Week 9 – The Explicit and Implicit Duties of a Library and Their Role in User Creativity

Hi everyone! This might be a wee bit short of a post, considering I don’t actually have much to say on the concept of this week’s topic that hasn’t been said already. Instead, I’d like to talk about another topic that’s been nagging at me since the Twitter chat.

Firstly, I do believe the concept of maker spaces is a creative and revolutionary new idea, especially when pertaining to libraries. Libraries have always been places that hold repositories of knowledge, and there is the implication that people who use library services are interested in developing the skills and the lessons they gain from using the library’s services into something more tangible and that affects everyone on a large scale. Maker spaces are effectively an extension to that, and one that encourages people to be more active in their creativity.

That being said, though, I also believe that libraries should not be forced to develop the skills and creativity of its users. At the end of the day, a library is a service that stores knowledge. Yes, I do believe that anyone who attends a library should be encouraged to explore reading materials outside of their comfort zone as a means to broaden their horizons. I do believe that librarians should be encouraged to do the same as well, not just to make them more knolwedgeable, but also more versatile and more relatable to a wider variety of customers. The thing is, though, that we should be implicitly encouraging library-goers to challenge themselves by gaining their curiosity and properly engaging them on an adventure, NOT forcing it down their throats.

It’s kind of like being forced to do something you absolutely hate in school, a subject being led by an incompetent teacher with not even the slightest idea on how to properly nurture the students they’re entrusted with. If we take the sort of approach favored by such ‘teachers’ and simply force people into it rather than making the library experience unique for customers, as often happens with disaffected students (myself having been one as a result of such approaches), what was once a bundle of energy, shining like a star and filled with endless talent and potential, is burned out and left as nothing but an empty shell. In the case of school students, they’ll only put in the minimum effort required – and that’s assuming they care. If we take that sort of approach with libraries, the situation will be even worse, as the customer will be burned out on the idea of engaging in the library experience and adventure. Such experiences tend to sour the customer on learning further, which completely defeats the purpose of using the library not only as a knowledge repository, but also a place where that knowledge can be further built upon in a way that ultimately betters a person, and may even embitter them into believing that learning is not a life-enriching and joyous adventure, but a chore.

At the end of the day, how the library presents itself to its loyal customers depends on how it is run, the approaches it takes and how we as librarins treat the idea of learning. Done properly, libraries, when using the maker space concept, can be, like I keep saying, something that expands people’s horizons and betters them overall by making them more learned, active and creative. Done badly? Just send me a private message, and I’ll be happy to tell you some first-hand horror stories about learning and teaching gone horribly wrong!

Comments 8

  • Hi Paul. Do libraries FORCE customers to use makerspaces, though? I thought they were more extra activities that they had the option to get involved with? Besides, customers only really go to the library if they want to. They don’t HAVE to be there. But if they want to, it’s probably easier to get them involved with makerspaces, than someone who never uses the library, right?

    • It really depends on the way the library handles using maker spaces. Ideally, yes, they are an option, and incorporating it into the library experience properly will help both the library and the customer. If it’s handled badly, though, it’ll turn them off entirely.

  • I don’t think that Makerspaces should be a forced thing, otherwise people will totally be turned off going to the library! I think there is a line between advertising too much, I know if someone tries to encourage me a little bit too heartily, I never go in! However, in saying that I’ve never really seen that happen. I spent a fair bit of time overlooking the makerspaces at the Brisbane Festival on the weekend, and it was very much a come and go kind of situation! I did find though that asking around was helpful (I guess advertising the makerspace on a small level) as some people don’t even realise there is something happening, and are happy to participate in the activity.

  • Hi Paul,
    I think this is a really interesting comment – to me it raises another question about maker spaces and that is, how do we facilitate the use of these spaces? Although obviously no on is forced to use a maker space, I think the way libraries facilitate their use is really important. In most examples I have seen, the library runs workshops making a specific thing, such as a knitted flower or a sensory bottle (https://sapln.ent.sirsidynix.net.au/custom/web/content/1MakerSpace%20Program%20SeptOct%20EMAIL.pdf). I don’t think these type of workshops are really in keeping with the Makerspace philosophy of facilitating creativity by providing space and resources for people to explore, share, experiment and create. Running a makerspace well requires a whole new set of skills – skills that librarians are not generally equipped with, such as maintaining technical equipment, facilitating collaborative open learning environments, and constructionist approaches to learning. There are whole courses about how facilitate this type of learning environment, and I think it is really important that the people who do facilitate these areas have a background in this kind of learning – otherwise we are just going to end up with even more horror stories of enthusiasm lost at the hands of a bad teacher (or librarian). If the role of libraries is changing to incorporate this type of space then I think it is equally important that the training of librarians be changed to ensure librarians are up to the challenge! For anyone who is interested in pursuing this, there is a great Coursera course here https://www.coursera.org/learn/tinkering

  • Hi Paul, interesting argument ! Totally agree that Makerpaces should not be dictatorial. I am intrigued by the idea that they are for loyal customers… I wonder if we also used Makerspaces to lure non traditional library users to the library we could see Makerspaces in a more participatory light? I am unsure if this is too idealistic …Anitra

  • Hi Paula,
    thanks for your post.
    I do not think that makerspaces should be a forced service in any library.
    as it is all about passion, people should be only directed to integrate in this service.
    otherwise, there will be chaos because enthusiastic people will work side by side with people who do not have passion to be in markerspaces.

  • You make an interesting point about trying to not alienate patrons by ‘forcing’ makerspaces etc upon them unnecessarily. I always thought of makerspaces as just being a part of the library that’s available to patrons if they wish to use it, but if that were the case then I feel like it might actually be a waste of money and space to the library – it would definitely need some promoting and forcefulness of use in order to make it profitable.

  • I think this is a really interesting concept – that makerspaces are becoming popular in libraries. Is this a paradigm shift from conventional library use, because we can access so much information from home, online, any time – so libraries are becoming a more community space where we can pursue other ways of learning – through ‘making’? Is it a different type of recreational activity where we interact with others, share knowledge, tap into skills and expertise that would be difficult to learn from print? What do you think? Is it just a passing phase or will it continue?

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