New/Old Makerspace: Emerging Technology Planning for a Special Collections Library

Goals/Objectives for Technology or Service:

Makerspaces provide library users with access to new innovative technologies that are hard for most people to be able to access. Libraries want “to make it easier for you to make stuff” (Roe, 2019). Considering the mandate of the Bruce Peel Special Collections library full or rare and artists’ books to preserve and conserve rare books for researchers to access (Bruce Peel Special Collections, n.d.), the preservation of how these books were made needs also to be considered. How can a Special Collections library fulfill the needs not just of scholars and researchers, but also those of book arts practitioners? What kinds of technology is hard for users to access? What would an appropriate Makerspace look like?

I propose that a Special Collections Makerspace should be a book printing workshop, with printing presses and book bindery machinery available for the book arts community to be able to use and to continue teach the traditions of book binding. “Makerspaces provide an opportunity for play” (Lotts, 2017, p. 350). Play is an important method for exploring ideas for artists of all levels. This machinery, while not necessarily the height of new technology, still is quite hard for most people to access. Presses are large, heavy mechanical machines that require a fair amount of work space and technical knowledge to operate.

“New technologies will not save your library” (Stephens, 2012, para. 4) and in this case, we have a rich history of available technology to choose from. The University of Alberta already has available equipment. There are several printing presses on permanent display in the atrium of Rutherford Library as well as a Printmaking department that could support a book arts workshop and bindery.

Description of Community you wish to engage:

I wish to engage the existing book arts community, researchers, students and aspiring practitioners with this book arts makerspace.

Action Brief Statement:

Convince Book Artists that by using the book arts workshop they will contribute to their own art practice integrated with book arts history and traditions which will enrich understanding and research of book arts practice because the creation process will be demystified and kept alive.

Evidence and Resources to support Technology or Service:

Fontichiaro, K. (2016). Sustaining a makerspace. Teacher Librarian 43(3), 39-41. Retrieved from

Kurti, R.S., Kurti, D., & Fleming, L. (2014). The Environment and Tools of Great Educational Makerspaces. Teacher Librarian, 42(1), 8–12. Retrieved from

Jennifer, N. (2016, November 16). Inside an independent book restorer’s studio | Conservation lab. Vice. Retrieved from

Letterpress Commons (n.d.-a). Acquiring a press. Retrieved from

Letterpress Commons (n.d.-b). Installing a press. Retrieved from

Lotts, Megan. (2017). Low-Cost High-Impact Makerspaces at the Rutgers University Art Library. Art Documentation: Journal of the Art Libraries Society of North America 36(2), 345-362. Doi: 10.7282/T3Q81H39 Retrieved from

Penn, J. (Producer). (2017, May 22). The Art and business of bookbinding with Lisa Van Pelt. The Creative Penn Podcast #322 [Audio Podcast]. Retrieved from

Slatter, D. & Howard, Z. (2013). A place to make, hack, and learn: Makerspaces in Australian public libraries. The Australian Library Journal, 62(4), 272-284, DOI: 10.1080/00049670.2013.853335

Mission, Guidelines, and Policy related to Technology or Service:

Policies would be set by library administration and could be adapted from those of existing makerspaces and Fine Arts studios on the University campus. I see this makerspace as being an opportunity to include the University’s Fine Arts department more directly with library spaces. Staff and Faculty from the Fine Arts Department could work in conjunction with Library Administration to solidify and define the Mission, Guidelines and Policies pertaining to this new Makerspace.

Funding Considerations for this Technology or Service: 

Though the technology that I’m proposing isn’t part of the bleeding edge, putting together a book printing and bindery takes a number of dedicated equipment that requires space and money to move, set up and maintain. Space would have to be found and likely renovated to provide a suitable home for a dedicated makerspace. Having a dedicated studio printing and bindery technician would be necessary as well as having staff available for workshops. A publishing company could be formed, and grant funding would be possible through organizations such as the Canada Council for the Arts. Supplemental funding through University donations could be another avenue for supplementary funding.

Action Steps & Timeline:

This is a large project and would require approval by the library director as well as the University administration before moving forward. As a large project, a considerable amount of planning would be required and likely some renovation of the chosen designated studio workshop space. It would be possible to start off the makerspace as a prototype in collaboration with the Printmaking department to start working with book artists and students to run book making workshops using existing campus spaces and technology. These kinds of workshops and events could also be used as a way to promote the future makerspace program.

