A Few Additional Makerspace Resources – A Beginner’s Guide

Since this is my last chance to post here for the semester, I want to take the time to be a little less verbose, and instead show everyone some of the places I’ve been in my digital travels in this class. It’s been a blast of a journey, and I want to be able to share all I can. I believe in the power of engaged, self-directed, hands-on learning. It opens up something inside you. You feel powerful when you have the option to learn about something you are personally invested in, and it makes you want to learn more. A National Geographic article says it well:

“These [places], full of various raw materials and tools for students’ experimentation, promote innovation through play. They also provide safe places for students to take risks, experiment, and learn through trying (a.k.a. “fail”).”

Information and knowledge is like a web—nothing in this world exists in a void. Everything is connected. And the more you know, the more you realize there is to know. Makerspaces facilitate that kind of learning, and hopefully engage any who want to take those steps. It’s a personally guided tour to discovery, and that is something worth pursuing.

In this class, I’ve seen the value of personal ownership in learning and how transformative that can be. And I loved the level of engagement we had and the different perspectives  throughout the semester from my colleagues. Factoring in gender and ethnic barriers was something I am passionate about, but had not considered until another student had brought that up, but is now certainly on my horizon. I loved making my chainmail. It may still be fresh in my mind, but that one did stand out. I loved seeing what other people created (though I think pictures should be a requirement. I really wanted to see what everyone else had made!). I think I took a stance against the $11,000 “beginner’s makerspace” article the most, and oddly, even though it wasn’t required text but was quoted by others frequently, the “I am not a maker article” simply for the gap of logic given that “making” required something physical. A really interesting perspective that I don’t think was pursued enough was how to evaluate the “success” of a makerspace, and like the innovated thinking required in implementing such a space, if our evaluative practices must also undergo a paradigm shift to see a deeper, broader world out there (like the girl “chatting” and “updating” facebook was dismissed as using the space, when in fact, I argue, she was). A look at how to be inclusive and reach out/welcome as many constituents as possible would have also been nice, so that we aren’t unintentionally catering to a certain demographic while excluding others.

 

But onto the list! Here are some of the little gems I’ve found along the way throughout this course.
 

 

 

A Kids/Beginner’s Makerspace – on the cheap and highly versatile

 

A basic step up (in price and technology) in Creating a Mini Makerspace, from Scholastic

 

An awesome list from the Colorado State Library’s Library and Creation Learning Centers on Digitial Creation Software, much of which is absolutely free (no joke).

 

The Library as Incubator Project – Ideas, community, collaboration.

 

Create – a makerspace listserv.

 

MakerBridge –“ a community for those interested in the maker movement, especially in schools and libraries.”

 

ALA Webinar of Makerspaces: A New Wave of Library Services—Westport (CT) Public Library

 

A real proposal of how one library system is going forward in makerspaces

 

A useful list of tips to starting a makerspace in a school (or libraries)

 

No room for a permanent makerspace? Or maybe you don’t have enough believers? What about a cheap pop-up makerspace?

 

More tips on how to make the most of the maker movement

 

A few neat, practical ideas from the Tinkering Studio

A Great Library Program – How To Make Chainmail

For my “maker” project this week, I decided to do something I’ve wanted to for years – make chainmail. It turns out it has a low learning curve, very few tools required, and the material is easily obtainable and surprisingly cheap. Thus is born a near-perfect library program idea that is both affordable and can be adapted to a historical, teen, maker, cosplay/anime/larping/comic con audience. Very versatile, very cheap, very safe. So instead of a regular post, I made a tutorial video for you guys!

😀

Failure Isn’t Even An Option – It’s Part of the Equation

Apparently it’s time for me to go back to movie quote land. First stop is straight back to Meet the Robinsons.

Watch the whole scene. It’s totally worth it. There’s a million and a half reasons why this is one of my favorite movies of all time, and this is one of them. Lewis’ expression nails it when he fails. It expresses so much grief and frustration and embarrassment, which are emotional states largely imposed on us by society. You see, it is bad to fail. Failing is bad. It means you weren’t good enough to get it right the first time. This is such a bad line of thinking that it is debilitating some of our best learners (of any age). People don’t want to be perceived badly. They want to excel. But it is critical to place “failing” into a better context. It’s an integral part of process, not an obstacle or limitation or anything negative. If anything it is natural and should be celebrated.

 

There are so many quotes that touch on the subject. Another favorite:

You only fail when you give up.

and a Japanese proverb

Fall down seven times, stand up eight.

 

And then we can ask Batman for our next movie quote.

