The end

I think I started this class as mildly skeptical of makerspaces. Now I think I’d say I’m much more supportive of the idea, as long as it’s done for the right reasons, and in the right way (Don’t ask me to say what that is…I’m much too brain-dead at this point). I don’t know exactly what I expected to learn, but I think I definitely got my money and time’s worth. Earlier this month, my library had a staff training day where we talked about participatory learning. I felt like a brainiac with all the knowledge and perspective I’ve acquired this semester. Perhaps I’m still not positive about how exactly go about implementing more of this and maybe my justification for participatory learning is still kind of basic, but I think I’ve got the right basis.

Earlier this week I did a presentation about the library where an attendee asked me if we were worried about computers and technologies eradicating libraries. I replied that no, I wasn’t really worried, because I think we’re about so much more than just books. What we’re really doing is sharing knowledge, and yes, I’d be sad if people stopped using books, but ultimately, the book is just one of the tools we use to share knowledge, and we’ll keep doing that whether we’re using books or computers or brain chips (maybe). I know it’s not a particularly profound statement, but it worked for him, and I’m still using it in my final project. Because makerspaces and participatory learning spaces are figuratively, and literally, also tools for imparting knowledge.

Having just said that, I still feel like I learned the most from the readings. I still really enjoyed the reflection and swapping of opinions and experience, and I think the hands on projects gave me a better understanding of the practical part, but I felt like the readings gave me a bit of everything: the why, the how, and the what (something I learned from my work training).

I know I’m rambling and getting overly sentimental. I sure hope this all made sense. It’s really been a pleasure working with all of you and I’m honestly excited to see what we can do. Hopefully I’ll be seeing you all in news articles, Library Journal, and TED talks. And that’s all I got!

The Meaning behind Making

Learning advocacy for creating maker programming and spaces is a difficult and important skill. What did Invent to Learn teach you about how to approach administration and/or decision makers in your organization?

Let’s talk about 3D printers! What is their place in libraries? What kind of value do they bring? Any cavaet emptors?

How do you see other kinds of making like craft brewing beer and craft activism fitting in to the maker movement? Have you noticed more instances of do-it-yourself culture becoming more visible in your everyday life or among your friends, family, and colleagues?

I really enjoyed reading Invent to Learn and found it to not only be practical, straightforward and thorough, but inspiring. I’ve had a couple experiences lately that relate to this class, including a talk at work about participatory learning and making where I felt more prepared to justify why libraries should be offering participatory learning. When it comes down to it, we are trying to inspire lifelong learning in our patrons and give them access to the materials that will facilitate that, be they books and databases or soldering irons and 3D printers. The book also provides particular points you can make for different concerns and evidence that participatory learning really does improve a student’s understanding of the subject. It was nice to finally get into the how of convincing others to bring making into the library, to back up all the cool ideas we now have from the rest of the book. When I have a little more time to process all of this, I’m looking forward to looking at how I can incorporate some of these ideas into my work. It’s not exactly part of my specific responsibilities, but I’m sure I can find a way to justify it. 

I found the articles about craft beer and craft activism interesting as well. Making your own beer seems to be really popular right now. My sisters bought my fiancee a home brew kit for Christmas last year, and I have a friend from undergrad whose father is really into brewing his own beer. It helps that people love beer and love the new varieties, which inspires them to learn the science behind it and do their own experimentation. A lot of these maker projects might not seem scholarly initially, but I think of them as an easy access point into higher and more analytic thinking.  

I work in a department with very crafty coworkers, though I’d argue that my coworkers are more crafty in the “neoliberal consumerist” sense. I haven’t experienced much craftivism so far…though I can think of a project where people knit squares that were sewn around trees and on overpasses over the highway. I believe there was a message behind it, but I can’t recall it or how clear it was, so I’d argue that isn’t very effective craftivism. As much as I love the idea of craft activism, I found myself think that it’s kind of limiting. It seems like an effective way of publicizing for a cause, but there were only two projects mentioned in the article that demonstrated how it has directly related to changing something (the arpilleras and the Viral Knitting Project). That’s not to say that spreading the word isn’t important too…it just has a limited scope of usefulness. I think I’m cynical enough to say that it doesn’t matter if everyone knows something is wrong if no one knows what to do about it. Hopefully someone more optimistic than I will have a brilliant rebuttal for me. It seems like crafting can be used for whatever purpose, whether that be to continue the status quo or shake things up. I’d say we have to continue to be creative with how we use it so that it doesn’t become ineffectual. On a less profound note, I also found myself taking issue with the idea of comparing knitting in public to breastfeeding. I’ve never perceived it as out of place, and I haven’t witnessed the same backlash against it as I have breastfeeding. But it’s a small quibble. 

