Hackers in the Library
On July 18th, 2012 I had the opportunity to listen in on the American Library Association’s 12th Annual Virtual conference. Speakers from all around the world spoke on a wide range of topics. The buzz word of the day - err, phrase - was Makers Space sometimes referred to as a hacker space; a physical space devoted to creation, knowledge sharing, collaboration and creativity. Goals that seem identical to the philosophical values of libraries.
Within a Makers Space, library patrons would get to test out new technologies with the goal of creating something new. In some existing makers spaces, like the Fab Lab in the Fayetteville Free Library, users get free access to a range of devices and technology with the end goal of learning and producing a new piece of technology. Once a project is completed, the creator takes a copy and the library holds a copy for its collection.
An arduino, proudly manufactured in Italy.
Examples of such spaces within libraries are popping up around the world. For example, in Aarhusm, Denmark a new multi-million dollar central library is being constructed that will contain a makersspace. To the Dannes, learning to work and create together is vital to a healthy democracy.
Artist rendition of the Mediaspace in Aarhusm, Denmark.
While completing my masters degree at the University of Toronto, I had the opportunity to partipate in a makers space known as the crital making lab. In class we used small programmable computers - arduinos - to evaluate and explore critical themes through hands‐on work. A truly unique experience. I found the class to be a refreshing change from constant reading and writing of papers that is grad school.
So, the question remains, why are libraries changing and rebranding themselves in such ways to include things like makers spaces? Is it out of a hope to stay relevent in an increasingly digital age? Some think so, but others believe that it is the natural progression of libraries; a new way to support learning, creativity and democracy. Or as Librarian Jamie LaRue, the Director of the Castle Rock Library System, bluntly put it, "We must adapt, or die".
- The hacker ethic, and the spirit of the information age
- Hacker culture
- The whale and the reactor: a search for the limits in an age of high technology
- A personal favorite of mine, not directly realted to the idea of makers spaces, takes a critical look at the morality of technology and the idea of including morality in the design process. For example, should we create nuclear weapons because we can?
Below are a few links to makersspaces, or hacker spaces, in and around Toronto. More exist, but here are just a few for reference.