Now, I believe this “failure culture” needs to be within the bounds of a structured enough environment (with instruction and help—as the learner needs. Needs. Key here. Not wants) so that they do not fall endlessly down a bottomless hole of despair and frustration. But a scraped knee never hurt anyone in the pursuit of personal discovery. And often, I believe, they will learn something deeper and better than through instruction alone, and learn something about themselves in the process.

Raw Data, Please… Also, How to Make a Real Budget Makerspace

Now this week excited me, because the reading focused on many aspects of practical application for makerspaces in libraries. Which naturally makes me quite giddy. The School Library Journal’s article even broke down and gave some statistics of how their digital media lab was implemented by patrons (over 1,200 uses in one year). They even pointed out how this did not reflect actual patrons usage since many times projects would include groups of people. The only detractor in this analysis was it provided no context to how many patrons visit the Skokie Public Library in a year by comparison. Other useful breakdowns would have included ages, gender, a ranking of most utilized digital assets, length of time spent per session, if/how many repeat visitors to the space there were, even a diversity breakdown, if possible. These would be immensely useful in evaluating whether a comparative or equivalent potential demographic existed in our own communities.

One other slightly disheartening thing I noticed in this article before I go on to my squee-fest in the other articles was the mention of “as much through trial and error as with intention” in discovering what has worked and what has not. Not only do I wish they would have stated some of the failings (especially the ones that came as a surprise, especially when they looked so good on paper—which is the stage where I am at now), but also wished they would have reflected a bit more on how they were planning on proceeding into the future, and what they might have done differently with the valuable hindsight they now have. But I do also know that each experience is different and a valuable part of the learning process.

BUT! Onto other things!

To add to Make Magazine’s article on kickstarting a kid’s makerspace (where I am still dubious as to how “kickstart” with the implication of “grassroots” and “basic” come into play combine with such high-tech droolies as a laser cutter and milling machine with kids. In fact, outside of the $35/year subscription to their magazine plug, the cheapest item listed was $90, with the average being between $100-$2,000. Not exactly the grassroots cheap, in my mind. Though I am glad they mention it is for schools and give a quite appealing breakdown for fundraising). SO! I found a much cooler (and far more affordable kid’s starting makerspace, that could easily be adapted to a library setting on a budget. From Scholastic – Creating a Mini Makerspace. Annnnd here’s a cool home makerspace from Instructables. Love the idea about cardboard and painter’s tape!

Mini Maker Space 1

Because that is what I like about makerspaces. They are creative. They are inventive. They are adaptive, even in their own execution, they ask for creativity. And I say to that – rock on!

For Things to Take Root, You Have To Dig Deep

Of the readings this week, two stood out to me, A Co-Creation Primer and Collaboration for Hard Times, which both blended and begged the question of me: is this specifically with participatory learning environments/makerspaces in mind or other, general “collaborative” projects? For example, the Library Journal article asks us to remember to have a specific end-goal in mind. Yet something like a makerspace is a constantly evolving and creative undertaking, very adaptive to the needs and desires of the users to utilize it, so where would its “end goal” be?

I feel like this week’s reading is more on the overarching theme of “innovative practices” as a whole. Because we honestly do need to adapt and evolve to keep up with the changing pace of society and how they seek information, and each other. I feel that a library serves those two purposes in equal measure. We facilitate the gathering of knowledge and entertainment, and where people can connect. I think identifying what a library is, and what it means to the people who work there, go there, and might go there but just don’t realize what it can be, is crucial in helping us see how to best focus our efforts and make initiatives to evolve to meet those goals.

One thing I did like about the two articles was the talk of commitment and going in for “the long haul.” Both mentioned it in one way or another, either by “nurturing relationships” or having a “wholehearted commitment” to a partnership/goal/initiative, etc. I think this is key. Just like the stock market, it takes a lot of risk to get the greatest return on investment. Savings bonds and the steady, constants of “the way we’ve always done things” just won’t cut it. Rarely, if anyone, got rich off of savings bonds. But to really take that risk, you have to be absolutely committed to that change. You have to be willing to ride out the ups and the downs and not jump ship at the first flinching change in the DOW. It takes years of faithfulness, belief, and work in that partnership/idea to see its true potential bear fruit. It’s just like a marriage. That commitment yields far greater rewards than a fickle romance. You have to dig deep for things to take root.

Tree_roots_cross_section

Two “Conflicting” Ideas Can Coincide. It’s Like Salt and Sweet. Totally Works.

I am very much about making the library feel as inclusionary a place as possible. I feel very strongly that a library can represent all of the best ideals of any society. It can (and should be, in my opinion) a gathering place of the community, a safe place where it can be a haven, and a place of limitless potential, where information is available to everyone, to grow according to their own will and desire, never forced, so something beautiful of personal drive and motivation rest there as well. But it is available for them to do tap into the potential within themselves to become whatever they want. It is a powerfully beautiful thing to me, and that is why I’ve chosen this vocation above higher pay grades and “better” opportunities. Because for me, the best is already right here. Just not perhaps in monetary means.

