At Northamptonshire Libraries, we approached our first #hackthelibrary event with a balanced mix of enthusiasm and apprehension. The enthusiasm came from recognising we can smooth the progress of the creative, inventive or innovative people in our community – our apprehension mostly revolved around the task of making the creative community make a link from what they do to their local library!
But, we started off by reaching out to the local creative community to display their projects and give library users a taster of what we can help to support. And, we rapidly attracted visitors – from Musicians to Artists to Chefs – and it made us realise that we definitely do have a community who want to share their knowledge. Before we held our event we did our research on the Making community, we visited FabLab London, Drink, Shop, Do and made contact with NottingHACK as well as having a LOT of support and advice from The Waiting Room.
First up on the day itself was Emily – who arrived ready and raring to do a little e-zine publishing:
Emily Cotton, co-founder Soapbox Press (an independent publishing company with a focus on art and design).
Next, we had Kathleen who talked to people about the work of the Stony Reminiscence Group but who was also eager to demonstrate her very own relationship compatibility software:
Kathleen Dunmore, Director of Three Dragons (an established economist who specialises in developing modelling toolkits for research purposes).
We also had our resident creative Robert Dixon, a recent BA (Hons) Digital Art & Technology graduate and an avid fan of popcorn, who was showcasing his project ‘Operator‘ – an interactive digital installation:
And, we can’t resist a mention of the fun had by the Common Libraries project team, when introduced to our new lego programming gear:
Working with Common Libraries has been such an interesting experience and has helped us immeasurably to understand that, if Libraries are going to part of any maker ‘scene’, the understanding of the current and future landscape is absolutely vital. For example, one of the many learning points that came from hosting our first event was that we need to plumb our data around book loans which will then allow us to understand the interests of the library using public. That way, we can focus our attention on the interests that require support rather than throwing out a whole host of activities that may not pique the interest of our community.
The introduction of Maker Instruction Sets and Kits was also quite exciting – we sold 3 of the 10 kits provided and loaned 10 instruction sets over a 3 month period. It took some tweaking and readjusting and we’re still finding the right way to promote these – more importantly, we’re still encouraging the idea of people in the community developing their own.
One thing that obviously stood out to us is that, apart from the National Library Science Experiment, a lot of the spaces available to the creative community were not in libraries and were not limited by the same constraints. So, something we would like to explore for Northamptonshire is to encourage local venues to “hack their spaces” – that way, we can compare and contrast the success of makerspaces across different locations in the county.
Overall, our experience has shown us that this is an achievement that shouldn’t be based on what’s ‘cool’ right now, but what good quality service we can provide to increase the number of users of the library who have a lack of space to work on their innovative or creative projects.