I have less to say about 3D printers, though I think I could relate my ideas to them to the ideas about craft beer and craftivism. They are a fantastic tool for learning and giving people motivation to learn…but you do have to be careful, as with crafting, that once someone has mastered a level, they don’t just continue doing what’s easy. I can’t remember which reading it was from earlier this semester that mentioned how people just make a lot of trinkets with 3D printers and can get complacent in their knowledge. Some people will progress to further stages of learning on their own, but an effective use of a 3D printer would include some form of external motivation to continue to build on how one uses it. It does make me happy to see that there is a decent amount of diversity in the market, with some printers being for more professional pursuits, others starting the learning process from building the printer, and those that are accessible for places with smaller budgets or a need for portability. 

(Sorry for such a long post!)


legoFor my maker project, I experimented with building a Lego Mindstorms robot. This kit involves both building the robot and programming it, either on the computer that operates the robot or through the computer. My initial plan was to build the cool looking humanoid robot, called Alpha Rex, on the cover of the kit.

However, I learned after a couple of hours that the kit didn’t actually come with all the pieces for this. In hindsight I should have been wary because the kit didn’t include instructions for Alpha Rex. And I definitely should have read through all the instructions to make sure I had the pieces before I started building. So I went back to the start and created the basic robot that the kit did provide instructions for, which resembles a car most closely.

Both robots are controlled by a programmable microcontromindstorms carller, which they call a brick computer, as well as “interactive Servo Motors” which allow the robot to move. You can also attach other sensors which allow the robot to do things like sense when it’s touching something, when the room is light or dark, or to see and detect objects. I experimented a little with the touch sensor, but I couldn’t quite get it to do what I thought it would. Either one of mine was defective or I just never completely understood how it worked.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI experimented with both ways of programming the robot. You can program it through the robot using the brick computer or using the software. Both had a little bit of a learning curve, but once I figured out what buttons meant and such, they were fairly easy to understand. I appreciated that the software was made to resemble Lego blocks, which I think would help to conceptualize how you are adding different functions to the one before.

mindstorms brick

I am definitely pretty inexperienced when it comes to building robots and programming, so this was a frustrating experience at some points. Still, it was overall exciting to be able to watch the commands I put into the computer reflected in the robot. I imagine that most using this would feel the same way.

I had access to this kit because my fiancee and his friend put it together last year; it would not have been something I would have just bought for this project. It is kind of pricey, and might be slightly difficult to work on in a larger group. This makes me hesitant to suggest it as a purchase for a makerspace, especially not as an initial purchase. That being said, it isn’t a terrible project for a makerspace, especially if it’s used for small group projects. It certainly gave me a sense of both programming and building, so there are definitely applications for its use in tinkering and making.

I included this last week, but I’ll show it again. After trying the suggested programs, I experimented with a very uncreative one of my own.

Standardized Testing and Robots

Both of my parents are teachers, so I have been reading a lot of Invent to Learn with them in mind. Without actually knowing what my parents think, I found myself making excuses in my head for why schools couldn’t totally revolutionize the way materials are taught. I won’t go into all the ridiculous thoughts I had…because just as soon as I had thought them, I had a counter argument to why it could work. After all, we aren’t just talking about building computers and soldering, this book looks at making from a much wider and inclusive view, where English classes can work on making their own poetry compilations or songs and history classes can recreate period outfits. That makes it so much easier to justify. Making in science classes and in elementary school classes seems more obvious, but now we have specific ways to make for a variety of ages and subjects. I’d argue that there’s more room for freedom when children are younger and classes aren’t necessarily divided so rigidly. But I’d love for someone to point out the opposite (and I might figure it out later tonight). 

My most troubling and I think realistic concern is that, at this point, it isn’t really up to teachers. The book acknowledges standardized testing, but doesn’t necessarily demonstrate how making can completely replace the other ways that students learn and prepare for those tests. I’d argue that making produces better thinkers and people more prepared for the real world…but I don’t think that administrators and lawmakers will just take my word for it. We’re looking at a pretty big shift for American schools, and one that changes not only how teachers are trained but also how schools are funded and how we measure our success at education as compared to the rest of the world. 

But enough about that! Libraries are perfect for making! And as demonstrated by the readings from this week and last, there are a variety of ways for libraries and patrons to begin making at a variety of budgets and levels of commitment. As much as I love reading about what you can do with 3-D printers and conductive ink, I’m really interested in the simpler and less expensive ways that we can start making at the library (I don’t actually know how much conductive ink costs). I work at a more conservative library, so I feel like those smaller changes will be easier to implement and then use to prove to administration that makerspaces are valuable. 

