Academic Makerspaces: Connections & Conversations - presentation at Internet Librarian 2012


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Despite traditional/conservative academic library roots on the campus of the UNR, the DeLaMare Science & Engineering Library is partnering with broader community- based "maker" and "coworking" groups in the Northern Nevada area, actively revolutionizing the levels of student and faculty engagement with the library. From hacknights and Arduino microcontroller workshops to concrete canoes and Rube Goldberg Machine competitions, the library is actively building connections and conversations. UNR Libraries is leveraging engaged participants to take the library beyond a collections-based hotbed of student learning and collaboration to being an engine of innova- tion transforming learning experiences at UNR. Hear gritty details of rapid prototyping, what’s working, what’s failed, and the reception of 3D printers and scanners in the library.

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  • Presentation by TodColegrove, Head of DeLaMare Science & Engineering Library, at the Internet Librarian Conference 2012 in Monterey, CA, October 24, 2012. Titled “Academic Makerspaces: Connections & Conversations”, the cover slide features a fly-in detail of Star Wars/Lego awesomeness from the engineering fraternity Theta Tau’s winning entry in the Rube-Goldberg competition. ;)
  • Hat tip to Buffy Hamilton – the Unquiet Librarian – for her recent SlideShare on the topic. Makerspaces are collaborative learning environments… a place where you can make your ideas come to life.
  • “Foster play and exploration”? Informal learning opportunities, nurturing peer-to-peer training; developing a culture of creating (as opposed to consuming) in the library _requires_ working with the communities of the library as true partners, rather than as “users” or “patrons”.
  • Does it get more serious/intimidating than this image of the front of the Mackay Mines building? One of the oldest buildings on the campus of the University that was founded in 1874, we’ve had to work to overcome serious in order to enable play and exploration.
  • The entry level of the library, as seen in the Spring of 2012. The library was not atypically quiet on this day; despite this being essentially all of the collaborative area in the library, a sole occupant is using the space. Note that the furniture present is similarly stern and arranged in very formal lines, further dampening the energy of the space.
  • Flash-forward 2-1/2 years to a very active space; on this slide and the twelve following, a quick tour of spaces on the four floors of the library. Note that although one library workstation is pictured in-use on this image from the 3rd floor, the bulk of the students on the floor are collaborating without using the workstations. Other library technology in-use includes kidney-shaped tables arranged to encourage collaboration, and whiteboard-painted walls.
  • Down through the second floor, a similar pattern emerges: the students are engaging with one another, learning materials in depth; only one out of the seven is engaged in solo work on a library workstation.
  • On the south side of the second (mezzanine) floor, two separate groups are engaged in collaborative study while seated in the low-slung comfortable chairs arranged around a similarly low table; the physical science theses providing a scholarly backdrop. Tables donated by the Washoe County School District surplus, chairs retrieved from the UNR campus surplus materials warehoused in the old Getchell Library space.
  • On the entry level of the library, in the space formerly dedicated to Circulation and the permanent reserve items, students are actively engaged with a number working at the whiteboard wall (not pictured, left-hand side in picture); a much more productive use of the physical space.
  • Even writing on the laminate surface of the tables with the whiteboard markers – a discovery on the part of the library’s members. Rather than a flaw, a feature!
  • Even the basement floor of the library is alive with activity. Note the appearance of the 4’ X 6’ rolling whiteboard; four were ordered originally to serve as a pilot of the potential use of whiteboards in the library. Based on their popularity, the whiteboard paint was ordered and applied – at a cost on the order of 1/4th of what it would’ve cost to purchase standalone whiteboards. And besides: there’s something just plain fun and creative about an entire wall of whiteboard space…
  • Back up to the entry level, where several students are pictured in front of the (much smaller) service desk with their LEGO Mindstorms NXT kits. Note the looks on their faces; happy, and proud of the robot the team is creating. There’s a lot more going on in the library than just books!
