Program Wrap-Up: What are makerspaces and how can they fit into your library?

Participatory spaces are popping at libraries across the country, following in the path of their more tech oriented cousin, the digital media lab. Offering courses and resources that appeal to the DIYer, makerspaces provide opportunities for all interests and skill levels, from papercrafting and needlework to basic engineering and robotics. Other participatory spaces give library patrons a true interactive experience, inviting them to create and edit alongside their community members.

At the last LACONI-TECH program, presented jointly with LACONI-RASS, we showcased three librarians who are bringing participatory spaces and programs into their libraries.

Monica Harris, Oak Park Public Library’s Customer Service Manager, discussed a bit of the theory behind creating participatory spaces in libraries and museums, and highlighted OPPL’s Idea Box as an example. After converting a former cafe space into a blank enclosed canvas, the Idea Box has been transforming itself monthly for over a year now, drawing in visitors to play, learn, share, and experience.

Monica Harris and OPPL's Idea Box

Monica Harris shows one iteration of the Idea Box

Ridgeway Burns, Outreach Librarian at Glen Ellyn Public Library, brought a MakerBot 3-D printer to show off to the crowd, demonstrating not only how it works, but how he offers both in library and outreach programs to involve the community. Ridgeway also fielded questions about the future of MakerBots and possible uses for them in various types of libraries and settings.

Steve Teeri, who braved the snow and drove in from the Detroit Public Library, is DPL’s HYPE Makerspace Conductor. Within their teen area, Steve and colleagues created a separate makerspace, offering crafting, bike repair, and Arduino robot classes. Steve discussed the importance of partnering with outside agencies when creating a makerspace, as well as tapping into the expertise of your community to help maintain it. Steve’s slides are available for viewing here.

Steve Teeri

Steve discusses the makerspace at Detroit Public Library.

Thank you to all of our speakers for a job well-done!

every day i'm hustlin'

Program Wrap-Up: Libraries as Creative Spaces

On April 20, the Laconi Technology Group organized an event at the Fountaindale Public Library to discuss ways of transforming the library into a creative space.

The first speaker was Karen McBride, currently the Public Information Manager of the Barrington Public Library, who talked about various ways to use a digital media lab to connect the library with the community. Creating content within the library for outside groups would help reinforce the connection between the library and available technology and services. Examples included: working with the Chamber of Commerce to create small, non-commercial videos highlighting local businesses; and working with a local historical society to digitize photos and other key ephemera related to the community’s history. McBride also stressed the importance of identifying interests and passions among the library’s staff members to encourage creation and use of the digital media lab across the board.

Second on the agenda was Paul Mills, director of the Fountaindale Public Library, who graciously hosted this event and opened his library to Laconi participants. Fountaindale is in the process of creating a digital media lab in the basement of their building, and Mills talked about the various items and technology that they were installing in their lab, including professional recording studio equipment and filming equipment. Also included in the discussion was how to involve staff in the building process — field trips to Fry’s, brainstorming signage solutions, etc.

Libraries as Creative Spaces

It’s a story those working in libraries have heard before: these are uncertain times for the library. The increasing popularity of eBooks and streaming movies online calls into question the traditional library model. Will people still want regular books? Will people still checkout DVDs?

I think we can all agree that, for the foreseeable future, the answers to those questions are the same: yes. However, there is no doubt that libraries as an institution have reached a point where a moment of introspection and analysis of purpose is needed. Instead of channeling our inner Chicken Littles, perhaps we should call on our inner Bob Dylans instead, because times definitely are a changin’.

Library innovators have long been discussing how to adjust and refocus the library to address patrons’ and communities’ changing needs. One that’s currently gaining ground is the library as creation space. The way to start? Creating a digital media lab!

Once only seen in academic libraries, digital media labs (DML) have been popping up in public libraries around the country. In northern Illinois, several DMLs are up and running, serving as creative spaces for patrons to make everything from a photo slideshow with music to a school project involving a green screen and advanced video editing. Here are a few Chicagoland DMLs that are working to transform the library into a creative space.

Skokie Public Library
The oldest of the bunch, Skokie started their DML in 2009 and offers four Apple workstations, video and sound equipment, and a large green screen wall for filming.

Barrington Area Library
The lab at BAL has a single workstation with dual monitors and offers online tutorials via Atomic Learning.

Ela Area Public Library
Two separate spaces are available offering filming, recording, and editing equipment.

Blue Island Public Library
Merging a huge studio space with their already formidable local history museum, Blue Island has created a unique space designed to encourage creativity among groups while still allowing for individual work.

Franklin Park Library
Versatile and equipped to meet users’ needs, the newest DML to join the group highlights freeware and encourages creativity.

Interested in learning more about DMLs? Register today for the Laconi Technology section’s upcoming program, Building a Digital Media Lab: Libraries as Creative Spaces, April 20 at Fountaindale Public Library District.

Carolyn Ciesla
Web Liaison
LACONI Technology