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?

Makerbot Replicator 5th Generation – Not Ready for Primetime!

Makerbot Replicator 5th GenerationA little over a month or so ago, my library bought our first 3D printer, a Makerbot – the newest, 5th Generation Makerbot.

Our goal is to put it out for public use this fall (one of the options in our planned makerspace/digital media lab).

But guess what? We can’t get the thing to work consistently. It’s easy to use, the controls are great, the filament is easy to load, and their new Smart Extruder print head is easy to work with.

Well – it’s easy to work with until there’s a jam or clog. Guess what? The Smart Extruder isn’t so smart when it comes to clogs, because you can’t really take the thing apart to unclog it.

We’ve had to send the extruder back to Makerbot and get a replacement … about 4-5 times now. In a month and a half.

Not good, Makerbot! I’m guessing you guys can do better than that!

Fingers crossed this gets figured out, or we’ll have to send the whole thing back and find another option.

So – who has 3D printers out for public use? Which ones? I’d love to know – especially if I have to find another one!

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!