Makerspaces – empowering, engaging, making connections

Twitter Chats and Makerspaces

Twitter chats are short and sweet with a ton of content that is sometimes very hard to digest. This dynamic and challenging medium of communication demands preparation, concentration and the ability to be seriously succinct.

The introduction of  makerspaces to library environments is evolving so quickly and so diversely with so many platforms for exploration available that connecting makerspaces with the succinctness of twitter chat is in itself quite an oxymoron.

To makerspace or not to makerspace?

Rigorous discussion of reasons to establish or not establish a makerspace in libraries iterated the common theme of meeting user wants and needs within the community. Nura Firdawsi, Karen Parker, Kylie Burgess, Michele Smith and Katie Ferguson responded to Heidi Stevens’ early tweet questioning the notion of ‘trend based purchases seen out of scope’.

Competing arenas of STEM and GLAM also featured in discussions as to why libraries should provide spaces for these activities when previously community interest groups had filled this need. The discussion led to sharing experiences of learning within dedicated communities, where inexperienced people felt uncomfortable in that environment. Library programs are seen to provide a more encouraging and nurturing platform of learning supporting creativity and experiential learning.

The Edge – a masterpiece makerspace – styled by State Library of Queensland

The Edge is described as ‘a visionary space for ‘creating creatives’; a melting pot of ideas and innovation, capacity-building, experimentation and innovation’. The space provides a meeting place for creators to create and share ideas, using the space, tools, equipment and support network provided under the mandate of empowering Queenslanders to explore creativity across art science technology and enterprise’.

This aligns with [Lisa Hetherington’s] belief that libraries are a place to explore and learn and [Katie Ferguson’s] belief in meeting community needs and interests. It’s about accessing technology to enhance learning by bridging the technology gap that exists even in the middle of the city.

Events courses and programs described in the Edge E-News publication invite public participation in creative workshops and short courses; meet-ups to learn about calligraphy, book crafts, interactive technology, design and multimedia production; and an invitation to look at The Edge and all it has to offer.

Makerspaces are more than a haven for creativity – they’re about incubating new ideas – supporting creators with tools and equipment – building a platform for startups – giving innovators a place to design and prototype. Makerspaces empower people to have a go, without fear of failure, in a non-confronting space, with support, encouragement, tools and knowledge.  Makerspaces foster community engagement and peer-to-peer interactions that open conversations and share knowledge through the iterative processes of creativity.

Commercial Makerspaces

I listened to Chris Lau, general manager of Portland Oregon’s entrepreneurial makerspace Art Design “ADX” Portland, when he presented a forum hosted by The Edge, SLQ in May 2016.  This business has increased by an average of 61% annually over the past three years, due to what he describes as  American Makers of the Manufacturing Renaissance.  Essentially ADX is a warehouse space that provides small businesses with an opportunity to collaborate and share knowledge in their pursuit of a place in the market and product development.

The [Manufacturing] Renaissance is emerging where local economies become self-reliant and more robust.  Chris Lau proposed that ‘the politics of humanity eclipse the politics of globalisation’ – a great foundation statement for the maker movement where people are encouraged to work together, and work on what is available locally, coordinating these resources to work collectively to access the expertise within the ADX community.

Chris Lau spoke about the huge potential for partnerships between maker spaces and libraries especially where maker spaces are introduced into libraries to re-invigorate sharing spaces. While ADX  is a business model for social enterprise, makerspaces in public libraries create a plethora of opportunities for community engagement and connection among creators.  The focus for this informal and experiential learning is on upskilling rather than accreditation.

Driving interactive and collaborative learning through public space

Following this presentation, I toured the makerspace in the basement of The Edge, where an eclectic team whose skill levels are diverse,  offer support and services to makers. The Edge team shares a common commitment to supporting and encouraging ‘makers’ in a safe and secure environment, using a  professional standard of equipment that is properly maintained.

