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Are Maker Spaces the Future of Public Libraries? 158

Posted by Soulskill
from the yes-please dept.
misterbarnacles writes "Shareable has an interview with librarian Lauren Britton Smedley from the Fayetteville Free Library, which is adding a Fab Lab to its community offerings. She said, 'I think that libraries are really centers for knowledge exchange, and a Fab Lab fits perfectly into something like that. This idea that libraries are a place where the books live, and you go to find a book, and that’s all it is, I think is really starting to shift. Libraries are a place for social transformation. They’re a place that you can go to get computer access, or access to technology that you can’t get anywhere else, and access to people. ... At the Fab Lab, the impetus behind the whole thing was to create a center for knowledge exchange where we’re not just offering Intro to Word or Intro to Excel — that we can offer Intro to Computer Programming, or Digital Fabrication — these skills that are really important in the STEM fields, and we can push that information out for free. And how do we do that? By getting people in the community who know that stuff to come in and share what they know.'"
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Are Maker Spaces the Future of Public Libraries?

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  • Money (Score:5, Insightful)

    by masternerdguy (2468142) on Monday November 21, 2011 @04:09PM (#38128000)
    Not with the budget cuts.
  • by ducomputergeek (595742) on Monday November 21, 2011 @04:10PM (#38128008)

    Libraries at their core are places where knowledge and learning could be shared. Why does that have to be limited to distribution via dead trees? I for one think this is a brilliant idea.

  • by dkleinsc (563838) on Monday November 21, 2011 @04:14PM (#38128054) Homepage

    I'm sure this is a useful program put together by well-meaning people. I'm reasonably certain that it's a net benefit for the patrons of the Fayetteville Free Library. But none of that remotely leads to the conclusion that "maker spaces" or "fab labs" are the future of public libraries. It just leads to the conclusion that it may be a program that's worth trying.

    My general rule, whenever a 'news' story has a question in the title, is that the answer to the question is almost always "No". For instance, "Steve Jobs revered as the Second Coming?" or "Can we improve web performance by using a product from some obscure tech company?".

  • by Myself (57572) on Monday November 21, 2011 @04:33PM (#38128280) Journal

    It's a valuable resource to a community, but so are parks and swimming pools. The library doesn't have those things attached to it, either, for obvious reasons of indoor air quality and such.

    For years, I've described i3 Detroit [i3detroit.com] specifically, and hackerspaces/makerspaces in general, as being "something like a library, but for beings with opposable thumbs in addition to eyes". Learning and making and tinkering is in our nature, and I think it enhances us as humans to exercise these abilities. The word "literacy" needs an analog for "skilled with tools and understanding of mechanical things", so we can talk about it.

    I think everyone should have access to such a space, just like access to a library. But should they be under the same roof? No, I don't think so. My personal feeling is that libraries as dead-tree collections are obsolete, and that we should not be talking about expansion, but complete conversion. Librarians are cool and library science is interesting, but paper artifacts don't need to live in every community. Let's take the spirit of learning and access and freedom, which libraries embody, and give it new life with the valuable things that every-day people don't have in their homes, like books once were.

  • Fab Lab? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by owlnation (858981) on Monday November 21, 2011 @04:48PM (#38128468)
    I'm all for redefining what a library is. I've always felt that libraries are potentially much more useful spaces than they are currently used for. The problem being that they are ultimately run by civil servants who are far from the most creative people on the planet. (They may even be the most uncreative people on the planet).

    However, let us not -- ever -- call these wonderful institutions, "makers spaces", or "fab labs", or any similar kind of retarded buzzword bullshit.

    There's a current global trend to turn museums into dumb infotainment centers for kids. Can we please not also make libraries the information centers for the new Idiocracy.

    By all means expand the boundaries of what a library is, but call it a library. If you are too fucking dumb to know what a library is, you should not even be in one.
  • by daath93 (1356187) on Monday November 21, 2011 @06:02PM (#38129506)

    You could easily have an excellent sci-fi collection of 54 books without having a single old, white male author among them.

    Yes, we should stop publishing white male authors until blacks and hispanics have decided they want to write sci-fi as much as white males. How far are we going to cary this farce of social injustice before we start to realize that blacks and hispanics are just interested in different crap than we are (on average)? Its not a CRIME to have different culteral priorities and interests.

  • by tlhIngan (30335) <slashdot AT worf DOT net> on Monday November 21, 2011 @06:38PM (#38129954)

    Like schools, libraries are have bought into the notion that their "mission" can't be accomplished without a social services component, because all members of the community have to be brought up to the same level.

    A library's mission is to promote the spreading of knowledge.

    Now, traditionally, say, just over a decade ago, this was done via books. Books of all kinds. Fiction counts too - even though they're read for enjoyment, that enjoyment may lead others to new conclusions. And nevermind the archives of newspapers and access to many journals of many fields.

    With the spread of the Internet, libraries had to become ISPs as well, because it's a vital source of knowledge. And a librarian is skilled enough to help knowledge-seekers decide if something on the Internet is possibly truthful. It's also why libraries try not to be judgemental, either.

    Many libraries also hold roundtables where authors and experts come in and give presentations - again, spreading knowledge. And the kid-reading-time helps inspire kids to seek out knowledge.

    A maker space is a good way to spread hands-on knowledge - the book on the shelf can do so much, now take that knowledge and apply it.

    A library's goal is to provide knowledge to those who seek it, regardless of means. They're often derided these days by people who think the internet is the be-all end-all of everything (usually by people of means who can buy the same books). Or perhaps by scared people of means who also want to keep the poor in their place - how dare they try to improve their lot and possibly compete.

Your own mileage may vary.

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