In reading ALA’s “Future of Library Trends” I saw many things of great promise. Using technology to reach distant patrons was especially encouraging via means of drones, internet access, etc. But there were two particular subjects that stood out to me (beyond the distinct lack of diversity anywhere in any of these sections. This bothered me greatly with the focus on all these great other advances).

The first was for the age demographic of “early adulthood” – from the late teens to thirty years old. I actually happen to fall into this demographic and while I’ve “graduated” from much of the criteria, it did make me think about my own age group and how we interact with the library and how to engage them more. Because unless they have kids, I don’t often see the library being a social place for any of my age peers. It is for homework or pleasure reading, or for someone they care for. All of these are wonderful pursuits, but with the level of technology and connectivity available to us nowadays, I am wondering if we are missing the boat somewhere in a missed opportunity here. Here again is where I would love to see some raw data on makerspaces and who is using them and how. All groups are social creatures, and I know I would love a social environment for myself and my peers. This is making me want to talk with my boss, who is actually heading a committee to try and attract this particular demographic quite badly.

The other subject was the “unplugged” one. Despite my extreme love of the potential of makerspaces and their capability for learning, I crave a place for reflection, too. It became quite a fun and impassioned exchange on my graduate classroom forum where we discussed the powerful need for balance. There should be a place, a separate space, that can be used simply for meditation, reading, and reflection. Because in a world of constant communication, that might be one of the most desired and in-demand commodities simply for the fact that it is so rare. I recently went on a camping trip was was stunned to almost staggering back (yes, literally) at the pure silence that surrounded me. I am craving it so much, even right now, that I would gladly take the hard, rocky ground and campfire smell and lack of running water or latrines to hear that kind of silence again. As I type I can hear the quiet, high-pitched whine of at least half a dozen electronic devices that have become so constant it is as close to silence as most of us perceive. I love the sociability of libraries, but there is also a very real need for some space to exist as a respite of the world. Even just a place where you can hear yourself think again. And yes, they can both coexist quite happily with one another. It doesn’t have to be one or the other.

reading nook

More Questions Than Answers This Time…

This is a more introspective post than I’d originally intended or even imagined. I guess even an orangutan gets stumped sometimes.

You see, the New York Times had an interesting article about the changing landscape of museums and libraries evolving into more interactive spaces. With this being the buzzwords of the day, it was strange (albeit refreshing) to take a different stance on the matter. In it, Judith Dobrzynski raises a voice of concern that with the preoccupation of “hands on,” “participation,” and “experiences” that these venues are losing not only their uniqueness, but a certain quality of reflection once though inherent with them.

Now this is very interesting thought to me, because I value going to an art museum to soak up the beauty (even the majesty) of works that have outlived ages. It is like reaching back into history itself and seeing a piece of, if not your soul, then someone else’s. It is a very reverent, almost sacred experience at times to me. Likewise I have loved the hushed atmosphere of wandering through a museum and quietly reading each of the plaques in turn, taking that information to become a part of myself. And libraries… there is a beauty in silence sometimes, especially in such a loud world, it can become one of the most precious of commodities that I yearn for earnestly.

Yet in the very same breath, there is no denying the appeal of learning and interacting in a nitty-gritty, get down in the dirt and your hands dirty kind of way. And with so many options available, one almost has to wonder – what choice do these places have? People want it, so it seems to be “adapt or die” mentality. The article even mentions the Las Vegas Art Museum, though, while not officially closed, is shut down with a very limited collection offered in a different venue out on a rotating basis. Why go to a museum when you have the strip in flashing neon lights everywhere? Can these places really bow to the desires (even needs) of a seemingly dwindling demographic that cherishes reflection over boisterous interaction? Is it possible to marry these two ideas together somehow?

I am hardcore in love with the idea of tactile, sensory learning and becoming enmeshed in the world through interactive exploration, so it is strange for me to feel reservations at the potential loss of something I myself treasure. It really does make me wonder if they can somehow exist harmoniously. Can there be the renowned lecturer alongside the grassroots conversation forums? Can there be quiet in tandem with screaming children in an interactive art exhibit? I have to believe there is a balance that can be struck so that the best of both worlds can be achieved. Because I don’t believe these places are losing their identity, but rather adapting to it. But those qualities are special and shouldn’t be thrown aside because there is something new and shiny in front of us right now. It is a perplexing problem, but one that deserves careful consideration and reflection. So, to the library, then? Oh, wait…