For the Maker Faire, I built a robot using Lego Mindstorms (I actually tried to build a much more complicated one, but the kit didn’t come with enough pieces).



After putting together the robot, I practiced programming it using software on my computer, and using the “brick computer” on the robot. 


Here’s a video of my robot and a (rather simple) program I created. 

Learning Differently

There are a lot of subjects I feel I could explore from this week’s readings. I particularly liked this statement from Invent to Learn, “Intelligence comes in many forms and humans learn differently.” This book touches on the idea that schools teach the way that they do partly because it’s a more manageable and efficient platform for the teachers and administrators. I’d also argue that there is pressure from standardized tests to make sure students have the same information and can correctly answer those test questions, but that’s another story. I think I could really get behind the ideals set forth in this book to tinker more in the classroom as a way to encourage learning and exploration. School can instill these ideas in children, so that they can continue to learn and explore throughout their life.

Libraries are not usually constrained by curriculum, which makes them an easier place to introduce more free-form learning. Though the YouMedia Lab incorporates a curriculum, it was not imposed on all patrons, allowing them to choose how they use the space and learn from it. As we learned earlier in the semester from Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out (referenced again in the study on the YouMedia Lab), people approach technology (and learning) from different places. While some become interested more quickly in what they can do with technology, others prefer to use it for its more obvious characteristics, like socializing or studying. As the study demonstrated, most people using the Digital Media Lab felt like they were learning something from the space, and in the time frame, some also advanced their skills with technology. I expect that as teens continue to use that space, even those most interested in initially hanging out will progress to a deeper involvement with technology.

I also appreciated hearing about the ways that the program did not meet initial goals, or had difficulties because it’s good to see the struggles that a library might encounter along the way and be able to prepare for those. I think that seeing how actual use differed from what they expected could be disappointing, but instead the staff are using it to look at the positives in how people are using it, and tailor their programming to better meet those needs. Even if teens aren’t actively using the technology in the space, a huge positive for me is the positive relationships they are developing with staff there and with seeing the library as a safe, welcoming space. For a population that most libraries struggle to get in the door and engage, I think that’s huge.  

Going the Distance

The readings this week and conversations with several coworkers have put me in a very contemplative mood. I’m really enjoying and being inspired by this book, but my issue is, as it can be sometimes, how to put my inspiration to work. I feel that I go through phases of feeling creative and coming up with ideas for how to improve my work, and phases of not feeling inspired. Even when I do feel inspired, there are complications to surmount. We work really far ahead, and with a fair amount of planning, which usually negates my off the wall, “I have to do this now” ideas. And that’s probably a good thing! If this book has demonstrated anything, it’s that meaningful interactivity takes thought and planning, and a lot of work. It’s not the sort of thing you should enter into lightly.

However, I do think, especially after my library visit, that once you cultivate an environment or space for participation, there is more room for further innovation and even spur of the moment ideas. Like the dry erase wall and cadre of craft supplies at the library I visited, just available at any time for suggested ideas, or the inspiration of the patrons. Or the shifting ways for patrons to interact with the library in the Idea Box of Oak Park. Collaboration for Hard Times says, “Real change requires real change.” This was a harder article for me to connect with because it was more technical than our other readings, but it definitely struck home for me. You have to be willing, as an institution or at least department, to be really committed to participation, and willing to see it through.

Maybe what we need is a good idea for an open ended way to increase participation that can function well with flashes of inspiration, or more thought out installations. As I consider this, it occurs to me that the other important element, at any institution is your team. To reference the book again, Nina does tell us that it’s unwise to make any project too dependent on one person, both for the audience and the institution. The Co-Creation Primer reinforces this saying, “Co-creation works best when you build a strong community. People share ideas, build on each other’s work, critique, praise, and compete.” And I imagine that would be very helpful for those dry spells as well.

Collaborating with the Community

Reflection Question: Can you imagine allowing a community member to conceive and perform a collaborative program? What do you imagine this would be like? What challenges might arise?

I really like the idea of having community members help to conceive and perform a program with staff, as these community members are our constituents and know what they want to see in the library or museum. I think in reality, you might have a lot of initial interest in helping to create something new, but the required work would weed out some of the less serious people. However, I don’t know that this would be much of an indicator of how popular the program would be with other community members. As Nina said, “Most social object experiences are fleeting and inconsistent. For social object experiences to work repeatedly…design tweaks can make an object more personal, active, provocative, or relational.” These programs would probably work best with multiple community members contributing, and frequent input from staff.

