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?

Tour of Kansas City Makerspaces & Co-working Spaces

I recently went on a whirlwind tour of Kansas City area makerspaces and co-working spaces, as part of a group of local community leaders interested in creating a really cool co-working/maker/hacker/media space in the Topeka area.

My library’s definitely interested – we are creating a digital media lab this year. So touring these spaces was pretty useful!

Here’s where I visited – read the post, and follow along in the video!

  1. Johnson County Library’s Makerspace – this small makerspace has two iMac computers, a 3D printer, a sewing machine, and a scanner, among other things. The space is set up for a variety of creative pursuits.
  2. Homes for Hackers – Not much about this place in my video, but it’s a pretty cool idea. If you have a start-up business, you can move to Kansas City, stay at Homes for Hackers for three months for free, and focus full-time on your idea. And use Google Fiber, too.
  3. Think Big Partners – A co-working space that also offers 6-9 month mentoring programs for early-stage technology-focused startups. All of the co-working spaces offered some form of a desk and chair, a mailing address, wifi, coffee, event space, meeting rooms, and flexible, month-to-month payment plans.
  4. OfficePort KC – A co-working space about 2-3 blocks away from Think Big Partners. They also offer a nice-looking sound stage for video work.
  5. Innovation Cafe – Another co-working space. This space was the most affordable for people just needing a place to sit – $39 a month. And it’s across the street from Kansas City Public Library’s main building – can’t beat that!
  6. Union Station’s Maker Studio – a nice makerspace focused on kids and teens. It’s in Science City, a hands-on children’s science museum. They aren’t open yet – I think their plan is to open sometime in January (so really soon). They have 3D printers, Arduino kits, soldering irons, a HUGE CNC router, etc. Lots to learn and experience here.
  7. Hammerspace – A really cool makerspace with a lot to offer. Check out the video – when I was there, there were a LOT of grown dudes making things. Thinks involving Arduinos, 3D printers, soldering irons, coding, etc. There was also an artist working on some sort of screenprint thing. And lots of visiting and sharing, too!

There’s a LOT happening in Kansas City right now, which is pretty neat! Hopefully I can help stretch that an hour west to Topeka :-)

What are your plans for a makerspace in 2014? Have you started thinking about it? I’d love to hear more!

Hacking, Making, & Creating at the Library – a webinar

I gave this presentation last week at a webinar for the Southeastern New York Library Resources Council. There were a LOT of great questions afterwards. Lots of libraries are thinking about hackerspaces, makerspaces, etc … and trying to answer the “why” – as in why should we do this? What’s available? What are other libraries doing?

This presentation gave an overview of what’s happening, and also gave some tips on where to start.

Fun times!

Makerbot – Bre Pettis interview at CES 2013

Just posting something from fellow library geek Jason Griffey. Did you know he’s like the ONLY librarian who goes to CES (i.e., Consumer Electronics Show)? This show is apparently HUGE, and there’s a lot of innovation that gets announced there.

This year – actually, the last couple of years – Jason has attended CES, and reported on what he found. One thing he found was the Makerbot booth and Bre Pettis, one of Makerbot’s founders.

In this video, Jason interviews Bre about what’s new for Makerbot, and what it might mean for libraries. Jason also has an accompanying blog post talking about new stuff for Makerbot.

Bre also mentions two books we should read before starting a hackerspace:

So – watch the video, read Jason’s post, read the books mentioned above … and make sure to subscribe to Jason’s blog, if you haven’t yet done that!

update – for some reason, the video disappeared. So I added it back in. Oops!

CILDC: The Fayetteville Free Library: a Fabulous Laboratory

I was able to hear Lauren Britton, Transliteracy Development Director at Fayetteville Free Library, talk about their library’s Fab Lab (sweet!). Here are my notes from her session:

Their FFL Fab Lab is the first permanent makerspace in a public library

A little bit on what a makerspace is… a place where people come together to create and collaborate, to share resources, knowledge, and stuff. They give people tools to create, to hack, to remake their world for the better.

FFL Fab Lab Story – started as a student proposal! She has turned that into her full-time job – hope she got an A on that!

Funding:

  • her first task as a new librarian!
  • she writes a lot of grants
  • received some donations – both Makerbots were donated
  • develop community partners for funding, to teach classes, etc
  • alternative methods – awards and crowd-sourcing. Indiegogo (sort of like Kickstarter) – they raised $5000 that way.

MakerBot – one of the coolest companies she has worked with. Their 3D printers are affordable – under $2000. The plastics needed are about $40-50 a roll, and last a long time.

Developing a pricing strategy for the plastic – they’re using a time strategy – first 10 minutes of printing is free, then 10-15 cents a minute after that.

More than a MakerBot

  • not just about technology
  • Focus is on giving patrons the tools they need to create
  • example – help kids make their first book
  • then circulate those creations!

D.I.Y.

  • community is full of experts – use them!
  • You DO NOT need to be a digital fabrication expert – ie., use thingaverse
  • you DO need to provide the access

Building a Makerspace

  • don’t need much – space, money, equipment
  • programming ideas: open houses, bristlebot workshop, make your own book, Take-Apart-Thursdays – community donated things the kids can take apart (like a toaster) to learn about them.