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Finally, Some Creativity at Libraries!

I for one am glad that some people are finally changing libraries so that people can be creative in them, because that’s never happened before in a library.

At least that’s what you’d think if you’d been reading about the latest alleged trend of creating “maker spaces” in libraries.

Check out this article falsely entitled Everyone’s a Maker at this Library Maker Space. Ahh, everyone’s a maker! And all their children are above average!

And why is this “maker space” such a wonder to behold?

Expanding on the notion that libraries are places to borrow books and media materials, library maker spaces can build community, encourage innovation and prompt a return to the vision of libraries as unrestricted hubs of information; with the information flowing both ways. The taking in of information is no longer enough; we must be able to then do something with that information, and here is where maker spaces shine.

That would be pretty darned cool if it was true. Haven’t libraries been “expanding on the notion that libraries are places to borrow books” for decades? Libraries might not be the heart of the community that some librarians claim, but they’ve pretty much always attempted to build some sort of community. And if anyone has ever read a book and then created something new – which I’m pretty sure has happened – then they’ve encouraged innovation as well.

And how exactly does creating a maker space “prompt a return to the vision of libraries as unrestricted hubs of information”?

I ask that in two senses. First, how does using a 3D printer to make a wrench connected to the library as a hub of information? And second, when did libraries stop promoting themselves as places to get unrestricted access to information? This is sort of a solution looking for a problem.

That line about the “taking in of information is no longer enough” and that now we must be able to do something with it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for libraries, either. What have people been doing with library books for 150 years except doing something with the information?

All the people who have read countless novels from libraries and then written their own weren’t doing something creative with the information? All the people who have read DIY books and learned to knit a sweater or fix a motorcycle weren’t doing something creative with the information?

This article sent in by a kind reader takes the maker space propaganda even further.

Libraries—by necessity—are evolving these days. They’re no longer just big rooms for storing and lending books. The local library is becoming a inspiration hub and innovation laboratory. Sitting quietly with a book? Sure, that still happens in libraries big and small, but increasingly, libraries are becoming dynamic workshop spaces for creative multimedia learning and doing.

Oh my, the old “this isn’t your grandparents’ library” routine. When was the last time libraries were “just big rooms for storing and lending books”? Can anyone living remember a time when libraries weren’t providing media or community programming of some kind? I get a little annoyed when people try to pitch some new idea by claiming it’s revolutionizing nonexistent libraries.

I also get annoyed at the journalistic genre of spotting nonexistent trends. “Increasingly, libraries are becoming dynamic workshop spaces for creative multimedia and doing.” Really? Can you name more examples than the two mentioned in the article? And how many public libraries out of the 16,000 or so in the country would have to do this before it really became a trend?

If libraries want to create maker spaces, great. If you want to pitch it as an extension of the creativity that libraries have always inspired, even better. But if you claim that it’s some new thing because it makes formerly drab, uncreative, storerooms for books, then you’re just wrong, and you’re doing no service to libraries.

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Comments

  1. tummytime says:

    I might have to rename the library printer/copier the Maker Space. That or the Eater Space since it’s fond of taking people’s money and not printing anything.

  2. Joneser says:

    There are makers . . . and then there are takers. Read into that whatever you want.

  3. gatoloco says:

    This is a fantastic way to teach technology, math, and science. I am very impressed. However the amount of time, energy, and expertise needed to administer this program is not small. Our firm has a model shop, with a CNC laser machine, and a whole lot of other machinery, we have not even taken the leap to 3d printing. The machine needed would be more expensive than the maker lab though. So in short, great idea, huge potential, but a program that may take a sneaky amount of time and energy to run.