In recent years, the number of library MakerSpaces have rapidly increased. These innovative, shared work spaces enable users to access the latest ‘maker’ technologies, enabling them to complete projects and attain skills that they could otherwise unlikely afford. To a large extent, they have transformed the image of public libraries, associating them more strongly with STEM development opportunities, and reinforcing their relevancy to the digital age.
In our last blog, we heard from Matt Soare from Hull Libraries on what's contributed to the success of the MakerSpace in their central library. Here we provide a summary of some of the key areas to focus on when setting up or developing these services:
- Consult a range of community partners early on to ensure wide input on what to include in the space
- Explore sources of funding with a bid for facilities that support the development and prospects of your local area: what does your region need? What local skills can you build on?
- Create a shared vision with colleagues and partners, bounce ideas and be prepared to try out new services
- Make sure you have enough planning time – it might well take longer than you envisage
- Establish what business model is going to work e.g. membership, session fee based, combination of both
- Staff the space with a team of ‘makers’ with diverse strengths, e.g. Hull recruited an artist, a 3D printing specialist, a mechanical engineering graduate, plus an all-rounder with multimedia and electronics experience
- Whether using paid staff or volunteers, make sure the space is powered by enthusiasm – this is what motivates members to attain new skills and try out new, creative projects
- Think about which resources might need their own quiet or sound-proofed space. What activities would work alongside each other? What’s too noisy or messy to be in the main space? It’s worth pilot testing the set up before you open your doors to the public
- Explore how support provided by the space can dovetail or cross pollinate with other library services e.g. product prototyping can lead to using the library's business support and intellectual property services
- Once up and running, continuously review new technologies that could give your services the edge; poll and listen to your users on new equipment and new ways to use the space
- Consider ongoing fundraising ideas and sourcing to be part of your team’s roles
- Be prepared for users to ask you for help with absolutely anything! The range of queries is likely to be even more diverse than usually encountered in the library
The above offers a concise list of areas to consider, plus there are other insightful case studies and further information available from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), including a list of Library MakerSpaces throughout the UK. CILIP has also just published an article on Warwickshire' Libraries new installations which includes useful information on how the spaces are incorporated within the refurbished libraries.
Noting also that there are some variations on the MakerSpace name, as seen from some of the recent new facilities introduced by our netloan library customers - with CreatorSpaces, FabLabs and Innovation Labs amongst them. However, they all have a similar purpose, to encourage STEM and entrepreneurship activity, with the equipment, technologies and essential skills support all provided within the space. Fortunately, MakerSpaces are an important part of the Government's digital strategy, so we hope to see more of them and that they continue to receive the funding, recognition and support they deserve.