Demystifying the Makerspace: Library resources and how to use them
Exterior look of the makerspace within the Jane Bancroft Cook Library. Photo credit: Gaby Batista

Demystifying the Makerspace: Library resources and how to use them

A cloud of mystery looms over a certain corner of the Jane Bancroft Cook Library that houses one of the most versatile spaces on campus: the Makerspace. Libraries across the globe stand to lose patrons in the days of technological advances and innovative inventions that make research, reading and communicating easier. To better meet the needs of students, staff and faculty, university libraries—even high school libraries—began implementing dynamic spaces that can fulfill the growing exigencies of the communities they serve.

Assistant Research, Instruction and Digital Scholarship Librarian Jeffery Thompson is the one that stocks, prepares and manages the space on a day to day basis. There are a multitude of responsibilities that come along with the space and the technology that is housed within it.

A widely used resource is the button maker—a self-explanatory machine that can make any design into a wearable pin. These designs can be hand drawn, digitally designed and/or replicated as many times as needed.

“Be prepared that your first effort might not be the one that you’re happy with,” Thompson said. “You’re not getting marked for points here, you can use as much material as you need to get the job done.”

Another key resource in the makerspace is the Cricut machine, an insanely versatile “smart cutting machine” that can bring any design created to life. The wide variety of vinyl types and colors in the makerspace allows for all types of projects, including but not limited to: t-shirts, shoes, water bottles, magnets and stickers.

When walking into the space, it is hard to not notice the three 3-D printers lining the room. While two of them are in need of repairs at the time of this article’s publication, the remaining machines work hard to provide students, staff and faculty with their academic and personal endeavors.

Faculty—such as Professor of Anthropology Uzi Baram—utilize the space to create replicas of belongings from up to thousands of years ago. The 3-D printed versions of these items ensure that the real deal—and their expensive, handmade replicas—do not get damaged or broken after prolonged use in the classroom or lab.

What many do not know is that the podcast room—a recently converted study room along the back wall on the first floor of the library—is part of the Makerspace. Thompson urges those interested in utilizing the podcast room to schedule a quick training session to introduce the software and equipment.

“It’s a way to get your feet wet, to see what it’s like and see if it’s something you want to pursue,” Thompson shared.

A look into the Cricut vinyl options amongst a plethora of other supplies inside of the makerspace. Photo credit: Gaby Batista

None of what is created in the Makerspace could have happened without the plan by Library Dean Tammera Race. She recognized the growing trend of these spaces opening up across the country, and recognized the community’s need for these resources.

Through the library’s budget, the makerspace is curated to work best for the members of the New College community. The space is still in development—and will be for a long time—as long as technology advances along with it.

“The thing is always what will attract student interest and what’s next to be added,” Thompson detailed. “For example, we have a 3-D pen on order. We don’t have anything in terms of robotics or AI yet, but that’s also on the list of ‘what’s next.’”

“It can be used for academic use, for club use and personal recreation,” Thompson continued. “I’ve had people come in and make stuff for their friends and family as gifts and that is absolutely fine. So far there haven’t been any projects large enough to where we have to say we can’t do it. We have a regular group, but we absolutely would love to see more. All that we ask is when you come in, you let me know what you want to work on, I’ll train you the first time around and then after that you can let me know you’re coming.”

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