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!

Content Creation, Media Labs, and Hackerspaces

Skokie Public Library's Digital Media Lab

I’ve been thinking about content creation and libraries lately. Right now, we collect content – hence our shelves of stuff. Yes, we do many other things too. But if you look at our buildings, they have been, by and large, designed for collections of stuff – for collecting content.

Some libraries are changing that focus (or at least adding on to it) by enabling customers to create their own content in a variety of ways … and it’s pretty interesting stuff!

I’ll lump what I’m seeing into three loose categories:

  • Digital Media Labs
  • Hackerspaces
  • Coworking spaces

Digital Media Labs: These spaces have content creation tools that allow customers to create and share video, music, photography, and design projects. Customers have access to computers with editing software, cameras, camcorders, microphones, and musical keyboards.

The best examples I’ve seen of this so far are Skokie Public Library’s Digital Media Lab and Chicago Public Library’s YouMedia project. Skokie’s lab has a greenscreen wall for video projects; Youmedia includes a small recording studio space.

Hackerspaces: “A hackerspace … is a location where people with common interests, often in computers, technology, science, or digital or electronic art (but also in many other realms) can meet, socialise and/or collaborate … hackers can come together to share resources and knowledge to build and make things” (from Wikipedia).

Basically, hackerspaces tend to be public spaces with tools – 3D printers, drill presses, etc. And people make stuff there. Who’s doing this? Well, Allen County Public Library and Fayetteville Free Library are, for starters.

Coworking Spaces: Coworking is a pretty simple concept. Independent workers, freelancers, small business owners, etc. gather in a shared space to share ideas, team up on projects, and get some work done in a more social setting. It’s an alternative to meeting at home or a local coffee shop.

Libraries have unofficially done this for years (how many of you have heard of a patron who runs his/her business from the library? I’ll bet some of you have). But some libraries are going a step or two further by embedding librarians in these spaces, or even offering coworking spaces as part of their services. Meg Knodl, a librarian at Hennepin County Library, is doing this – here’s an article on what Meg is doing. Helsinki City Library has created some coworking spaces – read more about it here.

For more info, check out these articles:

Question – is your library doing something like this? If so, let me know in the comments!

Photo by Skokie Public Library

Can a Library be your Office?

OK – I know a library can be MY office … ’cause I work in one. But how about your patrons?

I was just reading Chris Brogan’s post (nice guy – I met him at SXSW last week) about where he works – frequently in a bookstore or a coffeeshop. And that made me think a bit … do his points about working in bookstores and coffeeshops work for a library too? Let’s experiment a bit and find out.

Here are his points about why he works in bookstores and coffeeshops, but with the word “library” inserted … with some comments from me:

  • Libraries have books, which are full of ideas. When I work here, I can pluck a book off the shelf, get an idea, and get a new perspective on my project. Yep – we have this one covered pretty well.
  • Libraries have fresh food and lots of people anxious to serve me the food. It means I can focus on what I’m doing and not worry about the sustenance part. Whew – my library, at least, has this one covered too. How about yours – do you have a coffeeshop in your library? More importantly … do you allow patrons to eat and drink in the library?
  • Libraries have big parking lots and lots of room to hold brief, cafe-shaped meetings with a few people. They’re not the best place to conduct official business, but they’re perfect for brainstorming and idea gathering and status delivering. My library has this one covered adequately too – we have a large parking lot (though it’s usually packed pretty full – we’re a popular destination in Topeka). And we have a variety of places to meet in the library – meeting rooms, smaller study rooms, and plenty of tables and power outlets. How about your library? Would anyone get “shushed” if they were holding a meeting at a table in your library?
  • Libraries are usually staffed with pleasant people who don’t do what I do, so they’re willing to chat for a few minutes, but won’t bury me in the details. We’re friendly, but would we chat with Chris? Probably so … but most libraries really aren’t set up for this. Desk staff are sitting at a desk, waiting for people to come to them – not walking around the library, chatting with and helping patrons (i.e., like most other service industries do).
  • Libraries are actually fun. How many people’s offices are fun? OK – my office is fun! And my library is fun, too. Is YOUR library fun? If not … why not?

So what’s the point here? Libraries have the potential to be GREAT co-working facilities for small business owners and entrepreneurs. Add a little coffee to the mix … add the ability to connect with others for casual conversations … and remove some of our out-of-date barriers (i.e., No talking! No cell phones! No food allowed!) … and libraries can be very relevant, cool places to “do business.”

What do you think? Would a small business owner or a freelancer want to work in your library? Are you set up to allow that?

Picture by Chris Brogan