In augustus 2015 werd ik benaderd door journaliste Adrienne Matei. Zij schreef voor het trendy Amerikaanse magazine Kinfolk een artikel over bibliotheken. Het eigenlijke stuk werd in november gepubliceerd (maar was in alle eerlijkheid aan mijn aandacht ontsnapt). Gisteren stuitte ik op de volledige tekst op Matei’s website: Kinfolk issue 18 – Libraries.
Hieronder de vragen en mijn antwoorden daarop die ik destijds aan haar mailde.
Could you please describe a Makerspace and explain its intended function?
Makerspaces are creative, DIY spaces where people can gather to create, invent and learn. It’s basically a kind of mini factory where objects are manufactured, often based on digital designs. Besides machines such as 3D printers and laser cutters other types of more traditional equipment like lathes are being used, as well as more basic methods using textiles and other materials. Often learning about electronics and programming is also part of a makerspace offering. It’s important to realize that people who come together in a makerspace do share the acquired knowledge with each other. In that sense they always respond to questions from the people who use it. The core function of a makerspace could be described as bringing back the value of making things yourself and with others.
When did Makerspaces begin popping up, and in response to what need?
Making things is of all times. In that sense makerspaces aren’t new. What ís new is the combination of the physical and the online world we have nowadays. Thanks to the Internet people can quickly share knowledge and information and can get inspired by each other. In that sense makerspaces are relevant in itself. Their success is composed of the combination of low-cost hardware and software, and the power of the Internet and social media. And most importantly, people find it fun to make and share things together. It’s in our nature.
Do you know where the first opened, and approximately how many there are worldwide?
The maker movement as we know it today is rooted in the European hacker movement, which emerged in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The first hacker space was c-base in Berlin. NYC Resistor and HacDC, in Washington, D.C., both of which opened in 2007, followed by Noisebridge in San Francisco in 2008, were the first US efforts. A makerspace is the more DIY (Do It Yourself) oriented cousin of the hackerspace, inspired by MAKE: magazine, which came out in 2005. In 2006, MAKE hosted the first ever Maker Faire, in San Francisco. Maker Faire created a gathering opportunity for tinkers, crafters, hobbyists, artists and more to come together in a family friendly environment, and made the word “Maker” a new buzzword if not yet exactly a household name.
Many hacker and makerspaces are membership based with various member levels allowing access to different tools and resources, and are focused on independent craft, repair and construction. FabLabs (fabrication laboratories), typically associated with academic institutions or sponsored by a foundation or organization, tend to have a manufacturing focus and a client base seeking business incubation through rapid prototyping. It’s safe to say there are more than 2.000 makerspaces worldwide.
How do Makerspaces encourage community engagement?
The whole idea of a makerspace or a FabLab is making tools and knowledge available for anyone who wants to use it. Therefore they can not exist without people who want to come in. The users are actually responsible for the success of the makerspace. This commitment and the willingness to share knowledge are fundamental. What I see is that schools, libraries and maker spaces are approaching each other. This is great, because they can benefit from each other’s qualities and scope.
Will Makerspaces become increasingly important elements of libraries?
Yes, I believe so. Libraries have always been places for making knowledge, building insight and launching investigations into the nature of things. Worldwide, there are hundreds of libraries that already have or are about to integrate makerspaces in their services. The reason is simple: makerspaces and libraries fit very well together. They share the same core values such as knowledge-sharing and openness. Additionally both places are intended for the general public and accessible for anyone. Since this is essentially the job of a library, and with the growing number of great best practices and online resources, the service will only increase and improve.
Can you cite an example, possibly from your book, of a situation or case study in which a Makespace demonstrated significant value? (I read about doctors printing a model of a boy’s skull to aid with delicate surgery, but another example would be great!)
What I find a very nice project is Low-cost prosthesis. This is a collaboration between FabLab Amsterdam (The Netherlands), FabLab Yogyakarta (Indonesia) and a number of other partners. The project examines how lower-knee prostheses can be manufactured cheaply using the tools of a FabLab. The prosthesis is produced using local materials such as pineapple tree fibers and bamboo. The blueprints of the prosthesis are free to share, re-use, adapt and transform. Calculations show that a prosthesis can be made locally for $ 50 where it would normally cost close to $ 4,000.
Finally, could I have a bit about your background and why Makerspaces caught your interest specifically?
I work for a public library in the Netherlands (Library Service Friesland or BSF) and studied Arts Management at the University of Groningen. Since I work in the field of library innovation I was drawn to library makerspaces because of a number of fine examples in the US. This is the reason why me and my colleagues set up our own library makerspace, FryskLab, which is a 12 meter long bookmobile turned into a library FabLab, the first one in Europe. Partly because of this project I am nominated to become Librarian of the Year in the Netherlands in 2015.