What are Makerspaces?

The turn of the 21st century has signaled a shift in what types of skillsets have real, applicable value in a rapidly advancing world. The question of how to renovate or repurpose classrooms to address the needs of the future is being answered through the concept of makerspaces, or workshops that offer tools and the learning experiences needed to help people carry out their ideas. The driving force behind makerspaces is rooted in the maker movement, a following comprised of artists, tech enthusiasts, engineers, builders, tinkerers, and anyone else with a passion for making things. Makerspaces are intended to appeal to people of all ages, and are founded on openness to experiment, iterate, and create. In this landscape, creativity, design, and engineering are making their way to the forefront of educational considerations, as tools such as 3D printers, robotics, and 3D modeling web-based applications become accessible to more people. A recent addition to makerspaces has been the introduction of virtual reality (VR), which eliminates limitations to physical space by harnessing 3D imagery to simulate a 360 degree view of an environment; those on the cutting edge are anticipating the design of digital makerspaces equipped with VR. Proponents of makerspaces for education highlight the benefit of engaging learners in creative, higher-order problem solving through hands-on design, construction, and iteration.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to academic and research libraries?

  • Also in the academic space can the possibility to create have an impact. Sometimes there is a conflict of interest with other insitutions on campus (e.g. if there is a research group for 3D Printing) - patrick.danowski patrick.danowski
  • I agree - but this is also an opportunity for a cooperation with the other institution. - rudolf.mumenthaler rudolf.mumenthaler Nov 7, 2016
  • Makerspaces could be an excellent place to showcase and experiment with state of the art technology. Besides just delivering the technology a makerspace should give support with how to use the technology, give an overview of projects where the technology is being use and organise workshops and support projects with faculty to embed the experimentation and use of technology in curricula. - Laurents.Sesink Laurents.Sesink Nov 8, 2016 I agree, but I also think it's a place for students to teach their peers, and have seen this model at some institutions, including University of Michigan. - vacekrae vacekrae Oct 10, 2016
  • Libraries have a number of valid claims - they have always been a neutral space independent of any, but immersed in every, discipline. One of the key features of our work at Carnegie Mellon University is ensuring that our interdisciplinary, maker-based programs sit outside any academic college. The Library is the natural home both for programs and makerspaces. See for example ideate.cmu.edu and http://ideate.cmu.edu/about-ideate/facilities/ . Another argument is that libraries have always been home to 'making' - traditionally through writing but now additionally through making of tangible objects. - cmkeithw cmkeithw Nov 9, 2016

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • Recently have been reading and hearing more about makerspaces that include technologies that aren't exactly new, e.g.- sewing machines, and that these have proven very popular. In terms of diversity and inclusion, thinking of making beyond the narrow scope of 3D technologies or VR is critical. - askeyd askeyd Nov 2, 2016
  • Quite often libraries just try it out because it's a trendy topic. We made some studies and found out that most libraries don't have a clear idea of the goals and objects. To get a well founded service libraries should define didactical and other goals they want to achieve with a makerspace as a service. They should also measure the achievement. If you have clear ideas you are able to develop a service that will fit to the needs of the users. - rudolf.mumenthaler rudolf.mumenthaler Nov 7, 2016 Yes, add "technolust" to this for some - it's sexy to say the library has a makerspace. However, if there is a student driven need that focuses on spaces devoted to creation with various tools, I am all for it. - mstephens7 mstephens7 Nov 10, 2016
  • Makerspaces could be linked to Innovation Management. How to adapt innovative technologies to add value to new or existing services. - Laurents.Sesink Laurents.Sesink Nov 8, 2016
  • We are seeing makerspaces connect strongly with our focus on innovation and entrepreneurship. - cmkeithw cmkeithw Nov 9, 2016

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on academic and research libraries?

  • The machines and technologies in makerspaces require technical support that most libraries are ill-equipped to provide. - askeyd askeyd Nov 2, 2016 Agree, but not only lacking of technical support, also a lack of innovation management. - Laurents.Sesink Laurents.Sesink Nov 8, 2016
  • At our university we are running a project with mobile makerspace: we provide (small public) libraries with a box equipped with easy-to-use technology. So the library and the local librarians do not have to know all the technologies but they can nevertheless use it and organize workshops with kids. For academic libraries I could also imagine that there could be centre of competence that provide and test new technologies for others. So cooperation is the keyword also in this context. - rudolf.mumenthaler rudolf.mumenthaler Nov 7, 2016
  • Makerspaces require space, implicitly, and that carries (sometimes controversial) opportunity costs. What do we remove to free up the space needed? And we shouldn't underestimate the potential need for retrofitting to include an appropriate air handling facility. This was the biggest cost in building our large makerspace facilities.
  • - liusq liusq Nov 12, 2016Makerspaces require space,facilities and innovation management.Many libraries develop makerspaces as innovation services, but how many could support them well? it is a trend, but it will take times.

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?