How do you make a library into a place where people are in control of their learning?

Here’s an interesting post I found on Where is the Library Going?

How do you make a library into a place where people are in control of their learning?

There are people who may love to luxuriate in the library enjoying conventional library amenities, such as, computers, librarians, book cases, and quiet spaces (link).

However, on July 1, 1731, Benjamin Franklin and a number of his fellow members among the Junto met to found a library. This library became the Library Company of Philadelphia.  The Junto was a club for mutual improvement through debate on questions of moral, politics, and natural philosophy. “[R]ooms on the second floor of the newly finished west wing of the State House (now Independence Hall)… [housed the Library and its collections].  It was there that  Franklin and his associates performed their first experiments in electricity” during the 1740s (link).

Although Franklin and his associates did not refer to this as a makerspace, it appears that the Library had areas reserved for such a makerspace function.  Franklin created the first public library (link).

“Maker spaces in libraries are the latest step in the evolving debate over what public libraries’ core mission is or should be” (link).  Although, maker spaces are not required elements of a library, they are becoming, in some places, important elements of  libraries.   “Maker spaces have evolved from hackerspaces” (link).

“A hackerspace refers to a place or facility where individuals with similar interests gather together to work on projects”  (link).   Makerspaces have been defined by Make Magazine as a publicly-accessible place individuals with similar interests gather for creative activities  (link).   A library with 3-D printers and virtual reality equipment where people might meet to write books and/or create prototype of objects can be defined as a makerspace.

In my last post, I designed a virtual makerspace for my students.In some colleges and universities, for developmental track courses, there are lab technicians who oversee makerspaces that are located away from the library called learning labs (link).    Again, the librarian may also be called to oversee some of the makerspace activities programmed in the learning labs that were either programmed by the learning lab technicians and/or the librarian.  The librarian might develop a program where students would gain access to digital assets that would help the students in their learning of the material. This is where a librarian could also wear the hat of digital asset manager of software, animation, etc, where access and distribution would be their job.

In the business world, skunk works or business incubators, operate in a matter similar to makerspaces.  Each operate to enable engineers and /or entrepreneurs to be creative in an autonomous environment. A good example of a makerspace system in the library environment is shown by Pam Sandlian Smith at Tedx Mile High.  One definitive example is about a homeless boy.

Smith encountered a young boy, who at the time she did not know was homeless.  He asked her, “I have an idea.  I’d like to check out a room today.  I’d like to check out a room for the week as a matter of fact. I’ve been scoping the space out and you have a storyhour room you are not using and a puppet, a stage that doesn’t seem to be used; then I’d like to put together a puppet program for the kids and their families on Friday afternoon. What do you think?”  It seemed harmless enough and she agreed.

The boy gave a wonderful puppet show to a crowd of 30 (that included parents and their children).  He was “a star” that day.  After that show, he did not come back to the library until after several weeks later.  His father brought him to the library for his birthday.  He told the librarian that she would not see him anymore because he and his family were moving out of a homeless shelter into an apartment due to the fact that his father had gotten a job and they were moving away.

From the example of Benjamin Franklin’s library and the little boy, who had given a puppet show, there appears to be a place for maker spaces especially in the library.

I thank the libraries and librarians for evolving with the needs of the library user.    As a librarian, I can actually help library users find paper books or publish a paper book or hold a workshop on taxes. It is this type of evolution in the library that made me so proud to have received training as a librarian.

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