The hyperlinked environment is one in which space is made for connections to be made. What does this have to do with libraries? To begin, libraries have traditionally been repositories of knowledge and information. Often, public perception is that librarians know everything! They are the arbiters of everything.
What the internet has shown us is that this is an outdated model. Knowledge is for the people. To do with what they will. The arbiters and gatekeepers are becoming obsolete. If libraries keep operating under this old model, they, too, will become obsolete.
Technology has become an important tool for equalizing access to information and allowing a platform for all people to share information. Because of this, libraries are becoming increasingly technology-driven (Stephens, 2017). While it is not necessary to adopt every new technology available, it is important to be aware of emergent technologies and research how they are being used in various libraries. It’s important to become curious about them and how they might benefit your library and your users.
The Los Angeles Public Library has embraced technology with their Octavia Lab makerspace, which opened in June of 2019 (Roe, 2019). They have a 3D printer, various cutting machines (laser, silhouette, vinyl), a green screen, sewing machines, equipment to digitize various media (slides and negatives, floppy discs, VHS tapes, etc.), music recording equipment, and a virtual reality gaming console.
The Sacramento Public Library Makerspace, where I work, has been open since 2017 (Sacramento Public Library, 2019). And this is where I’m going to get real: it is not without its challenges. Over the past three years, we have seen an increase in usage of the space. However, it is difficult to have librarian-run programs (due to learning curves) and to staff the space (due to insufficient staffing). A tangential problem is that programs can become stale, because staff do not have the time to invest in expanding them. I am that staff person and intimately experience these problems. That being said, I do think they’re valuable, but perhaps makerspaces and libraries, in general, need to be rethought.
I like the idea of expanding the idea of makerspaces to collaborative community places or project-based spaces–or both! A place where you can meet and discuss and make. Where ideas can manifest. A place enlivened by community members, who are themselves valuable resources.
This is what has come to be known as the third place, a place for community and social gatherings outside of the home (first place) and work (second place). One such library that has embraced this new paradigm is The Bubbler in Madison, Wisconsin (Madison Public Library, 2019). The Bubbler has monthly artist residencies, where an artist is available weekly for two hours to talk with the community and engage in an artistic activity. The Bubbler has a Media Lab where patrons can explore digital media production. The Bubbler not only holds these amazing programs in their library, they have outreach at schools and for at-risk teens in the community. Their tagline is “Learn, Share, Create”. Although this sounds a lot like the makerspace concept, it also seems to work in partnership with the community more than a usual makerspace.
Another library experimenting with this third place concept is Dokk1 in Denmark (Dokk1, n.d.). Dokk1 is “…less focused on books and more focused on human needs, providing space for performances, meetings, children’s activities, art installations, and general public gatherings” (American Libraries Magazine, 2016, p. 4). In my opinion, the books are still important, but only in service of human needs. Additionally, this kind of concept needs to highlight the importance of librarians’ roles in this third place, otherwise, it is just an expensive cafe. Because of this, Dokk1 hires staff, not based on an LIS degree, but based on competencies (Stephens, 2016). Staff are expected to rove around the four spaces (learning, inspiration, performative, and meeting) and engage the patrons and facilitate learning. It is a dynamic environment that encourages an exchange of ideas and dialog. This sounds like a delightful library to work in and a delightful library to visit!
American Libraries Magazine. (2016). Moving beyond the “Third Place”. Retrieved from https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/blogs/the-scoop/library-design-moving-beyond-third-place/
Dokk1. (n.d.). Home. Retrieved from https://dokk1.dk/english
Madison Public Library. (2019). Bubbler. Retrieved from http://madisonbubbler.org/
Roe, M. (2019). LA Public Library’s New Maker Space/Studio Lets You 3D Print, Shoot On A Green Screen, And Way More. Retrieved from https://laist.com/2019/06/14/la_public_librarys_new_maker_spacestudio_lets_you_3d_print_shoot_on_a_green_screen_and_way_more.php?sfns=xmo
Sacramento Public Library. (2020). Makerspaces. Retrieved from https://www.saclibrary.org/Education/Tech-Creation/Makerspaces
Stephens, M. (2016). Dream. Explore. Experiment. Retrieved from https://www.libraryjournal.com/?detailStory=dream-explore-experiment-office-hours
Stephens, M. (2017). Adopt or adapt? Retrieved from https://www.libraryjournal.com/?detailStory=adopt-or-adapt-office-hours