Anyone who has applied for this type of funding knows you invest a lot in the application and I was gutted to get so close and fall at the last hurdle. For me, given the year I have had, it was just one to many 'not quite good enough' and so at this point I feel I will probably not resubmit. However I put a lot of work into the proposal and think people might find it of interest so I decided to post an edited version here.
I want to make something clear first. I do not believe that 3D printing is the savior of public libraries, either here or in the US. Neither do I think that libraries should start rushing out and buying 3D technology. I wrote this proposal because it is an area I am genuinely interested in and I believed (still believe) that the outcomes would be of interest across a number of different sectors. Additionally the Maker movement is alive and strong in the UK, even if most libraries have yet to embrace it in the way the US has. Most importantly I wanted to emphasise that Maker Spaces are so much more than a 3D printer, a fact that is often over looked in the hype generated by the media around 3D guns and printing.
Proposal for Travelling Librarian Award 2013 : Jennifer Foster
Background and Context:
Increasingly libraries across all sectors are moving away from traditional uses of space. They are stepping away from coffee mornings and embracing gaming events and social enterprise. This isn’t a new development, libraries have always evolved to meet the needs of their communities. However in America there is a new evolution that is not just offering a new service but is challenging what the library is for and how the very building is used. It is bringing mess, noise and disruption into the very heart of the book stacks.
This evolution is the Makerspace, or Fab Lab, or Hack Space. The concept is not unique to libraries but certainly library locations are becoming a popular location for the phenomena. They have perhaps become best known for their use of 3D technology although the roots of the service often have more humble beginnings, with tools more suitable for bike repair than laser scanning.
Jeff Sturges summed up the purpose of the Makerspace in a conversation with Caitlyn Bagley for the ALA Techsource Blog:
“The maker movement in libraries is about teaching our patrons to think for themselves, to think creatively, and to look for do-it-yourself solutions before running off to the store. In short, a Makerspace is a place where people come together to create with technology.”
David Lankes, in his blog post, Beyond the Bullet Points: Missing the Point and 3D Printing, builds on this and champions the idea of library collections as tools for idea creation and knowledge generation. His blog emphasises that Makerspaces are not just about finding a use for an unused floor or buying a new bit of kit that allows patrons to make 3D copies like a Xerox. Makerspaces in libraries are about sharing resources and knowledge to create something new and tangible, be that an object, or a skill that will stay with someone and then ideally, be shared again. They teach problem solving skills and most importantly encouraging both adults and children to learn through creativity.
At this time library Makerspaces are not a new concept, they are a well-established offer within the American public library sector. However in the UK they are still almost of unheard of. Despite a well-established British Maker movement Makerspace type gatherings in libraries have so far been limited to one off events, such as the 2012 Gateshead E-Day or the month long program of Saturday events held at Longsight Library by Manchester Girl Geeks. Although heralded as successes we are yet to see, as far as my research allows, a permanent Makerspace or a serious exploration into provision of 3D printing and technology in a UK public library.
Aims and Objectives:
Should I be awarded this funding I would aim to visit a number of locations with a Makerspace offer within mainland United States. The table below shows a number of potential location. While I would expect a number of these to have a ‘high tech’ offer, ie with 3D printing and scanning facilities, I would also aim to visit low tech Makerspaces and those that offer services to specific demographics, e.g. teenagers. I would also aim to visit at least one academic Makerspace, preferably one that allows use by the public, in order to explore the degree that universities might lead on making this technology available to the public.
My overall objective is to ask whether UK public libraries have the scope to support Makerspaces in the same way that they are supported by libraries in America and explore how this has been achieved elsewhere. Second to this, because a Makerspace does not necessarily involve a 3D printer, I would ask whether 3D technology is one that we would want to offer in our public libraries and how else UK libraries might foster and support the Maker movement.
(I also had a number of secondary objectives that encompassed the logistics of setting up a Maker Space, their connection to business and IP services and the role of volunteers and the community.)
Potential Institutes and Organisations.
New York State
Community Group – non library specific
Community Group – non library specific
So, that's it. I may change my mind and reapply next year but I can't help but think that in 18 months the subject will have moved on to such an extent that my proposal here will no longer be relevant.
However I would always encourage everyone to apply for this, and any other bursaries, that you see. Missing out is hard but no more so than failing a test or job interview. You never know what will happen until you try and over the past few years I've benefited from a number of successful bursary applications.