Maker Faire KC 2012 and what it means for libraries

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Maker Faire KC 2012 Slideshow from Northeast Kansas Library System on Vimeo.

Maker spaces (or hacker spaces), maker programs, maker collections, maker events, and maker faires are beginning to become more widely acknowledged. I had heard about them many times, at DML 2012 in San Francisco (where I learned about Pittsburgh, PA’s MAKE SHOP at the Children’s Museum), in articles about libraries embracing this maker culture, including Fayetteville Free Library’s Fab Lab, and in conversations at work and with colleagues. Lifehacker has been a go-to resource for years!

I somewhat grasped the Maker movement’s possible potential upon libraries, but until Liz Rea, her son, and I attended the Kansas City Maker Faire 2012 at Union Station, I didn’t completely “get it.”

Now I do. (see the end of this post for more videos from the day)

As I texted a friend, this maker culture “screams” for libraries to be present. Libraries have the resources available for people to access (quilting stencils, knitting books, woodworking, car repair manuals?), libraries already provide some programming around the maker culture (altered books, knitting clubs, candlemaking, duct tape), and in many cases, we have areas that these people can use to meet and create. One library has gone as far as housing a hacker space on site!

What did we see in KC?

Robotics. Food. Woodworking. Crafting. Knitting. Literally making objects with a 3D printer. Costuming. Cardboard. Legos. Battery-operated lawn mowers, run by drill batteries. Touch screen light walls. Duct tape. Sand. Music. Electricity. Metal. Gardening. Anything can be made with anything.

3D printing is one of the “hottest” parts/harder to understand part of the maker culture. Librarian Jason Griffey interviewed the MakerBot CEO in January about 3D printing and libraries (MakerBot is a 3D printer company.) Jay Leno uses a 3D Printer to make “new” car parts for his “old” car!

Want to gain an understanding of the real-life potential of 3D printing? Watch this TEDx talk on possible 3D printing use in medicine.

People want to make things, but in many cases, don’t have the garages to build out of anymore or the workshops to use. They may not have the money to buy the tools or access to people who “Know” what they’re trying to make. Libraries can connect these people together. People want to tinker, learn, make things themselves.

Makers also want to be able to display or show off their work — libraries could also provide space for community members to show off their work — I’m sure many are already doing this!

What excites me greatly about this idea of the maker culture intersecting with libraries is beginning to rethink what learning is and how people learn. John Seely Brown and Douglas Thomas published a book in 2011, A New Culture of Learning, that examines how learning is changing, especially in classrooms. John Seely Brown was interviewed last month at a Maker Faire in San Mateo, CA about this idea of tinkering and DIY culture. Brown’s longer keynote at DML 2012 on Cultivating the Entrepreneurial Learner in the 21st Century expands on these ideas.

Before sharing several videos and a slideshow from the day, here’s one other video to watch, a talk given by Ann Marie Thomas, PhD at the KC Maker Faire, on the Maker Education initiative. In the talk, she mentions libraries as potential partners.

I am very interested in watching what comes of this Maker movement and how libraries can become involved, whether it’s giving space to a group, providing time for programs by makers and creators, letting them lead classes for the library’s community, housing makers’ work in displays, hosting sets of materials to “make” things with, a 3D printer, sponsoring a robotics competition or team, or ideas not even created today!

Here’s a video slideshow from several videos I “shot” at the Maker Faire during a robot-shooting-basketballs competition for high school students (4 videos), a touch screen lights display (its dark and hard to see the people, but the real action is on the wall), model roller coasters from Worlds of Fun, a paper tube rocket launcher, some sort of Middle Earth fighting sequence (?), and 4 videos from the group Arc Attack — you have to see this group to believe it!

Thanks to Liz and her son for letting me tag along and for her ideas around this topic. She’s gotten many of us excited at NEKLS about the Maker movement’s impact upon libraries. 

[Added 6/28: Buffy Hamilton has also posted about Maker Spaces, participatory learning, and libraries]

About the Author

Heather Braum Heather Braum is the NExpress Coordinator and Resource Sharing Librarian at NEKLS. She can be reached by phone, by email (hbraum (at) nekls.org), or through several online chat services (look Heather up by her email address). Visit the Staff page to learn more about when to contact Heather.