libraries provide.
  • 3D printers are a kind of a symbol for makerspaces, but the concept goes far beyond and will play an important role not only in public libraries, but also in universities and academic libraries. Libraries can extend their mission to provide not only information but knowledge. And it needs new skills and knowledge. Cooperation with other institutions and also informal circles are important.- rudolf.mumenthaler rudolf.mumenthaler Apr 14, 2015
  • Makerspace technology is an important piece as infrastructure to support innovation processes in academic organisations, for example academic libraries, mostly to facilitate prototyping of new services and/or products to gather feedback from users in a design process. - erik.stattin erik.stattin Apr 15, 2015 - edlef edlef Apr 18, 2015
  • Makerspaces go beyond engagement. The combination of 3d scanning and rapid fabrication blurs the line between digital and physical, and creates a potential for iteration between the two -- e.g., a chair can be scanned, the model changed, printed in physical form -- but embedded with sensors, and the resulting data used to design a revised model. Makerspaces also present opportunities for information sharing (e.g. sharing and remixing patron-created models); reference service (e.g. locating models) and the opportunity to teach a new form of information literacy - escience escience Apr 27, 2015

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • Still missing the application to libraries. Agree makerspaces/workshops can exist in theatre arts, in engineering, in architecture, in interior design, but how could we begin to articulate the value of central crossroads of library as the common ground for interdisciplinary making within university. - Jacqueline.Fritz Jacqueline.Fritz Apr 16, 2015 Agree and well stated! - dicksonk dicksonk Apr 9, 2015 - lcshedd lcshedd Apr 20, 2015 In the description the role of (academic) libraries is missing. One important aspect is cooperation with other institutions inside and outside university.- rudolf.mumenthaler rudolf.mumenthaler Apr 14, 2015 It's an important question to ask, i.e.- how this relates to libraries. We operate a fairly large and diverse makerspace, and our main reason for doing so is that we make it available to all students regardless of their field. That's what libraries have done with information for centuries, simply translated to new and critical learning sources for students. Engineering faculties may have wonderful makerspaces, for example, but they do not open them easily or freely to all, and students--for a variety of reasons--tend not to stray into space that is not part of their academic 'home.'- askeyd askeyd Apr 20, 2015 That's why my space (http://lib.ua.edu/smc) is in the library, program neutrality and access for all. - lcshedd lcshedd Apr 20, 2015
  • - ahaar ahaar Apr 25, 2015 Also the library can provide resources that will aid and develop student's making. In an art and design college the library is not the place for a makerspace. We have makerspaces all over our campuses that excel at their own particular focus. How we are positioning the library is that we can build collections of resources to support the students' making. See my note below describing CCA Libraries' project in this area.
  • I liken it to the creation of new knowledge, new ideas... those things have always happened in libraries too. - mstephens7 mstephens7 Apr 13, 2015~
  • events, showcases, reflection, exhibits to stir imagination and foster cross disciplinary activity STE(A)M - DaveP DaveP Apr 14, 2015
  • Gender. It mentions 'all ages,' but making is by default a male-dominated space. How can/should libraries work against that?- askeyd askeyd Apr 20, 2015
  • Biohacking Of course related to makerspaces, and also perhaps to crowdsourcing, biohacking labs and events are gaining momentum. Here's a quote from the Wikipedia page: "Biohacking encompasses a wide spectrum of practices and movements ranging from 'grinders' who design and install do-it-yourself body-enhancements such as magnetic implants to do-it-yourself biologists who conduct at-home gene sequencing. Biohacking emerged in a growing trend of non-institutional science and technology development." - erik.stattin erik.stattin Apr 27, 2015 [Editor's Note: Added here from RQ2.]

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on academic and research libraries?

