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Monday, 3 June 2019


by Claudette Kercival Mukesh Kemrajh.

Of late, there has been tremendous interest in “makerspaces” and their potential in libraries: from school and public libraries to academic and special libraries, the topic seems very much the flavour of the moment. Makerspaces and varying new technologies are exciting services now being offered in libraries, particularly  academic libraries. However, as with all new ventures these come with their own challenges and successes. This initiative speaks not only to the reconfiguration of available space but also to the training of library staff to work collaboratively with faculty and the Information Technology sector of the university in sustaining this endeavour. It is essential that staffing models of the makerspaces are carefully examined before implementation. (H. Moorefield-Lang, 2015; Wong & Partridge, 2016)

Makerspaces encompass a continuum of activity that includes “co-working,” “hackerspace,” and “fab
lab”; the common thread running through each is a focus on making rather than merely consuming. It is important to note that although the terms are often incorrectly used as if they were synonymous, in practice they are very different: for example, a fab lab is about fabrication  (Colegrove, 2013).
The idea of having a place to make things isn’t new. Workshops, garages, studios, sewing rooms and backyards have long been spaces for making. The term makerspace though, has only been in use since the publication of Make magazine in 2005, and the subsequent launch of Maker Faire, an event that demonstrated the popularity of making and showcasing new technologie.
(Wong & Partridge, 2016).
University makerspaces are places where students and staff can learn new things, work with their peers, consider new ideas, explore, tinker, invent and make. According to Matthews (as cited in Filal, 2017), the future of libraries is about a user community engaging to create content and using it for “community building, connecting people, engaging students, assisting researchers, and advancing knowledge production”.
Recent trends in Librarianship point to themes of crafting, artisans, creators, and makers in library spaces.
One of these trends is the Maker Movement, which calls for the return of the artisans, creators and makers and for ways libraries can support these movements and entrepreneurs (Filar Williams & Folkman, 2017)
Libraries are on a never-ending continuum to get their users to the library and this makerspace initiative creates that impetus. So why have a makerspace? Whilst bringing together innovators, thinkers, and creators, these spaces critically require physical space, an integrated plan and all the necessary resources including staff and finances. This ‘fight or flight” state libraries face today, has libraries fighting to stay responsive to the ever-changing needs of its users.  (Fourie & Meyer, 2015)
Makerspaces provide an opportunity for libraries to build upon services they already offer while reaching out to students and faculty who do not frequent the library on a daily basis. By implementing a makerspace in the campus library, the space is seen as more neutral and approachable by students and staff from all academic departments. Broadly interpreting what a makerspace needs to be, allows institutions the opportunity to match the space to the specific needs of their student body, while leaving room for the space to change and grow over time. The smaller scale implementation of makerspaces and collaboration technology provide institutions with a testing ground for future trends and can encourage academic departments to independently adopt new instruction trends in the classroom. In addition to the services provided by the space, students benefit from the opportunity to participate in a more creative, kinesthetic style of learning that stimulates their decision-making skills.(Lee, 2017)
Plans are afoot at UKZN libraries to consider implementing “makerspaces” for collaborative research
and entrepreneurial efforts by students and academics.
Students or researchers trying to understand or make sense of a chemical model or novel protein strand are able to not only visualize and manipulate the subject on a two-dimensional screen, but to relatively quickly print a real-world model to be able to and tangibly explore the subject from all angles (Colegrove, 2013).

Individuals synthesizing knowledge across disciplinary boundaries are able to interact with members of communities of practice in a non-threatening environment; learning, developing and testing ideas, developing rapid prototypes in software or physical media, with the assistance of a librarian to resources and advice regarding intellectual property opportunities or concerns (Colegrove, 2013).

Depending on constraints and the available support, the library may also be well-served by forming collaborative ties with other local makerspaces; having local partners can dramatically improve the options available to the library in day-to-day practice, and better inform the library as it takes well-chosen incremental steps. With hackerspace/co-working/fab lab resources aligned with the traditional resources of the library, engagement with one can lead naturally to the other in an explosion of innovation and creativity  (Colegrove, 2013)
Where do librarians learn all of the skills that it takes to run a makerspace? What happens if a librarian doesn’t know how to fix a 3d printer? Where do they turn if they know nothing about laser cutting, knitting, making purses from books, or building worlds in virtual realities? Every librarian who started a makerspace asked themselves these questions, then found resources, peers, and online aids to get them started with their maker learning locations. Having an adventurous spirit can also help (Moorefield-Lang, 2015).

In order for libraries to transform and remain relevant, library management and staff must rethink the library culture as well as what job skills are needed to be successful in this maker environment. The willingness of staff to be open to changes is important, but the library environment or culture, along with the support for staff to gain the skills through informal or formal education, conferences, networking with others, and learning by doing, is a must. This openness to constant change, innovative ideas, and new knowledge will move libraries forward and better serve their communities (Filar Williams & Folkman, 2017).This initiative calls for a solid understanding of the library’s user community, the ability to collaborate, and to serve diverse people as each community’s needs are unique. (Koh & Abbas, 2015).

A challenge is the need to communicate that makerspaces are for all University patrons across disciplines not only for engineering students. Lee (2017), identifies additional challenges for makerspaces implementation. The first, is the cost, when technology and spaces are integrated. The second challenge is the actual separation of the space itself. For example, will someone have to give up part of their office space, or will certain departments need to be relocated? The third challenge is how the space will be governed and shared. A makerspace needs to reflect the needs of the students and be able to draw them into the space through their individual interests. The last challenge is the training of staff on new technologies in such a way that the new makerspace can be adequately staffed, with knowledgeable personnel who can facilitate learning. Initially, the makerspace will probably need to have limited hours for patrons, but as its popularity grows, so will the need to hire more staff and provide training.

Colegrove, P. T. (2013). Editorial board thoughts: Libraries as makerspace? Information Technology and Libraries, 32(1), 2. doi:10.6017/ital.v32i1.3793
Filar Williams, B., & Folkman, M. (2017). Librarians as makers. Journal of Library Administration, 57(1), 17-35.
Fourie, I., & Meyer, A. (2015). What to make of makerspaces: Tools and DIY only or is there an interconnected information resources space? Library Hi Tech, 33(4), 519-525. doi:10.1108/LHT-09-2015-0092
Koh, K., & Abbas, J. (2015). Competencies for Information professionals in learning labs and makerspaces. Journal of Education for Library and Information Science, 56(2), 114-129.
Lee, R. J. (2017). Campus-library collaboration with makerspaces. Public Services Quarterly, 13(2), 108-116.
Moorefield-Lang, H. (2015). Change in the making: Makerspaces and the ever-changing landscape of libraries. TechTrends, 59(3), 107-112.
Moorefield-Lang, H. M. (2015). User agreements and makerspaces: a content analysis. New Library World, 116(7/8), 358-368. doi:doi:10.1108/NLW-12-2014-0144

Wong, A., & Partridge, H. (2016). Making as learning: Makerspaces in universities. Australian Academic & Research Libraries, 47(3), 143-159.