The Future of Libraries

Dawn of the Makerspace era?

Despite widespread concerns over declining library usage, the impact of instant access technology and budgetary constraints, Uma Shankar Singh believes libraries are of vital importance and are set to remain exciting and innovative areas in school.
What is a makerspace?

A makerspace, Samantha Roslund suggests, “. . . . is a general term for a place where people get together to make things. Makerspaces might focus on electronics, robotics, woodworking, sewing, laser cutting, programming or some combination of these skills”. Emphasis in this definition is on environment (place), community (people) and the creation of something new (material object/s). However, this definition lacks the essence of what a makerspace really is. If you were thinking “invoking CURIOSITY” or “developing INTERESTS” then you are spot on! In a school environment it is also essential that makerspaces be designed in accordance with the curriculum while providing scope for wider pursuits.

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How the evolution began

The Maker Movement, which gained significant momentum after the publication of “Make Magazine” in 2005, set a trend of technological integration with DIY (Do-It-Yourself) projects. It emphasized tinkering, hacking, remodeling, shaping the world around us with all sorts of tools at our disposal to create something new and innovative. It provided hobbyists and enthusiasts with the opportunity to play with technology and figure out how things worked, determine the amount of effort that went into making specific objects and the kind of alternative resources that could be utilized to make things more eco-friendly and  promote sustainable development.

What are library makerspaces?

Makerspaces in 2017 are not just about providing the tools for assembling new things but are also areas for the development of thinking and the formation of ideas which can then be collaboratively worked upon. This resonates with the “Library As Incubator Project” definition which focuses upon ideas of learning environments, skill development, community partnerships and, most importantly, creation. Libraries are no longer viewed as isolated knowledge warehouses but as socializing spaces where students from various cultures come together to share interests and ideas, in turn leading to the creation of more innovative and genuine outcomes.


Why transform libraries into makerspaces?

Makerspaces provide students with hands-on experience with materials they observe in their everyday lives and give the opportunity to use these materials to build something ‘out-of-the-box’. Research has found that children tend to learn more and retain knowledge longer when they are not learning for rewards and when activities are not solely instructor driven. Makerspaces have been proven to be effective environments for fostering play and exploration while nurturing students’ peer-to-peer training skills and cultivating a culture of creativity.

Going green

The “Go Green Initiative” which is a global environmental education program for teachers, students and other volunteers, focuses on conservation of resources and the promotion of human health through environmental means. It encourages the integration of environmentalist creativity into the curriculum. Since humans tend to attach more sentimental feelings with self-designed products rather than with mass-produced products, the maker movement aligns perfectly with this environmentalist agenda.

Influencers

What has rendered the makerspaces immensely successful in international schools is the amalgamation of the thoughts of two prominent figures: Yehuda Berg’s thoughts on art and creativity which lay emphasis on children’s vibrant imaginations, open hearts and unbridled curiosity, and the mantra of Booby Rahal who believes, ‘It’s better to fail than not to try at all’. That’s exactly where makerspaces demonstrate their scope and potential. They propel students to experiment, to find alternative approaches/solutions to a problem, to think about resources which may be used interchangeably, while providing opportunities for making a difference.

How do we convert an ordinary library into a makerspace?

Depending on the space available, a makerspace might consist of a small corner with tables with jigsaw puzzles and Lego on them or a fully equipped design studio lab, including 3D printers, integrated into the library. Sometimes rearrangement of available furniture is all that is needed to convert a library into an effective makerspace. Setting up tables with charging bars, creating walls, where students can easily write and exchange ideas, and setting up TV screens are great first steps in transforming a mundane library into a vibrant makerspace.

How libraries are still evolving

Librarians worldwide are opting to integrate STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics) concepts into their makerspaces as they believe this will help students to build better collaboration skills and hone their analyzing abilities.

For example, setting up of large TV screens with chairs around a table in a library can serve as an impetus in promoting leadership qualities and confidence building among students. Students can take advantage of the setup and practise their rough drafts of presentations with a small audience of friends before presenting finally in the classrooms.

To conclude, developing library makerspaces, by firstly creating maker zones, is important for enhancing the popularity of libraries and for the creation of community/ group engagement likely to inspire all sorts of ideas which might have the potential to change the world around us and our perception of what is possible.

It’s an idea whose time has come!

Uma Shankar Singh

Uma Shankar Singh completed his Bachelors of Arts in English Literature Honours at Delhi University and for the past two years has been a teaching/library assistant at the American International School Chennai. Uma enjoys photography, astronomy and reading about human psychology and is an enthusiastic numismatist.

 

If you like to discuss Uma’s ideas with him, he can be contacted by e-mail:  sumashankar@aischennai.org

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