Libraries are evolving continually to accommodate the demands of  disruptive technology that sweeps away tradition paving the way for innovation and design.  Providing a makerspace is more than providing a 3D printer – it’s more about discovering what the 3D printer can do and why the library chooses to have it.  It is not about having the shiny new thing but about having the thing that is most needed and will be most used.

 

© <a href="http://sarabbit.openphoto.net/gallery/">Sarah Klockars-Clauser</a> for <a href="http://openphoto.net/gallery

Maryborough Toy and Special Needs Library

At Maryborough, a small regional centre, kilometres north of Brisbane, the Maryborough Toy and Special Needs Library [MTSNL]provides a specialised service offering toys, games, educational resources and devices for families with young children and children with special needs.

This community service is funded through local Council, State Government and Federal Government as well as specific grant funding when available.

The MTSNL is located within a community centre near the Fraser Coast Regional Council office in Maryborough city centre.  It is quite separate from the Fraser Coast Regional Council’s Maryborough Library service. The community centre  hosts family oriented community meetings such as prenatal and antenatal meet ups, support for ADHD families, disability support and teen pregnancy support – it’s a centre where the community is encouraged to support each other, share information and borrow resources and equipment that will assist them to have better quality of life.

Twice flooded, the MTSNL is new and purpose-built for storage of toys, puzzles, games, bikes, swings, slides and play-houses which are available for loan to  schools, therapists, health professionals and the general public for varying fees, according to circumstance.

A complex catalogue process, using a clearly defined thesaurus of descriptors, allows circulation of the resources which are categorised and classified into games and resources according to age and key learning areas – for example, numbers, alphabet, language, math, shapes, time, colours, visual perception, science, biology.  There are also tactile toys, building toys, bikes, balls and play equipment for under 5s separately stored on floor to ceiling shelves and in a large shed at the rear of the building with shelves of larger equipment which are loaned to users to  support children with disabilities. These resources are stored in order of recommended application for height and weight of the user.

The librarian who manages this centre has been at the library for more than 25 years.  Her local knowledge and awareness of the extent of the collection contributed to the accelerated operation of removal of all equipment, resources, furniture and office administration documentation and records from the building during the floods in 2011 and 2013.  During the second flood, the Mary River rose to the ceiling of the building within two hours of the removal of resources.

The collection is extensive and complex to administer because of the nature of the resources (pieces of puzzles, cards in a game, parts in Meccano, LEGO, teasets).  Health and Safety Legislation requires that equipment, toys and puzzles have to be cleaned and re-boxed or re-bagged to make sure that all pieces are available for the next borrower  Missing parts are noted on the resource. Even though this process is tedious and time-consuming it is always rigorously adhered to.

The service offers parents and carers a broad choice of educational resources and toys that will stimulate children’s imagination and develop cognitive skills.  Disability equipment is provided on a rotational basis so that it can be adjusted or replaced, aligned with the natural growth rate of the child, as advised by the health professional and guided by the manufacturer or supplier.

It is the librarian’s tacit knowledge and caring and informed interaction with the community that makes it a stand out service.  The librarian liaises with health professionals (physiotherapists, psychologists, doctors, disability advisors), educators, guidance officers, parents and carers to continually maintain and update the collection to meet the user needs.  Analyses of statistics in relation to circulation of the collection support regular grant applications which are submitted to fund the purchase of new equipment and resources.

According to Early Years Learning Framework, learning through play is a practice that is beneficial to children, developing imagination and social skills while engaging with ‘people, objects and representations’. Similarly Jenny Kidd from the Cerebral Palsy Association states that children with disabilities gain much from play, interaction and specific equipment. A toy library allows the children and their carers to choose from a variety of resources to identify the toy that meets their needs.

This is a wonderful service in a region where there is great need to support the community who has suffered due to extreme weather and the subsequent loss of quality of life through unemployment, disengagement and financial stress.

Congratulations to Fraser Coast Libraries and Maryborough Toy and Special Needs Library on their continued support and commitment.

