Guidelines for our Makerspace

The team of staff working on my library’s makerspace gave some good thought to policies, procedures, and more functional guidelines for use of the space and equipment.

For policies … well, we don’t have any. Other policies like our customer behavior policy and our computer use policy really cover everything we need. So we have a list of more functional “procedures” that can change as the space changes. Here’s what we have so far.

MakeIT Lab Procedures

Customers:

  • Normal customer behavioral guidelines apply
  • “Respect the space, respect the staff, respect the equipment, respect each other”
    • Hang this up in the room
    •  Refer to the customer conduct policy
  • Age limits:
    • Kids with supervision (under age 12)
    • Ages 12 and up without supervision

3D printer:

  • What can you print?
    • Whatever you can print in 3 hours
    • Stay with your print job
    • If the print has to finish after hours (i.e., customer started printing at 8pm, but print won’t finish until 11pm), staff will put finished print behind desk, and customer can pay the next day
  • How to print:
    • $5 per print
    • Pay using the checkout Kiosk, then get a receipt
    • Take receipt to Media Desk
    • Media Desk staff will set up the print job for customer

Room Procedures:

  • No prerequisites for room use
    • We will have tipsheets and some “getting started” videos, plus staff will know how to turn on the Mac, open up software, plug things in, etc.
    • If more help is needed, customer should schedule an appointment with a librarian
  • How many people in the room at the same time?
    • Up to 6 people in the room at a time
  • Checking out the room & time limits
    • 3 hours a day
    • Two door keys, with barcodes. We’ll technically check out the keys.
    • Customer will check out a key using Polaris (MakeIT Lab Key #1 and #2)
    • No reserves – first-come-first-serve basis
    • Staff will need to monitor the room to make sure customers aren’t going over 3 hours
    • Close when the library closes at 9pm

Reserving Media bags:

  • Use Polaris, like the other bags
  • 7-day check out
  • Customers can place it on hold
  • Pick up at the Reference desk

That’s what we have right now. Are some of your policies, procedures, or guidelines different than ours? Please share!

Guideline image from Make Magazine

3D Printers and Libraries in the News

The Chicago Tribune recently interviewed me about 3D printers in libraries (they interviewed a bunch of other cool people too).

The newspaper seems to be making an issue of what you can/cannot/should not print in a library setting, and talked about printing guns, obscene objects, etc using a library’s 3D printer.

Here’s my take – let your customers print, and don’t worry (too much) about special 3D printing policies:

  • My guess – Your already existing customer behavior policy/guidelines probably covers everything you need. So I’m not sure you need an extra-special “3D printer policy.”
  • Printing bad/naughty/dangerous things – Your customers probably won’t be doing this. So stop worrying about those “what if” scenarios. When they do appear, see the above point about your customer behavior guidelines.
  • On the issue of printing 3D guns:
    • Your library probably already has books about making guns (under the subject heading of “gunsmithing”). What’s the difference?
    • A 3D printed gun is a multi-part project, requiring multiple 3D files. Unless the customer has named each file “nefarious gun part #1, 2 and 3” … you’re not gonna know what they’re printing anyway.

What do you think? Please leave a comment!

Photo by Gastev

Please Ask for Assistance

don't touchI took this photo at a guitar store in a small town in Wisconsin. I get what they’re doing – lots of guitar/music stores do the very same thing. They really don’t mind you touching the guitar – as long as a staff member is standing beside you. Why?

Well … you might break the thing … you might scratch the back of the guitar … your playing style might be too rough for their floor model … it might be out of tune, and the floor rep could help you … the sales dude might need to “persuade” you that it sounds good …

And of course, the floor rep would need to remove that sign for you before you tested it out.

What’s going on here? This music store (like many others) is not focusing on customers. They are focusing on their stuff – their guitars, their drums, their merchandise. They want to make sure that merchandise isn’t damaged … maybe something bad happened once, and someone tripped while holding a guitar, and cracked it. But that’s certainly NOT the majority, is it? For the most part, they are actually damaging their business. Who wants to ask for assistance?

Guitar Center gets this. That has to be the noisiest music store I’ve ever visited. Why? Because they let you touch the merchandise. Grab a guitar off the wall, plug it into the largest amp you can find, and wail away. Go to the drum room, find some sticks, and try out that new Disturbed (yes, this is a rock bad) lick you just learned.

In the process, you get to test out the merchandise. And Guitar Center does a good job of pushing that merchandise (judging by the many large stores they have all over the US). It’s working for them.

Which leads me to my point – do we do this in libraries? Do we have processes in place that force customers to “ask for assistance” before they “test out the merchandise?” Some possibilities:

  • study rooms that you have to ask to use (or bathrooms, for that matter)
  • computers that are “locked down” so even simple things like USB drives don’t work on them
  • The reference section that can’t be checked out (even though those books aren’t used much)
  • A subscription service, like Overdrive, that’s there … but difficult enough to use that it turns customers away.
  • Or even good, useful services in your library that simply aren’t advertised (my library’s guilty of that – and we’re fixing it)?

How to fix this? Maybe start here – figure out the original reasoning behind the rule/policy. If it’s one of those “5 people did it so we’re punishing/protecting 100” types of rules … simply stop it. Right now. You should have other policies in place to fix those things (like a behavior policy, a check out policy, a computer use policy, etc).

My guess is that if you get rid of those types of policies and procedures, you will be well on your way to fixing your own “please ask for assistance” signs in your library.

pic by carpaccio

Community Discussion Guidelines for our Digital Branch

Remember my post from last summer about comments at my library’s website? Here’s a follow-up post to that earlier discussion.

Because of all those comments (some of which were mean, snarky and personal), we needed a good, fair, “official” way to deal with them. So I started poking around other websites with commenting policies and guidelines, and came up with a library version of commenting guidelines.

I ended up adapting ours from NPR’s Community Discussion Rules. Want to see a whole bunch of these? Check out  the Online Database of Social Media Policies – good stuff.

Our discussion guidelines are posted (via a link) beside the comment box on each page of our website. Here’s what it says:

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Community Discussion Guidelines:

Here are some guidelines to posting comments and content at Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library’s digital branch. The goal? To help you have fun!

We encourage comments:

  • We want to hear from you! Please post comments, questions, and other thoughts … as you think them. That’s what we’re here for.
  • Stay on Topic – stick to the subject and issues raised by the post, not the person who made it or others that commented on it
  • Think before you press the publish button. Remember that this is a public forum, and your words will be archived on this site and available for anyone to find for a long time – the web has a very long memory.
  • If you can’t be polite, don’t say it. Respect is the name of the game.  You must respect your fellow commenters.

Some Don’ts:

  • Don’t post copyrighted materials (articles, videos, audio, etc) that you do not have permission to reproduce or distribute.
  • Don’t post content that installs viruses, worms, malware, trojans, etc.
  • Don’t post content that is obscene, libelous, defamatory or hateful
  • Don’t post spam
  • Don’t post personal, real-life information such as home addresses and home phone numbers.

What will we do?

  • We’ll respond to comments, answer questions, and provide suggestions as appropriate.
  • Sometimes we’ll join a comment thread to help focus (or refocus) the discussion, or to get people talking.
  • If you break one of the guidelines above (or come close to it), we’ll email you and ask you to stop. We might also post a reminder to the discussion. If it continues, we will delete your comments and block you from posting.
  • We will remove any posts that are obviously commercial or otherwise spam-like.
  • We will remove content that puts us in legal jeopardy, such as potentially libelous or defamatory postings, or material posted in potential breach of copyright.
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Does your library or organization have similar policies or guidelines? Drop a link to them in the comments!