Why are Newcastle Libraries participating in Common Libraries’ National Library Science Experiment? Well, we wanted to be one of the “cool kids”, of course! More seriously: just like information professionals everywhere, we strongly believe in the role of libraries for the sharing of knowledge – but sometimes we are not sure how to develop our offer in a more user-focused manner.
When the City Library opened in 2009, we felt like we were among those at the forefront of innovation in public libraries. Even though staff here are very open-minded and forward-looking, it has become challenging to maintain that momentum, especially when faced with decreasing resources. This Experiment is an opportunity for us to learn from Common Libraries – and other local authorities – and to try something new.
So we eagerly awaited our Maker Instruction Sets… (cue slight panic when they did not arrive quickly enough to the right building!) and decided to let our customers try them out as a two-week loan.
To be honest, we were afraid we might not be able to give this pilot as much attention as it deserved – but actually it wasn’t that difficult. Yes, there were some small practical issues, e.g. “Err, where do I stick my RFID label on these things?!” and, for future Sets, we would definitely recommend having less independent parts within each Set – they are so easy to lose when they are not all attached together. But, we understand that this is the value of prototyping and experimentation…
For the first month, we put the Maker Instruction Sets out on display at the City Library with some explanatory posters. Our customers were intrigued by those funny little green sleeves: several of the Sets have been out on loan without any other promotion on our part! Unlike some of our neighbours in the North-East (see South Tyneside and Stockton libraries), we have not planned to hold an event specifically to encourage users to create their own sets (yet?) but we are looking forward to discuss possibilities with everyone at the Introduction to Common Libraries event we’re hosting in Newcastle next week!