The Sunday Scoop: Makerspaces and Academic Libraries

Should the workshop materials for art and architecture students stay in the studio? Or should we make space in the library for collaborative and multidisciplinary creative work? What do you think, arlisnappers?

Makerspaces are popping up in many public and school libraries, and are changing the way people see the library. Also known as fablabs, hackerspaces, and techshops, these creative community workshops offer tools, materials, and technology such as 3D printing, video editing software, bookbinding machines, and more. This trend to include the creative arts in libraries is supported by programs such as the Library as Incubator Project, who encourage collaborations between libraries and artists.

So, how does this concept fit in with art and design institutions? In academic libraries, a makerspace can encourage an increase in cross-faculty collaboration, as these work spaces attract students from many disciplines. For art, architecture and design students, spaces such as these could provide them with new creative outlets and expose them to the work of students from other faculties. Technology such as 3D printers and laser cutters that may only be available in certain faculties could become useful resources for these students.

Though academic libraries have been slower to embrace makerspaces, this is starting to change. Campuswide 3D printing has often been the first step in this evolution. The first academic library in the US to offer 3D printing to all students was the DeLaMare Science and Engineering Library at the University of Nevada, which was installed in July of 2012(1). After finding that most library patrons accessed journal articles online, while print copies were taking up valuable space, it was decided that low-use items would be stored in a warehouse to make room for this creative space(2). With whiteboard-painted walls, the space attracts a larger crowd than it previously did: hourly head counts have gone from a maximum of 24 pre-renovations, to now averaging more than 200(2).

The 3D Printer at the DeLaMare Science and Technology Library, University of Nevada, Reno.
The 3D Printer at the DeLaMare Science and Technology Library, University of Nevada, Reno.
Creative Commons licensed image via DSTL UNR.

The University of Michigan’s 3D Lab is another prime example. Located in their Digital Media Commons, the 3D printers and scanners attract students from a range of disciplines. Some examples of its use by design students include making prototypes for shoe designs and iPhone cases with retractable headphones. John Marshall, an assistant professor at the School of Art & Design, regularly uses this technology to create parts for his art, such as THR_33 (Tea House for Robots).

Clearly, there is a great potential for innovation with this concept. My question for you is, how do you think areas such as makerspaces would be best implemented in relation to academic art and design libraries? Would you like to see a similar space in an art library, and which tools would you include? Or do you think makerspaces would be best located outside the library?

We would love to hear your experience with creative spaces in academic libraries. Share your story in the comments below, or on our facebook post.

Interested in learning more about makerspaces? Check out these links:

Libraries & Maker Culture: A Resource Guide: http://library-maker-culture.weebly.com/index.html

Listing of Maker Community Groups: http://archive.makezine.com/groups/

7 Things You Should Know About Makerspaces: http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7095.pdf

Cited Sources:

(1) Wolterbeek, M. “DeLaMare Science and Engineering Library first in nation to offer 3D printing campuswide.” Nevada Today. http://www.unr.edu/nevada-today/news/2012/3d-copier

(2) Good, Travis. (2013). Three Makerspace Models That Work. American Libraries Magazine, January/February. Retrieved from http://www.americanlibrariesmagazine.org/article/manufacturing-makerspaces

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *