Five Things to Remember when Opening a Makerspace

My library just opened our new makerspace, called the Make-It Lab, on Monday. If your library has opened a makerspace, or is thinking about it, remember this – it’s a very different type of service to create, and you most definitely WILL be surprised by something.

Here are some things we have learned through the planning and opening of our makerspace (I’m sure there are more than these!):

1. You can’t train for everything. When you create a service involving stuff you simply haven’t done before, like digital music creation, 3D printing, or offering Mac computers … I guarantee you will be surprised at something. So make sure to train for flexibility, and know who to call when you get stumped.

2. You don’t have all the equipment your customers want. You won’t have everything your customers want. On our opening day, an older gentleman who was interested in seeing the space started asking questions. He liked our VHS-to-digital transfer tools, but wondered if we could also do cassette tapes, VHS-C tapes, and DVDs. We had to say no to some of that because we don’t have all the equipment needed, but told him that we’d keep track of the request and see what we could do as we adjust the room for our customers.

And that was just the first day.

3. You have more stuff than you realize. You didn’t just buy a camera, a 3D printer, and a microphone. You bought a camera (and a power cable, and a battery, and [hopefully] a battery charger, and an instruction manual), a 3D printer (and probably an extra spool or two of filament), and a microphone (and probably a microphone holder, maybe a mic stand adapter, a mic stand, and an XLR cable). You have to figure out where to put everything, how to label all this stuff so it makes sense for customers and staff, and how to check that nothing “accidentally” walks away.

4. There are a TON of details. I’ll admit – details are not my strong suit. Thankfully, I work in a library with some remarkable detail-oriented staff! We had to work through some processes like: how do you check out the room; do you check out the room or the computer; how many people can be in the room at the same time; how, exactly, do you pay for your 3D print; how do you go about getting equipment to customers, etc.

And each of those processes have multiple steps behind them.

5. 3D printers are persnickety. We first bought a Makerbot 5th Generation 3D printer (my earlier post about the Makerbot still holds true – no improvement). As of now, it has not worked well enough for us to feel comfortable putting it out for public use. Makerbot’s “SmartExtruder” is not so smart – it jams every couple of prints. So we did some more research, and purchased an Ultimaker 2. In the week or two that we’ve had it, it has worked great – no jams!

Bonus point – have fun! If you’re opening some type of makerspace/hackerspace/digital media lab, you have a good chance to attract people to your library that don’t usually use your services, or you might introduce a regular, more traditional customer to a fun, new experience.

What’s not to like about that?

Does your library Spotify?

I follow Ellen Forsyth, a really smart Australian librarian, on Flickr. Yesterday, I saw this image in her photo stream (see the pic in this post).

Feast magazine has created a Spotify account. Here’s what the magazine says about it:

We are excited to announce that Feast is now on Spotify! Join us at sbsfeastmagazine to listen to the new additions to our profile: a Greek-themed playlist to match our Global Roaming story on life in Lesvos, and Christmas songs from around the world to get you in the spirit while you whip up festive goodies. Old favourites abound in ‘Char Time’ for tunes while you grill, and ‘Celebrate: Diwali’ to channel your inner Bollywood star are still online as well.

What a cool idea! Can libraries do this? I bet so. Spotify (huge music streaming service, for those not familiar with Spotify) allows users to create and share playlists of music.

A library could easily set up some fun playlists. Some examples:

  • seasonal or holiday-based music
  • theme-based music for new books or movies
  • a playlist connected to a major event (i.e., summer reading)
  • literary-focused music playlist
  • or just have fun with staff favorites

What do you think? Has any library done this? Please share!

Pic by Ellen Forsyth

 

Nice Chicago Tribune article about Using the Digital Library

I was recently interviewed by Greg Karp at the Chicago Tribune about digital libraries – ebooks, streaming videos, downloadable music, websites, etc.

Karp’s angle with the story is that a modern library can save people money. Why buy when you can borrow?

It’s an interesting read, and could have a couple of uses for you:

  • Different marketing angle (saving money, using free stuff, etc)
  • Showcasing the different types of offerings at a modern library (3D printers, ebooks, downloadable music, and … cakepans!)

Best part of the article? At the end, Karp mentions the value of librarians:

Perhaps the most valuable resource in any library is a librarian, who can help you find what you need. Nowadays, you might get that help electronically, via email, chat, text message and, increasingly, social media, such as Twitter and Facebook.

Anyway – enjoy!

Logo from the Chicago Tribune

Teaching Customers to Copy your DVDs and other Nefarious Ideas

I’ve been thinking about this post for awhile now, and was recently reminded of it through a post on the ALA Think Tank Facebook Group (have you joined yet? Good stuff there).

The discussion at ALA Think Tank was about using copy machines to do illegal things, and someone mentioned the sign many libraries place around the copy machine, reminding customers to please not break the law when using the copy machine.

And that reminded me about this post, which is really just a question: Why don’t we teach our customers how to rip our DVDs, download our music CDs to iTunes, or copy our audiobooks to their favorite digital listening devices?

Hang with me a sec here. Parents, think about how your kids listen to music. They might not own a CD player. They listen using iTunes or Google Play (or some similar smartphone app).

How about movies? My family usually streams Netflix movies or rents from iTunes. We DO have a DVD player and use it once in awhile. If the DVD is scratched, it will skip in the player … but sometimes ripping it, dumping it into iTunes, and watching it using my AppleTV fixes that problem.

And what if we’re going on a trip, and want to watch 3-4 movies in the car? We don’t own a portable DVD player … but we DO own an iPad.

Yes, you can guess what we do.

And that relates directly back to your library, because a growing percentage of your customers listen and watch media using mobile devices.

That growing reality makes me wonder if we should teach customers how to use software tools like iTunes or Handbrake? With a disclaimer attached, just like in the days of the heavily used library copy machines – “Here’s how to use the copy machine. Just don’t do anything illegal” (knowing full well what some of those customers were doing).

What do you think? Should we:

  • Teach customers the best way to copy our library content to their favorite digital listening/viewing device (and teach them how to delete it when they’re done, too)?
  • Continue to offer easily downloaded CDs and DVDs, and just assume some customers will figure out how to burn the discs?
  • Something else entirely?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Image from slipperybrick.com

Digital Music Sales tops Physical Music Sales

acoustic guitarDid you catch this article last week on CNN? Digital Music tops Physical Music Sales. Here’s a couple of quotes from the article:

“According to a Nielsen and Billboard report, digital music purchases accounted for 50.3% of music sales in 2011. Digital sales were up 8.4% from the previous year, while physical album sales declined 5%.”

“While services like Napster blazed the trail for online music consumption, offerings like Apple’s 99-cents-a-song iTunes catalog as well as those from a host of startups have broken down traditional music-purchasing barriers. Most customers now prefer shopping online to buying in a store.”

For that matter, you don’t even have to buy music to enjoy it anymore. We finally took down our Christmas decorations last weekend. While doing that, we listened to some classic jazz via Pandora. Obviously, a radio would work here too … but not for the type of music I was listening to!

So … libraries and music. My public library has a pretty large CD collection. We also subscribe to Freegal (a library-oriented service that basically gives patrons 3 free music downloads a week). We have also seen a demo for the library version of Rdio (not impressed yet).

In five year’s time, what will we be doing? How will we be collecting music? Will music still be listed for checkout in our library catalogs? Or will we point patrons to Spotify/Pandora/Rdio/etc?

I’m not sure … what do you think?

guitar pic by Bigstock