In that sense, it would be up to the library or museum staff to work with those most interested and dedicated particular members of the community, as well as with ideas that originated with the larger group of community members. It would also be crucial for staff to impart their professional knowledge about performing programs and what the institution is capable of doing.

Working with the community would probably bring fresh ideas and a fresh way of doing things to the program. It would also bring someone not aware of the institutions policies or capabilities, which is where staff come in to provide guidelines. Another possible challenge is that community members would have a hard time conceiving of particular projects, without knowing what sort of projects or programs would be feasible, and as an outsider to the library or museum. I’m guessing that if a library or museum chose to do a collaboration, they would want to set boundaries and give community members parameters for what sorts of programs they could do…while still leaving them some room to innovate. It would probably require additional training to prepare staff for this sort of collaboration, but once they get experience with this, it should improve all future collaborations and discussion in the institution in general.

Just today my library had a meeting about the possibility of a maker space. I was not there, but heard my supervisor talking about the diverse perspectives among staff on this subject. She referred to some staff as dreamers, but said that though she liked the idea, she focused more on the practicality and possible problems. You need both perspectives: the dreamer to think big and come up with all the possibilities for the program, but also the pragmatist who makes sure the dreamers consider what is involved in the program, drawbacks to certain ideas, or things that are impractical.

I see myself as much more of a dreamer. I work to think of the practicalities, but I’d much rather get excited about doing something new. As limiting as it can sometimes feel to hear those drawbacks, we need both perspectives to actually create new programs. I suspect community members interested in collaborating on a project with an institution would be mostly dreamers, so staff should endeavor to include those pragmatists with the planning. And maybe a close collaboration between those different personalities would help each to see things from a different perspective.

Participation as Inclusion

There are several reasons that I started working in a library. But the reason I decided to make a career of it was because I hoped that I could improve people’s lives by giving them access to knowledge and the pleasure of experiencing new things. And I love working in outreach because I feel like I have greater access to people who are not coming to the library, who are not as active in cultural activities, but could probably really use our resources. I enjoyed all the readings and the video this week, because I think that part of the point of a participatory library (or museum) is to make your resources more accessible to a wider variety of people.

I should point out here that The New York Times article was an interesting juxtaposition to the others because it takes a more critical look at participation in museums. And some of their concerns were valid; are we discouraging current regular users from using the space if we try too hard to bring in new users? Really, to me, this just comes off as elitist. Appreciating fine art and literature is fantastic, but college educated middle and upper class citizens should not be the only people using these spaces. Not just because that information could also be valuable to working class and lower income people, but because these are spaces ripe for cross cultural and cross economic interaction. One of our prompts asks whether there could be a downside to the interactivity. I’d have to say definitely: you could lose previous users, you would have to renegotiate staff duties to account for higher traffic, more noise, different assigned duties… Actually, I don’t think the last one is a downside necessarily. You just need time and willing staff or persuasive managers. While noise and traffic can be deterrents for some people, these demonstrate that people want to use your space and they want to interact with it. I’d also argue that we shouldn’t get rid of everything we’ve done before. As we add participatory elements, I think we should work to make sure that there are still quiet, reflective places in libraries. We need them both.

I highlighted so many parts of The Participatory Museum, because I was really inspired by all the cool things museums are doing these days. I couldn’t remember or list them all here. Suffice to say, it’s an inspirational time to work in museums and libraries. I was really inspired in a general way by Libraries and Museums in an Era of Participatory Culture. This report did give specific ideas about changing a library’s focus, but still left a lot of room for individual libraries and museums to interpret that as best fits their community. I’m overwhelmed by my desire to make the library a place that reflects everyone in our community, and is a more equalizing force in people’s lives. But I feel like I’m not innovative enough to know how to do just what needs to be done in my community. I’m eager for new ways to get involved, but I’m still stuck in the “simple ‘outreach’ programs of the past.”

This article fit in really well with a meeting I went to yesterday called Family Issues. It’s a collection of different social service agencies in my suburb, and I’m grateful that the library has been included since the start. The hope in going is that I’ll find out about what’s going on in my community and more about the citizens, but also potentially find ways to partner with these organizations or come up with new ways to serve the community. I’m ashamed to say that I’ve been going to the meetings for three years, but I’ve yet to think of a clear way that I can work with the others. Yesterday, the teen outreach librarian was there as well, and was bursting with ideas of how to work with the police department on a program about gangs and the internet and the town’s social workers to help at-risk-teens. I’ve gone off on a bit of a pitiful tangent here, but I thought it was related initially. I think my strengths are that I’m thoughtful, and very caring. Hopefully I can use all the inspiration I’ve gotten in this class, and find a way to combine it with my strengths to make my library and myself a better, more participatory and inclusive resource.

