Making & Innovation in Academic Libraries


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Presentation given as one of Zukunftswerkstatt's guest speakers at the Bibliothekartag 2014 in Bremen, Germany.

All photo credits given to: Nick Crowl:

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  • HI my name is Tara Radniecki and I’m going to talk about why I believe making and innovation belong in academic libraries.
  • I am currently the Engineering Librarian at DeLaMare Science and Engineering Library at the University of Nevada, Reno. The university has approximately 18,000 students and roughly 6,000 of those are in the DeLaMare engineering, physical, and computer science disciplines. We are the only small branch library of our campus’ main library, a big beautiful and new knowledge center located on the north end of campus. We have four librarians at DeLaMare Library and 2 full time staff member. With those numbers, you can imagine we rely heavily on our student workers to help with the day to day running of the library.

    In a talk later today, I’ll go into more detail about what we’ve done to transform DeLaMare Library into a thriving combination of a makerspace and academic library. For right now, I’ll just quickly go over some of the non-traditional services and equipment we offer in our library so, you can get an idea of the making and innovation I’ll be speaking of in this talk.
  • Beyond equipment, we also host a variety of workshops and events that encourage innovation. This year we teamed up with our Engineering students to put on a very successful Arduino Day event. We hosted our annual Microoft hackathon and added the NASA Space Apps challenge to our event calendar as well. The Entrepreneurship club (made up heavily of business students) hosted their design workshops in our space because they said we were a place that valued student-led innovation. When students are saying things like that about your library, you know you’re on the right track.
  • But the question we get asked so often is, “Why should academic libraries be providing access to making and innovation tools and resources?” It’s often seen as a service for public libraries to provide. They have long been providing non-traditional spaces, tools, and resources for their communities – from cake pans to business meeting rooms. The first library to offer 3D printing to anyone and everyone was a public library.
  • Why in Academic Libraries? We may pride ourselves on being the heart and soul of a university, but this is the question that goes through my mind.

    Read Quote.

    It is crucial that academic libraries constantly challenge their beliefs and practices and strive to remain relevant to a new breed of academics. And I believe that incorporating making and innovation into your library, will not only make it relevant, but indispensable.
  • And looking at nearly any academic library’s mission you’ll find statements like these:

    Read Aloud.

    Surely, these are the goals and missions which maker and innovation spaces can help libraries accomplish?
  • Academic libraries have actually long supported making and innovation. For centuries we focused on helping our scholars write, or rather, make research papers. We have also always provided informational resources for experiments so, I don’t believe it’s such a big step to provide physical resources for those as well. Poster printing is a common service in academic libraries as is a variety of “making software” – from AutoCAD to Final Cut Pro to ChemSketch to Photoshop. We also pride ourselves on being the place for knowledge, connections, and collaborations are made. We provide space, events, and resources to help make these happen.
  • In academic libraries, we focus heavily on creating information literate students. While this is a crucial literacy for academic and career success, we have also begun to realize that other literacies are necessary and equally deserving of our attention. Digital and media literacy has certain come to the attention to many librarians. But I argue we need to also include other literacies such as computational and tactile literacy if we truly want to produce students most ready to not just enter the workforce, but become a leader in it.
  • This is one of my favorite quotes from Mitch Resnick of the MIT Media Lab. His group developed the programmable brick technology that actually inspired the Lego Mindstorm robotic kits.

    He says, “Read Quote”

    Technology plays a vital role in not only consuming information but also producing it. We are doing a disservice to our students by not teaching them how to communicate with others and express themselves via something other than a Microsoft Word document.
  • This quote is from Catarina Mota, maker and co-founder of, which is dedicated to DIY experimentation and smart materials.

    Read Quote

    Academic libraries exist to support the research and teaching missions of the university. And the university exists mainly to educate students who go out into the world and achieve massive success. (This, of course, is how a university’s reputation is built up.) Therefore, academic libraries should be striving to not only help our students achieve academic success, but to learn the skills necessary to make their future. To be leaders in the world and make our collective future.

    Allowing them to learn and grow through making and innovation-related services will help them do this.

  • Radical collaboration, accelerate serendipity, promiscuous collaboration
  • Radical collaboration, accelerate serendipity, promiscuous collaboration
  • Because we can afford and need high end equipment for our Engineering students and faculty, we are in a unique position to offer tools and resources to the public that perhaps a public library would never be able to afford.
  • More businesses have come out of DeLaMare Science & Engineering Library than any other place in Northern Nevada.

    Go out and make connections – Meg talked about drinking beers with the people – we, too, leave the library – startup events, local collective, campus events…
  • Making & Innovation in Academic Libraries

    1. 1. Why it needs to be happening in academic libraries Tara Radniecki Bibliothekartag: Bremen, Germany June 6, 2014
    2. 2. DeLaMare Library
    3. 3. DeLaMare Library
    4. 4. But WHY in an academic library?
    5. 5. If individual departments begin managing electronic journal subscriptions and the student union provides comfy couches for students to study in (and eat/drink/sleep) – why on earth will any university continue to spend millions on the library ?
    6. 6. Making + Innovation in Academic Libraries = Indispensible
    7. 7. Our Missions
    8. 8. History of Supporting Making
    9. 9. Literacies • Digital / Media literacy • Computational literacy • Tactile literacy
    10. 10. Literacies
    11. 11. Literacies
    12. 12. The stuff resumes are built of… Expert 3D modeling skills Multiple students working on patent applications Apps created in hackathons Robotics knowledge Creative thinking skills Tactile & computations knowledge
    13. 13. Connect People
    14. 14. Make Collaborations • Joint proposal with Psychology for handheld 3D scanners • Joint proposal with 31 faculty across campus for makerspace (in DeLaMare) • Engineering dept giving us 3D printer & laser cutter – make accessible to entire community • Faculty members having office hours in DeLaMare Library • Computer Science asking us to co-produce a teens Arduino summer camp
    15. 15. Make & Strengthen Collaborations
    16. 16. Maker culture • Inclusiveness • Open source • Access to tools / resources • Foster collaboration • Champion innovation • Sharing of knowledge / skills • Hands-on learning • DIY
    17. 17. The Wisconsin Idea The Wisconsin Idea is the principle that the university should improve people’s lives beyond the classroom. It spans UW–Madison’s teaching, research, outreach and public service.
    18. 18. Public Outreach • First academic library to offer 3D printing to anyone and everyone, regardless of major or university status – completely open to greater public. • Workshops and tours are open to the public • Attending local collectives, makerspaces, inventor groups, high schools, networking communities to share resources
    19. 19. Supporting Startups • Startup Weekend • Inexpensive Prototyping • Patent & Trademark Information
    20. 20. “I never thought I’d be able to create anything I can imagine.” - A student upon hearing about our 3D printer.
    21. 21. “The End.” Tara Radniecki Engineering Librarian DeLaMare Science & Engineering Library University of Nevada, Reno @tmradniecki