  • - kevin-johnson kevin-johnson Apr 1, 2015 I think it can facilitate knowledge growth in a new, active way. - mstephens7 mstephens7 Apr 13, 2015 Agree - in ways that solitary, one way knowledge flow cannot. - paul.signorelli paul.signorelli Apr 14, 2015Also agreeing with Kevin (and Michael) here.
  • If libraries were more willing to be the first ones to expand into these kinds of areas it would help limit fragmented, repeated services in other areas of campus since so many divisions then end up not sharing because of ownership and where the money is coming from issues. - DaveP DaveP Apr 14, 2015 agreed space needed for libraries to provide this
  • Maker spaces mean the support of another dimension in knowledge building and knowledge sharing. Beside the text-bound knowledge transfer of the paper library and the digital text library maker spaces adresses predominantly non-textual knowledge construction. So they capture disciplines which are reached increasingly less by conventional libraries
    - Achim.Bonte Achim.Bonte Apr 16, 2015
  • - Jacqueline.Fritz Jacqueline.Fritz Apr 16, 2015 Staff will need to gain a basic understanding of 3D modeling software or 3D collections like Thingiverse to support students and faculty in the development and completion of projects. Space, safe space, and budget to allocate to makerspace projects. - edlef edlef Apr 18, 2015
  • - jdupuis jdupuis Apr 26, 2015 I like the idea of makerspaces being in libraries as a signal to the campus at large that the library is ready and willing to participate and even push the campus conversation forward in terms of technology use. Libraries are a kind of neutral space on campus, they don't generally belong to one student or faculty group. So makerspaces can be pitched as belonging to the whole campus, not just the engineers. In my opinion, most engineering schools will be moving to provide these sorts of facilities for their own students. The library is a natural collaborator for setting up such a service. Engineering students are also likely the best candidates for student employees in makerspaces in any case. Another great area for collaboration with student services in engineering is setting up workstudy programs & library staff & student traing programs for makerspaces using engineering students potentially as instructors.

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

  • NMC has already promoted a short documentary we shot a couple years ago on making in education ("We Are Makers"), but as part of the companion site we produced with outtakes from the interviews, Dale Dougherty from Make Magazine, etc, talks about why libraries would be the natural home for making and makerspaces. - dicksonk dicksonk Apr 9, 2015http://blogs.acu.edu/wearemakers/dale-dougherty-make/
  • State and University Library (SLUB) Dresden runs a makerspace at the university (http://www.slub-dresden.de/en/service/workplaces-workspace/makerspace/). At HTW Chur we plan to integrate a makerspace in the education in Library and Information Science so that students can on the one hand learn how new technologies work, experiment with them and on the other hand understand the concept of makerspaces or fablabs.- rudolf.mumenthaler rudolf.mumenthaler Apr 14, 2015
  • - paul.signorelli paul.signorelli Apr 14, 2015"Libraries and Maker Culture: A Resource Guide" provides several examples: http://library-maker-culture.weebly.com/makerspaces-in-libraries.html
  • In close cooperation with the Technical University Dresden and several Fraunhofer institutes SLUB Dresden founded in 2014 the first major maker space in a German academic library - Achim.Bonte Achim.Bonte Apr 16, 2015
  • - ahaar ahaar Apr 25, 2015 At CCA Libraries, we have a materials library with around 1,000 samples of materials that contain fabrics, polymers, composites, materials that conduct electricity, etc. We have a board game collection for students to familiarize themselves with classic and contemporary game design when building their own. We are building a seed collection for the textile discipline where they are developing dyes based on local flora. We are working to incorporate a science collection of insects, fossils, rocks, etc. for the study and use of natural sciences in the art studios. All of these resources/collections are in circulation and may be taken into studios across our campuses.
  • - jdupuis jdupuis Apr 26, 2015 Yes. We tried to pilot a 3d printing service with some used printers from engineering, in collaboration with engineering faculty, but the printers were way too finicky after a year or so of heavy use in engineering labs. Now we're looking at building a small space in our science & engineering library as a pilot for such services. Branch libraries seem to be more receptive and more nimble in terms of setting up new services. In our case, close ties to engineering will make it easier to set something up that will be a huge benefit to the whole campus. The main challenge seems to be funding. Both one-time funding to renovate the space and acquire the tech we want as well as continuing funding for staffing the space as well as upgrading the tech over time.