Eco Communities is a social enterprise that, amongst other things, manages 3 community libraries working in Lewisham. Eco Communities works in partnership with the London Borough of Lewisham and deploys entrepreneurial thinking to complement and sustain the traditional library offer with a diverse set of integrated services that currently include: a Local History Project, Craft Workshops, Mathematics and English Classes, a Crèche, Computer Training, and the provision of career development opportunities. It otherwise specialises in the reuse and recycling of computer equipment and is, therefore, keen to explore how it might establish an integrated hack/maker space in its libraries with that in mind.
The basis of Eco Communities’ participation as a library-hack-makerspace prototype is as a way of using the organisation’s experience and knowledge of delivering digital inclusion projects to provide a useful resource in DIY IT upgrade and maintenance. The organisation aims to begin by utilising space in one of its community libraries to run a series of workshops to inform people how they can upgrade and maintain their PCs and laptops, as well as providing them with the tools to do so.
Who is it aimed at?
The project will be aimed at anyone who owns a PC or laptop and who wants to save on the costs of keeping it running and upgrading its capability.
What are the reasons for this focus?
Eco Communities has focused on IT refurbishment because of it benefits from considerable experience of running digital inclusion projects – including, basic IT skills training, getting online and becoming a Digital Champion.
Where will the project be focused?
Eco Communities has decided to focus the project at Sydenham Community Library, initially, because it has a separate training room which can be used to run the maker workshops. Once it has been trialled, the project can be run at other community libraries it operates in Lewisham. The MakerKits developed will also be able to be sold and promoted elsewhere.
How will the project work?
An open day will be held so people can engage in ‘taster’ sessions in PC/laptop upgrading and maintenance e.g. how to back up your data. At the open day, individuals will be invited to sign up for a workshop series which will include adding memory, basic maintenance, avoiding viruses, backing up data and cleaning the hardware. At these sessions participants will be able to buy components which together will comprise the ‘box’ of tools to maintain and upgrade a PC or laptop. Participants will also be able to socialise in the cafés located within those community libraries Eco Communities operates. Funding has been secured for a ‘High Tea with IT’ project for seniors, and one of the sessions will be used to promote the makerspace within the library.
Eco Communities has launched a survey of users of Sydenham Library to gauge interest in the project as well as to assess what it will be able to charge for MakerKits. The next stage will be to hold the open day and begin running workshops. In the interim, a first ‘taster’ workshop was held in one of the community libraries which was intended as a ‘dummy run’ to allow any glitches to be ironed out. A recent meeting with Lewisham Library Service has resulted in representatives expressing significant interested in the project and, as a result, the Council’s Library Service has encouraged Eco Communities to host a workshop session in the LB Lewisham marquee on Lewisham People’s Day (LPD) which will take place on 12th July 2014 – an annual event which ordinarily attracts around 30,000 people.