Ensuring that your Common Library flourishes and is sustainable is an essential objective and should be considered central to your planning efforts. One dimension of this involves developing productive and enduring relationships with relevant interest groups, local retailers, key public sector stakeholders and potential sponsors. The precise nature and combination will depend on the needs of prospective users and your local community. This fact-sheet will help you build local partnerships.
Key questions to consider:
- Have you identified potential partners who share your aims and objectives and/or might be in a position to help you achieve them?
- Have you honed your pitch or prepared stock text to readily describe your new venture for people who may not have come across hacking or making before?
- Have you given due consideration to the potential for mutual benefit in approaching prospective partners?
- Are there any gaps from the point of view of, for example, the promotional, creative industries, equipment, materials and/or financial support you are liable to need? How do you propose to address them?
This overview will help you to forge partnerships with existing groups, businesses and stakeholders in your area that may be interested in collaborating with you in a number of different ways.
In particular, if there is an existing hack/makerspace proximate to your library, you should begin by reaching out to the organisers to assess the potential for affiliation and/or interest in pursuing a more formal collaboration, which may or may not lead to discussions concerning co-location. If you’re unsure whether such a group exists in your locale, you might usefully consult one of the following sources of information:
- Mapping the UK Digital Maker Scene (NESTA)
- Hackerspace Wiki (international)
- The Maker Map
- Make Things Do Stuff
- The UK Hackspace Foundation
It will be particularly important to build relationships with the private sector in your locale, if you plan to generate income for/from your library-hack-makerspace. You might consider asking them to:
- Promote – partnerships with local businesses incentivises them to help promote what you are doing;
- Donate – if you have a workshop space that requires certain materials, a local supplier may be willing to work closely with you and donate or, else, offer a discount on some of those goods; and
- Partner – try to find some local retailers willing to supply some of the tools/materials in the MakerKits you move to develop with your users. For example, a local craft shop may be able to supply swathes of fabric or wool for boxes related to those types of activities. In this way, your activities will also contribute to the local economy from the outset, and this can also help to allay any concerns local businesses might have regarding direct competition for customers/users.
You should also undertake a public sector stakeholder mapping exercise, once you have completed your initial survey, desktop research and begun developing your directory of local creative. This will enable you to target your approach towards potentially interested parties, already having determined your USP in outline, although this is liable to develop over time as your users come and go, and you identify core groups and clusters of interest amongst regulars. For example, you might determined that you should orient your Common Library towards young people, in which case it would make sense to identify prominent youth leaders, relevant charities and youth service commissioners/providers at an early stage.
Whether you are offering a sale space or the opportunity to contribute towards a “MakerKit” (e.g. “how to make gloves” may require wool and knitting needles from a local retailer), it is important to be clear from the outset. So, you should spend time honing your message / pitch – in particular, where you are approaching people who are unfamiliar with hacking/making.
Spread the Word
The success of your library-hack-makerspace hinges upon USAGE – so, you should plan to devote considerable time and energy to promotional efforts, via a range of appropriate channels. Self-advocacy is essential.