As I was reading through the projects coming to our upcoming Contact Summit in NYC next month, I was inspired by a few people who are reimagining what a library could be.

Library Turns Hackerspace

Perhaps you’ve heard the term hackerspace, or something along a similar vein, like makerspace, makerlab, or fab lab. Wikipedia defines it as

“a location where people with common interests, usually in computers, technology, science, or digital or electronic art can meet, socialise and/or collaborate. Hackerspaces can be viewed as open community labs incorporating elements of machine shops, workshops and/or studios where hackers can come together to share resources and knowledge to build and make things.”

I’ve only been to one such place while in Berlin last fall, called Open Design City. It was amazing to watch a beta launch tech event going on in one corner, while the other side of the room kept people busy with textiles, laser cutting, and arduino. After witnessing the growth of general coworking spaces around the world the past few years, this next level of co-production seemed to make sense.

How could we accelerate the rate of such hubs forming, where events, community, and DIY production collide? Where do you put them? Who funds them?

A few librarians in upstate New York have implemented some cool ideas to establish the library as the 21st century innovation lab:

1st Fabrication Lab in a public library

One project I’m excited to hear more about is being spearheaded by Lauren Britton Smedley, who’s working with Syracuse University and the Fayetteville Free Library to create the first Fabrication Lab in a public library. They’re currently in the process of writing grants and securing funding, with the ultimate goal to use technology as a catalyst to nurture and assist community/local innovation. Lauren explained her passion for pursuing this project:

“I believe that in order to realize the greater promise of social media it is necessary that the public understand how social media works, including at a technical level.  I think that by having more people with access to (and understanding of) this  information and technology, we can better promote new forms of culture, commerce, collective action and creativity. The public library is the perfect institution to connect these ideas with the public!”


The other project, LibraryFarm, is a collective farm on ½ acre of public land run on the model of a public library. Anyone can “check out” a plot of land for no cost, plant what you want, and do what you want with your harvest. The idea is to promote “food literacy,” and rediscover the knowledge and empowerment that comes with learning how to grow food. This project is being led by Meg Backus and Thomas Gokey, who taught the “Innovation in Public Libraries” grad seminar at Syracuse University that also led to the above fabrication lab project.

I love that these pioneers have rolled up their sleeves and are demonstrating their vision for the 21st century library – not just a room full of dusty books, but a continuous learning center that utilizes technology and information to help communities thrive and businesses grow!

Check out some of the other amazing initiatives that will be joining us at next month’s event.

It’s not too late to register – hope to see you there!