Making Space: libraries and makers


Retrieved October 10, 2017 from


Over the last two decades a people-led movement has been gathering momentum in communities across Australia.  With a combination of technologies of various kinds, traditional DIY handmade crafts, artisans and inventors, the maker movement is well and truly established. But what are the implications for libraries, and as a clear extension, for librarians in Australia?

Libraries have played a strong role in the maker movement, both here and overseas. By offering ‘studio space’ that was available, many libraries have been proactive in promoting themselves as gatherings for this activity. An obvious example in Brisbane would the The Edge at South bank, a wing of the State Library of Qld dedicated to this movement. But what of the libraries that have to adapt, and indeed make space for the makers? What are some of the reactions and some of the ways to go about it? The makerspace debate tends to generate some polarized reactions. Some studies suggest that in a large majority of cases library users seem happy and in fact endorse the practice of makerspace. On the negative side of the spectrum, those that in the minority resist the changes appear to be librarians themselves or library staff members.  Is there a clear idea in the library profession as to what is the contribution that libraries can bring to this space and vice versa? Something I took away from the other night’s twitter chat was that most of us were not sure as to how far to take it, what to do with it. What is the library’s mission in all this? If the overseas experience is anything to go by, libraries are at the nexus of it.

I think part of the answer to the questions begins by clarifying the level of involvement that a library wants, needs or (I suspect in most cases) is able to have with the community it serves. I think there would be many libraries that would be happy to offer more to their patrons than what they do, but in spreading themselves too thin might risk becoming the classic ‘jack of all trades and master of none’.  As always, there are budgetary restraints and a library needs to think carefully before investing in technologies that might be just a passing fad or outdated within a short period of time. Yet it would seem it is in the very nature of the maker movement to make do with very little indeed – something libraries are well-versed in. From that point of view, makerspaces and libraries seem a natural match.

I think that makerspaces in libraries are here to stay and will continue to make inroads in the years to come. As far as the library profession goes, I suspect that this will somehow end up being integrated into the education for future librarians. The benefits for young members of the community is also becoming clear. Furthermore, libraries are more than just access points to information in the community. They are places of connection, collaboration and participation that promote community cohesion. More of that, I say.