  • Note the turnover in the area of the former Circ desk on the entry level; the student appearing in both (in this image on the far right) is a student tutor providing drop-in tutoring services. On the brick pillar is seen a sign advertising the presence of “CHEM HELP” in the area M-F; a great way to introduce new students to the library!
  • And through the second floor, where you see proof-positive that there’s still a place in the world for chalkboards. And note the creative mixing/elbow-rubbing as students on the left-hand board are engaged in what appears to be a gradient-based engineering (or other field) problem – even as the students on the right-hand board are involved with in-depth organic (?) chemistry. “Creative abrasion” FTW.
  • While on the 3rd floor of the library a mix of significant collaborative work with the hustle and bustle of students flowing into and out of the space. In the background, the NW floor of the library floor is open to the atrium - the active hum from the first and second floors adding to the vibe of the floor.
  • … while on the NE side of the 3rd floor dialectic is alive and well, as several students engage in active and animated conversation over the finer details that the group is exploring. With my desk located on the open floor on the North side of the 3rd floor, I like to say that “I have the best views on campus from my desk.” Case in point. ;-)
  • Backpack, iPhone, notebook, laptop, whiteboard marker kit, coffee; the ingredients of student success.
  • Although we had added 1,000 square feet of whiteboard paint to the walls, by mid-semester we had run out: every square inch was in active use – even this group of several students clustered around the two-foot wide strip of wall as the whiteboard rounds the corner. And look at the engagement!
  • So we’re revolutionizing the levels of student and faculty engagement in the library, actively building connections and conversations as the library becomes a hotbed of learning and collaboration. But how?! The ingredients, if not the recipe:
  • Whether or not you like the OCLC-sponsored “Geek the Library” campaign, there is much of value here for the academic library. What do library faculty, staff, and students have in common with the prospective membership of the library? 1) We love/enjoy/have an intense passion for our topics of interest and 3) possess a large amount of knowledge in them. To the extent the library faculty and staff are encouraged to 1) celebrate 2) express and 4) actively and very publicly promote those interests, others from our supported communities will be attracted and engaged. The library can be the nucleus around whicvh the communities of practice crystallize into extended knowledge networks…
  • An example: there’s a lot of overlap between faculty and student interest across the supported disciplines in the blogging platform WordPress; the library was approached with the possibility of hosting a WordPress “WordCamp” (a day-long, hands-on programming event) and we jumped at the opportunity. After all, the library would otherwise have been closed on the day it was scheduled for; what better way to telegraph to the library’s potential membership that we “geek” what they do? ;)
  • The WordCamp event was not unlike a hackathon. Astonishing volumes of pizza! Footnote: we’ve just been approached to host the “hack4Reno” hackathon - in tandem with the Reno Collective, and the City of Reno – in the physical library of the DLM. We’re hoping to fill all the floors of the library with programmers working to make better access/use of the city data!
  • I’m not saying “be all things to all people” – far from it! But be some things in common with the communities served and build upon that platform.
  • The Reno Collective is a co-working space in Reno whose members are cut from a similar fabric. A loose affiliation of a bunch of programmers and website developers that come together in a physical space to share a touchstone of human interaction and creative inspiration. Students earning their wings in similar disciplines at university are well-served to get off-campus and mingle with the Collective membership, and vice-versa; skills and development can grow exponentially.
  • Ever heard of a “concrete canoe”? At UNR the concrete canoe team draws membership from across the engineering disciplines at the University. Annually, in the competition sponsored by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), teams are judged based on their design, a written paper and presentation, as well as their actual race times when the teams race their canoes on water around a pre-determined route. A huge source of pride for the faculty and students across the College of Engineering, I actively sought out the potential display of one of their past canoes within the physical library to telegraph the library’s strong support…
  • The “Argentum” was the winning entry from the University into the competition in 2008; four years later, in 2012, …
  • We called it a parade as members of the concrete canoe team, along with library students, shouldered the canoe to carry it across campus and into the library.