Innovation on a Team

One of the parts of “The Ten Faces of Innovation” and also “It’s all around you” that I most appreciated was the idea that innovation most often happens because of a team of people. A lot of the more famous innovators we might think of are seen as lone wolves. But I’d argue that even people who innovated on their own got where they were by standing on the shoulders of people in their community or who came before. I don’t remember where I read about this (maybe even in this class), but many discoveries that we credit to a particular person were actually “discovered” by multiple people in disparate places around the same time. Since I don’t remember the specific example, I found this article that goes into more detail: It happens because of collective knowledge; what scientists around the world can now take as fact helps them to make future discoveries.

To sort of relate this to the book, you could look at the example of multiple paint companies innovating around the same time. They didn’t innovate in exactly the same way, but both found ways to make the industry better for consumers, whether that is creating square paint cans that can be sealed again, or making smaller bottles so consumers can test colors before buying more. The paint industry was ready for change, and got to that place because of a collective understanding of their field, contributed by those who came before, and probably a team of people who ultimately made the innovation.

I also loved the comment in “It’s all around you” about carrying a notebook so you have a centralized location for your ideas. Mostly because I too carry a pocket-sized notebook that I don’t like to be without in cases of ideas or just things I want to remember. I must confess that I haven’t been using it very much lately, but I hope that’s just because I’ve been too preoccupied, and not that the stream of ideas has dried up.

This article did a great job of taking what we learned from the Fast Company article and the “Ten Faces of Innovation” and applying it more directly to a library setting. I am so excited by the idea of applying them in my workplace…but trying to think of how particular coworkers of mine are innovative (much less myself) is a trickier prospect. I could point out innovative things coworkers have done (like the elementary school liaison who started doing drawings of books to get students interested in the books she presented to them), but is she an experimenter or a hurdler or something else entirely? I believe the conclusion of the book does address that, in saying that most people can fit into multiple categories. I’d rather not have to consider who fits what personality though. I guess the personalities make sense to me in a more abstract sense. As for people that I actually know, or myself, I could tell you innovative things we’ve done, but not so much what about us made those things innovative (I hope that’s not a cop-out). Still, I do think I learned more about what makes the environment innovative, and what sorts of things individuals should do to foster innovation, and maybe that’s enough.

Am I Innovative?

I am an indecisive person. I think people have called it thoughtful before, when what they really wanted me to do was take action. So I wouldn’t necessarily think of myself as an innovator. I think I might lack some confidence in my own opinion, which leads me to waffle and ask other people what to do. And in some cases, it’s hard for me to see how things could be improved upon. Other times, I have the ideas, but not the power.

If I had to classify myself as any of the learning personas, I see myself mostly as an anthropologist and caregiver. I am very curious about other people: what they do, how they feel, what fuels their decisions and actions. I really do just like to sit around and watch people around me and try to figure them out. My interest in other people also means that I’m motivated by what I can do for others. And that I was most interested in innovations from the Fast Company article that dealt with providing a better service to customers, or creating more sustainable business practices.

But even in my own role to provide for my “customers,” I can’t say that I always succeed. Just today my coworker and I were discussing a family literacy grant for ELLs we participate in with a local school and adult education organization. The program starts out with high attendance from families excited by the idea of learning more English and helping their children do well in school. But the time commitment becomes burdensome and when winter hits (especially a winter like this one), leaving the house again after getting home from work seems like too much work. I think the program would be much more successful if it was shorter and met less often. Individuals would learn less English, and less about literacy and the library, but more people would gain those skills, and probably more of those families would be interested in participating for a second year. But then, it isn’t really my decision to make. We are all governed by the statutes of the grant that we receive.

I bring up this story because I do think that I could be innovative at work, and perhaps there are other examples that I’m just not thinking of right now. I agree with the idea from “A Culture of Learning” that there are some boundaries that help us to know just how to be creative and innovate. But I think “The Ten Faces of Innovation” also showed us that sometimes, you achieve more when you stick to your convictions, even if no one else believes in your idea. As I think more about my grant, I wonder, could we find ways to involve even more community building in the grant? Perhaps if we are bound by meeting 2 days a week, for 2 ½ hours a day, we can consider what people need, like a potluck dinner during the program and more individualized help with homework for the children and for the parents struggling to communicate in their community. This isn’t an example of a situation I’ve innovated quite yet. But I am encouraged by the success stories we read this week. And hopefully that will provide enough inspiration to make my service to the community better.