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!
Pingback: Are Libraries the Hackerspaces of the Future? « emergent by design | Themewell source for learning to design and code
Great topic, Venessa. I first learned about (Tokyo) Hackerspace when we had a set of table and chairs to give away and put it on (Tokyo) Freecycle. Saw he space and was intrigued. Hacking and soldering electronics in the past I had done mostly alone, and here was a vibrant community who made things and appreciated the donation. Hackerspaces are part of the leading edge of ending globalization, and their innovative ways of manufacturing without molds brings back precision work to our own societies at prices outcompeting labor in China, e.g. for dental work.
If you have an hour, be inspired by Gunter Pauli http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rvqFKw_Ze_k&t=1m41s
Anne Marie Madziak said:
As a librarian who works as a public library consultant in southwestern Ontario, I would answer your rhetorical question with a resounding YES! I have to admit to being unfamiliar with the term ‘hackerspace’ until reading your blog, but am deeply familiar with the concept and believe it a natural extension of the community engagement exemplified by the best public libraries. Another related term I heard recently: a collaboratory! I’ve also heard it referred to as social innovation generation. Whatever we call it, publicly funded public libraries are well positioned to be the space – both physical and virtual – where community members can find each other and meet to self organize for generative purposes. Just this past Saturday I facilitated a planning session for a library and one of the words that was repeated many times throughout the day was catalyst. Public libraries are grappling with these issues. They see the opportunity and need voices like yours that recognize the contribution they can make. Thank you!
Tod Robbins said:
Fabulous projects! Thank you for the lovely write up.
A lot of this dovetails with Dougald Hine’s proposals in “Social Media vs. the Recession,” as elaborated by Nathan Cravens.
Venessa Miemis said:
any links to that info?
I proposed adding a fourth leg to Cravens’ alliance, which can no longer be found in the defunct P2P Research archives:
Open-source housing would fill a big gap in the overall resiliency strategy. It might be some kind of cheap, bare bones cohousing project associated with the Cafe (water taps, cots, hotplates, etc) that would house people at minimal cost on the YMCA model. It might be an intentional community or urban commune, with cheap rental housing adapted to a large number of lodgers (probably in violation of laws restricting the number of unrelated persons living under one roof). Another model might be the commercial campground, with space for tents, water taps, etc., on cheap land outside the city, in connection with a ride-sharing arrangement of some sort to get to Alliance facilities in town. The government-run migrant worker camps, as depicted in The Grapes of Wrath, are an example of the kind of cheap and efficient, yet comfortable, bare bones projects that are possible based on a combination of prefab housing with common bathrooms. And finally, Vinay Gupta’s work in the Hexayurt project on emergency life-support technology for refugees is also relevant to the housing problem: offering cheap LED lighting, solar cookers, water purifiers, etc., to those living in tent cities and Hoovervilles.
Pingback: What we found this weekend « caravan