Facilitating community #makerspaces

Whereas #makerspaces may have been more prevalent in previous generations, with folks making the time to tinker in backyard sheds & garages across New Zealand, with the change in modern living arrangements & geographically dispersed family units, there’s often a lack of opportunity & ready access to space, tools, knowledge. Tinkering about with computers & technology may also have possibly replaced some of the backyard tinkering to make “things”, again this might be a reflection also of shrinking modern living spaces.

The growth in communal #makerspaces interests me, the mantra of working smarter, not harder. Sharing tools, sharing space, sharing knowledge, sharing ideas. Instead of relying on neighbours, friends or family members to have specific knowledge to pass on, we’re opening up to the concept of creating shared spaces, where anyone (strangers as well as friends) can contribute to the group experience & knowledge, and where we all take collective responsibility to contribute to the learning & teaching experiences of the group.

Earlier this year, I watched a Campbell Live clip of The Men’s Shed working with the local council to offer a holiday program, where groups of kids get to experiment with tools & make things, sharing the knowledge of the “old guys” with the new generation of kids, many who might never have seen a drill or a lathe, let alone, a full carpenter’s workshop. In this school holiday program, they made musical instruments for an orchestra, and previously they’ve made go-karts & rafts.

In the same way that urban community gardening, in the form of shared allotments, guerilla gardens &/or community plots, has taken off in the past decade, with public campaigns from people like Hugh Fearnley-Whittingsall to encourage shared land projects and the Hand over a Hundy projects across New Zealand, the growth of the #makerspace movement in the past decade is tapping into knowledge that might not otherwise be shown value – the knowledge of tinkering with stuff, to break stuff, to fix stuff, to hack stuff, to make stuff better or different. Instead of being satisfied with instant stuff, there’s a growing undercurrent of folks wanting to know how modern things work, so that they can improve it, tweak it, change it, reinvent it, re-purpose it.

So what’s this all got to do with libraries?

Libraries have always been haven for folks wanting to know stuff. People could delve into books, and latterly a plethora of e-resouces, then go home to work out how to fix, make, break, change stuff – increasing their understanding of how stuff works.

It got me thinking about how libraries don’t necessarily need to be the ones providing the space, and doing all the work to make it happen, but that as librarians & libraries, we can be the access point/the liaison/the facilitator for these types of shared physical #makerspaces with external orgnisations, fully engaging with all different parts of our communities.

I see #makerspaces as a great opportunity for libraries to be involved in a variety of ways – from actively creating #makerspaces within our library spaces, to encouraging customers to engage with existing #makerspaces (Auckland’s Tangleball & Wellington’s Makerspace), to partnering up with external organisation(s) to develop a shared #makerspaces. At the very least, libraries need to be the place in their communities that knows what communal makerspaces exist, to point folks to the #makerspace that best suits their needs.


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