 

Getting into the library thing

Where the Wild Things Are Bookstore at West End sends regular emails to customers to join them in their celebration of literature – there areinvitations to view new publications, speak to the authors, bring children to author chats and activities, listen to story time on Mondays, go to school holiday activities.

I know it’s a sales pitch, but it’s a great sales pitch .  The Wild Things community cares about literature, specialising in children’s literature. They promote local artists and authors, advise on books and activity choices for children of all ages and offer a wide spectrum of topics and interests.

Getting into the library thing early gives children a great start to learning, to imagining, to listening and to sharing stories with others.  It’s about widening horizons through reading, rhymes, poetry, painting and activities.

Facebook page creates an online community where the bookstore and its patrons can communicate and be updated on new books and upcoming events. Customers can also follow the bookstore programs by accessing its blog, following on twitter or viewing on youtube.

Creating a community of learning through a suburban bookstore where like-minded people can meet up and share their love of literature gives parents, carers and children a happy place to go to.

Book Chat vs Book Club

Literally from the driver’s seat of my car this week, I tweeted merrily about readers’ advisory services.  As a newbie to public libraries, I am amazed at the different perspectives of librarians, borrowers and user groups that all revolve around reading.

Firstly the sophistication of the ‘Book Coasters’ reader’s advisory service is impressive with many new and not so new titles displayed giving readers a wide choice of genre and writing style to choose from together with advice on DIY Book Club.

At Fraser Coast Regional Council Libraries, both Book Chat and Book Clubs exist meeting the different needs of users.   Book Chat is an introduction to new publications, fiction and non fiction, in a range of genres and styles to suit the members.  Attendance at the monthly meetings fluctuates from as few as four readers to fifteen.  At the meeting on Wednesday all of the 12 female attendees were retirees. Two library staff guided the session, and four of the regular readers presented prepared critical appraisals of their recently read books.   The session was hilarious with plenty of rivalry for first speaking position and only mildly covert comments on the appraisals.  After a lengthy description of the plots and sub-plots of The Golden Key, one reader commented that: ‘Actually, I realised that I wasn’t really interested in what the secret was, where the golden key was, or whether they actually found any of it! It was all far too bizarre’.  Book Chat is about introducing readers to readers, readers to books, engagement with library staff and gathering information about what readers want.

Similarly Book Clubs build connections between readers and their library.  In Hervey Bay, Maryborough and the smaller communities of Howard, Burrum Heads, and Tiaro, readers meet either at the library or at a cafe or private home to share their reading experience.  Ten copies of the same title, often chosen from the recommendations from websites like Goodreads and Reading Group Choices and from popular demand, are supplied to the Book Club for up to three months.  It is up to the book club members to establish the ground rules for  the club.

In establishing a readers’ advisory service, both these programs provide great insight for librarians to gauge interest areas from their keenest readers while circulation statistics further support reviews of the reading and information trends within the community.

Becky Spratford’s comprehensive list of Readers’Advisory blogs, although published in 2012 would be a great starting point for any RAs as the diversity of blog sites gives librarians and RAs a guide to RA resources, library resources, major media outlets, general book blogs and podcasts.   Sifting through the myriad of advice online in relation to RA services is quite onerous and time consuming and confusing, if not overwhelming.

The most critical factors for an RA include communicating with the readers, taking on board suggestions, identifying trends, catering to interests/demographics and responding accordingly.  These were reflected in a recent advertisement for a Readers’ Advisory Librarian, where the Mosman Council specified a need for a qualified library professional ….with knowledge of literature and current reading trends … and experienced in social media for promotion and marketing.  It seems that RA services will become a critical part of information services as the volume and complexity of information continually evolves.

In different environments the user needs will be different and accordingly, a readers’ advisor’s knowledge of the physical collection as well as online sources of information will make a difference to the efficiency and completeness of the service provided, as will their soft people skills to understand what is needed and how best to provide it.