  • Just look at the pride on the faces of the team with the library’s display of the prized (and physically beautiful, constructed of concrete and glass) canoe in the atrium of the DeLaMare Library!
  • David Weinberger made the observation that we’re dealing with “shibboleths in the old sense; tests of whether you belong” – that’s exactly it. If you “get” the concrete canoe, you belong in the library. If you “get” WordPress and programming, you belong in the library. More importantly: the library belongs in/to you. In the observation that “social objects that aare shared form networks automatically”, Weinberger put his finger on exactly what we’ve been doing: spaces, whiteboards, kidney-shaped tables, conversation areas, workstations, exhibits, … - all are social objects that are shared. Leverage that fact and the library can piggyback onto the networks formed, building connections and conversations similarly automatically.
  • Another example: the College of Science recently hosted “Bill Nye the science guy” to speak on campus; I noticed the buzz of excitement from among the members of the library. “Did you get your ticket yet?” “Yah, Bill Nye!”
  • This snapshot of the audience of over 5,000 people attending the event is like a portrait of the community of the library. Students and faculty from across the sciences and engineering flocked to see the person who had a formative impact on them. It would not be an overstatement to suggest that – for many of those present – Bill Nye had an impact, and may well have been the trigger for the eventual choice of program(s) of study.
  • Faculty, staff, and student workers of the DeLaMare Science & Engineering Library played an active part in the realization of the “Bill Nye Science Fair” that preceded the actual presentation by Bill Nye; at least ten different departments/disciplines presented their finest/geekiest for others to play with. Note the presence of a concrete canoe in the foreground; the DLM table was in-between the Chemistry club (presenting, among other things, “non-newtonian liquid” made from corn starch and water for everyone to put their hands in) and the Engineering fraternity Theta Tau. Library stuff displayed included a 3D printer and output, SparkfunArduinioInverntor Pro kits, and two AR.Drone wireless remote control quadricopters w/API.
  • On the left-hand side Theta Tau’s DIY trebuchet is launching a water bottle high into the air; the library actually sponsored the materials for its construction, with a student providing the 60-pound piece of California jade for use as a counterweight. The trebuchet was briefly displayed in the atrium of the library, where it caused much discussion. The image at top is of a pneumatic “air cannon” that the club brought separately; 80 psi of compressed air was used to launch tennis balls several hundred feet across the lawn. The photo on the lower right shows the button maker in active use by students at the DeLaMare table. If this were an event outside of academia, it could have been called a “mini maker faire”.
  • The library has a dozen of the Sparkfun (Arduino) Inventor’s Kits as lendable technology, along with several electronics tollkits (soldering iron, wire strippers, etc); a snapshot showing the materials on the library shelves next to course reserves.
  • One particularly enterprising student created a “DIY Breathalyzer using an Arduino” as his capstone project in Computer Science; the library seized on the opportunity to showcase the project on its “KC Labs” website.
  • The project then came to the attention of the Sparkfun company itself, who showcased the project on their website…
  • Leading to much excitement on FaceBook as the student and his creation took center-stage…
  • Join forces with a local community makerspace! It’s much easier than trying to convince upper administration that you _need_ a [fill in the blank here: CNC mill, table say, etc] Bridgewire is a local community makerspace in Reno, Nevada; DeLaMare Library is proud to be affiliated with Bridgewire.
  • A snapshot of Bridgewire’s page on – and yes, “hacker” is a positive term in this community. Signaling cleverness, resourcefulness… Note the membership is reported at 37 as of 4/8/2012; around the same timeframe that we arranged a student discount/membership.
  • In the first six months after having adopted a membership discount for students, their number of members exploded; the last I heard, the number is “well over 200” - and climbing! The best part: we have another great partner. Rather than having to do every workshop ourselves, we can load share with the local makerspaceBridgewire, along with the co-working space Reno Collective.
