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?

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

EveryoneOn – a Digital Literacy Campaign

Have you heard about the EveryoneOn campaign? I saw some early info about it, then didn’t hear anything else. But I met some people working on the project while at SXSW, and it actually does sound like a great idea (assuming they can get buy-in from local libraries)!

So – here’s some info they sent me to explain what’s going on:

The goal of the campaign is to help get every American online so they can enrich their lives through access to more job opportunities, education, government resources and saving time and money.

The messaging for EveryoneOn includes the promotion of libraries as a vital tech hub in the community. The campaign sentiment is “we love the Internet” AND “we love libraries.” Especially on the social media communities, we’re sharing a lot of data about the role of libraries in digital literacy and also promoting the types of innovative services they provide. The training center locator (searched by zip code) includes many libraries, so this is helping to connect libraries to their communities.

Libraries can get involved by:

All of the info on how to get involved is aggregated in an online toolkit for libraries and partners, and a new site with digital literacy resources can be found here.

One BIG thought I had was this – how does this benefit libraries? In talking with the two people I met, they thought that libraries were already working hard to bridge the digital divide, but not everyone knows about it. So this  national Ad Council campaign has the potential to give the issue … and libraries a lot of much-needed visibility.

Sounds cool to me – definitely worth finding out more! Here’s a video connected with the project:

Library Podcasts you Might Find Useful

earbudsBobbi Newman at Librarian By Day just introduced me to two new librarian-focused podcasts. Thanks, Bobbi – I’ll have to take a listen!

I thought it might be useful to make a list of librarian-related podcasts, because there are a goodly handful of them at the moment, and they are all pretty useful.

These aren’t podcasts done by local libraries, for their local customers. Instead, these podcasts are all focused on us librarians.

And I’m using “podcast” loosely in my list – it includes audio-only podcasts, call-in live shows (that then turn into downloadable audio podcasts after the fact), and video shows.

List of Librarian Podcasts (the first two swiped from Bobbi’s post):

  • Whatever Mathers: Creative conversations with host Amy Mather and a revolving cast of surprise guests.
  • Circulating Ideas: the Librarian Interview Podcast: Interviews with librarians.
  • NCompass Live, from the Nebraska Library Commission: focus on library trends.
  • This Week in Libraries: Eric and Jaap from the Netherlands host a weekly video show with a bunch of interesting guests, usually talking about the future of libraries. Definitely international in scope.
  • T is for Training: call-in live show/podcast focused on training
  • Games in Libraries: A podcast about Games, Gaming, and Gamers in Libraries (sporadic at the moment)
  • Adventures in Library Instruction: A monthly podcast by and for library information literacy instructors and teaching librarians. The show includes features, interviews and discussion about teaching in libraries.
  • LibPunk: Live call-in show/podcast focused on hot topics in libraryland

Additions from the comments (some other really cool-sounding podcasts):

So – what am I missing in this list? Know of any other podcasts focused on the library/information professional industry? Let’s list them here. And make sure to listen/watch/call-in – give them a try, and see if you get something out of them!

Check out Lori Reed Learning Solutions

On Lori’s blog today (you do subscribe to it, right?), she made an announcement:

“One of the things I’ve most enjoyed over the past few years is visiting other libraries and working with their trainers and staff. Beginning July 1st I’ll do this full time as Lori Reed Learning Solutions.

My passion has always been to help others grow. Now I’m ready to take this to the next level and work with libraries and other organizations to maximize their investment in staff development.”

Lori knows a TON about training and speaking, and plans to do a lot more of that – check our her blog post, what her plans are (and how that might fit in with your library’s training needs), and her new business.

Congrats, Lori!