If approved, I think starting prototype workshops could be developed and begin in January of 2020 and progress through the development and opening of the new dedicated makerspace. Evaluation of suitable spaces, sourcing necessary press, bindery equipment and tools, and planning of the space could take place in 2-3 months (until February 2020). That leaves 6 months to renovate and build the makerspace in time to open for the Fall 2020 semester.

Timeline for Fall 2020 Opening of the Book Arts Makerspace

Program approval by Administration: 8-10 weeks

Evaluation of possible locations: 2-3 weeks

Sourcing necessary equipment: 3-4 weeks

Hiring Makerspace staff: 4 weeks

Planning, designing makerspace Studio: 2 months

Renovate/Build space: 6 months

Move in equipment and materials: 2 weeks

Some of these tasks can be done concurrently such as the hiring process for the technician alongside evaluating and planning the design of the space.

Staffing Considerations for this Technology or Service: 

As this is a large project it would require dedicated staff in the form of a studio printing and binding technician as well as a librarian focused on developing workshops and to assist training other staff within the department. Existing staff could be trained to support Makerspace activities create lists of Special Collections materials to support and inspire book artist creativity.

Creating a Book Artist residency program and Student Internship positions could help supplement the work of Makerspace staff. The residency could include part time support of programs and workshops related to the artist’s portfolio. Student interns with knowledge in printmaking and book binding techniques could additional support and learn as apprentices with the Book Artist resident and Makerspace staff.

Training for this Technology or Service:  

The success of this Makerspace program would require experienced staff support. Though this is a new initiative, having a studio technician that is experienced with printmaking and book binding techniques would be essential. It would be helpful for the Makerspace Librarian to be experienced in working with Fine Arts initiatives as well as developing Makerspace programs and workshops.

These experienced staff could work together to help guide and train existing library staff to be able to support possible research inquiries by Makerspace users. Once a residency and student internship programs are established, it would be possible for exchange of information between interns, resident, Makerspace and library staff. Student interns would benefit from overlapping by a month or so to be able to train their replacements. Supplemental training would be possible from the Makerspace Technician.

Promotion & Marketing for this Technology or Service: 

As mentioned previously, through prototype programs using existing Printmaking spaces would allow for the University’s Fine Arts community to become familiar with the upcoming Makerspace and future book making related programming. The University’s Fine Arts Department has existing exhibition spaces and tradition of hosting guest lectures and Bruce Peel Special Collections also has dedicated exhibits that they hold on a regular basis. It would be possible to hold collaborative exhibits and guest lectures to support and promote the work of the Makerspace within the campus community.

Hosting resident book artists would promote the program within the book artist community as well as creating a supportive program for the production of books. Such a program would likely become a popular role for book artists to participate in and through word of mouth would become promoted through the small press book community.

The University could further promote the program through Alumni and Donor newsletters and publications featuring profiles of resident artists, student interns, upcoming workshops, guest lectures and exhibits.

Having a dedicated Makerspace would also require a web presence where upcoming events and workshops would be promoted and archived for future reference. Digital collections of produced books could be showcased online and become a part of the library’s collection.


(What benchmarks and performance metrics will you use to evaluate the technology or service.  What stories are you envisioning telling about it? How might you expand the service in the future?)

Measuring the success of the Makerspace would involve analyzing how the space gets used, demand for use of the space and attendance of workshops, lectures and programs. Keeping a digital record of residents, student interns and the body of work produced in the space would serve as future promotional and research materials for other library users and a resource for the book arts community.

These stories could be further highlighted and featured on social media posts by the library. It would be great to feature “behind the scenes” glances of a working book artist’s practice through media such as Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.

A successful Book Arts Makerspace program could provide a model for other Makerspaces to integrate and support other creative communities even within the University of Alberta community. It would be useful for the University of Alberta’s MLIS students to have access to an alternative model of a Makerspace and could provide future internship opportunities to support the role of the Makerspace Librarian along with those of the Bruce Peel Special Collections.


Bruce Peel Special Collections (n.d.). About Bruce Peel Special Collections. Retrieved from

Lotts, M. (2017). Low-cost high-impact makerspaces at the Rutgers University Art Library. Art Documentation: Journal of the Art Libraries Society of North America 36(2), 345-362. Retrieved from Doi: 10.7282/T3Q81H39

Roe, M. (2019, June 14). LA public library’s new maker space/studio lets you 3D print, shoot on a green screen, and way more [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Stephens, M. (2012, May 30). Taming technolust: Ten steps for planning in a 2.0 world. Tame The Web. Retrieved from


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