  • Case in point: Jim Navarro of Bridgewire, a professional locksmith and member of The Open Organization Of Lockpickers (TOOOL ) has hosted several “self-security auditing” workshops in the library. In the 3-4 hour long workshops participants gain an in-depth understanding of how locks work, and go hands-on with a variety of locksets and lockpicks. To date, each event has been remarkably successful: filled to beyond capacity, resulting in standing-room participation; attendees draw heavily from the sciences and engineering, with a number of faculty attending as well; at the most recent workshop, nearly 25% of attendees were honors students.
  • Make no mistake: this is _how_ we socialize in the sciences and engineering. Focusing on a shared activity, bonds of communication form with the library at the heart of the community; true community building. To kickstart the event, the library provided pizza and soft drinks; after all, a 3-4 hour long library workshop that was standing room only?!
  • Other co-operative workshops include the Arduino microcontroller workshop, taught by Bridgewire and using the library’s lendable SparkfunArduino Inventor Pro kits; a two-day mobile app development workshop taught by a member of the Reno Collective co-working space where participants go in deep, developing mobile applications on library-provided workstations; and an Introduction to 3D scanning and modeling, taught by DLM library staff (most recently as this past Sunday). The goal is to get creativity and awesomeness flowing by and between the members of each community.
  • Beyond becoming a hub for collaboration, central to the academic learning and research missions of the campus, the library is well on its way to becoming an engine of innovation. Pictured are a number of recent projects that have been designed and 3D-printed in the library; from a chess set that breaks apart into smaller pieces for easy packing, re-assembling into a beautiful board/case/pieces, to an iris box with an aperture that opens and closes by twisting the top (original design)…
  • An organic piece of math art (by Dizingof, downloaded from Thingiverse); a snapshot of the most awesome iPhone case (with Movable interconnected gears!) downloaded from, printed and used by Engineering & Emerging Technology librarian Lisa Kurt (faculty of DLM); and a working model of a v8 gasoline engine (downloaded from – with a hand crank that turns the camshaft, moving the pistons up and down. Note that the moving parts of the engine were printed as a singe assembly, with a thin layer of support material separating the moving parts. When the item was soaked in a powerful detergent bath, the support material dissolves and – hey, presto! – articulated parts.
  • If you’re interested in going more in-depth, by all means join us for the ACRL live webcast October 30, 2012, at 11am PDT: “3D Printing Is Just the Beginning: The Future of Makerspaces within Academic Libraries” (
  • Stay tuned for the preconference “Maker Spaces: The Field Trip” at ALA Annual this year in Chicago! Co-hosted by Library Boing Boing and LITA at the oldest and largest makerspace in Chicago: PS1 – Pumping Station One!
  • Questions? For further information, don’t hesitate to contact me:pcolegrove
  • Academic Makerspaces: Connections & Conversations - presentation at Internet Librarian 2012

    1. 1. Academic Makerspaces:Connections & Conversations Photo credit: Sam Azevedo-DiMuzio. Retrieved from Presentation by Tod Colegrove, Ph.D., MSLIS Head of DeLaMare Science & Engineering Library University of Nevada, Reno at Internet Librarian 2012, Monterey CA
    2. 2. ‚Makerspaces are collaborative learning environments where people come together to share materials and learn new skills.‛ ‚Makerspace is a place where you can make your ideas come to life.‛Source: and
    3. 3. Makerspaces: • Foster play and exploration • Facilitate informal learning opportunities • Nurture peer-to-peer training • Work with community members as true partners, not as users or patrons • Develop a culture of creating as opposed to consuming.Britton, L. (Oct 1, 2012). ‚The Makings of Maker Spaces, Part 1: Space for Creation, Not Just Consumption‛. The Digital Shift LibraryJournal School LibraryJournal. Retrieved from
    4. 4. in the Academic Library? Photo credit: Nick Crowl. Facebook post.
    5. 5. Not in this library. Image of the entry floor of DeLaMare Library during the Spring, 2010, semester. Photo credit: Nick Crowl.
    6. 6. ‚<are collaborative learning environments11 LIBRARYASINCUBATORPROJECT (May 13, 2012). ‚A WAPL Recap‛
    7. 7. ...where people come together11ibid:
    8. 8. <to share materials11ibid:
    9. 9. <and learn new skills.11ibid:
    10. 10. <facilitate informal learning opportunities.22Britton, L. (Oct 1, 2012). ‚The Makings of Maker Spaces, Part 1: Space for Creation, Not Just Consumption‛. The Digital Shift LibraryJournal School LibraryJournal. Retrieved from
    11. 11. Nurture peer-to-peer training.22ibid Retrieved from
    12. 12. Develop a culture of creating<22ibid Retrieved from
    13. 13. nurture peer to peer training. 22ibid Retrieved from
    14. 14. Foster play and exploration. 22ibid Retrieved from
    15. 15. <community members as true partners22ibid Retrieved from
    16. 16. <not as users or patrons.22ibid Retrieved from
    17. 17. Makerspace is a place where you can<33Source:
    18. 18. make your ideas come to life.33Source:
    19. 19.  Revolutionizing the levels of student and faculty engagement in the library. Actively building connections & conversations. A hotbed of student learning and collaboration.But how?!
    20. 20. Source: ‚Geek the library‛ campaingn, sponsored by OCLC do you ‚geek‛?
    21. 21. Source: ‚Geek the library‛ campaingn, sponsored by OCLC the library’s community?
    22. 22. WordPress?
    23. 23. Programming?
    24. 24. Show ‘em the library does too.
    25. 25. Co-hosted in the library witha local co-working space.
    26. 26. Source: canoes?
    27. 27. Photo credit: Nick Crowl. Retrieved from year later<
    28. 28. Photo credit: Nick Crowl. Retrieved from called it a parade.
    29. 29. Now proudlyon display -in the library. Photo credit: Nick Crowl. Retrieved from
    30. 30. They’re ‚shibboleths in the old sense; tests of whether you belong.‛4 And: ‚Social objects that are shared form networks automatically.‛ 4 Leverage to build connections & conversations.4Weinberger, D. (Oct 22, 2012). Transforming Knowledge in the Age of the Net. Opening keynote, Internet Librarian 2012.
    31. 31. Photo credit: Nick Crowl. Retrieved from Nye the science guy?
    32. 32. Photo credit: Nick Crowl. Retrieved from sell-out crowd of over 5,000<
    33. 33. Photo credit: Nick Crowl. Retrieved from event preceding.
    34. 34. Photo credit: Nick Crowl. Retrieved from Sort of a ‚mini maker-faire‛.
    35. 35. Course reserves shelf:
    36. 36. Student project, showcased:KC Labs:
    37. 37. SparkfunFeatured onwebsite:Sparkfun:
    38. 38. Awesome.
    39. 39. Join forceswith a localcommunity makerspace!
    40. 40. Bridgewire membership is nowwell over 200 and climbing.And we have a great partner!
    41. 41. Photo credit: Nick Crowl. Retrieved from co-hosted event: LockSport!
    42. 42. Photo credit: Nick Crowl. Retrieved from Building.
    43. 43. Other co-operative workshops:- Arduino Microcontroller (BW)- Mobile app development (RC)- Intro to 3D scanning and modeling (DLM)
    44. 44. Photos credit: Nick Crowl. Retrieved from our way to becomingan engine of innovation<
    45. 45. Photos credit: Nick Crowl. Retrieved from
    46. 46. For more: ACRL website:
    47. 47. Coming at ALA Annual:Maker Spaces: The Field Trip Pre-conference co-hosted by Library Boing Boing and LITA. Full-day, hands-on immersion at PS1 - Chicago’s oldest makerspace!
    48. 48. For more info, author contact is pcolegrove Image credit: dr_ed_needs_a_bicycle, “Question mark, Ipswitch, 21 January, 2012”, licensed under creative commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0). Retrieved May 31, 2012, from