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Is It Time To Retool-1

Public Libraries, 3D Printing, FabLabs and Hackerspaces, Thomas writes in…

We do not share the malaise of many librarians who worry that the Internet and e-books are going to make public libraries obsolete. On the contrary, these shifts liberate libraries to spend more of their resources on their essential purpose within a democracy. A public library is a hackerspace avant la lettre. It is a democracy machine where people inform themselves and then literally go out and form the world they live in. It is a place that empowers people to actively hack the social codes they live in. There has never been so much work for libraries to do! The harvest is plentiful (literally, one of our projects is to collectively farm ½ acre of public land at the Northern Onondaga Public Library) but the workers are few.

We want to see 3D printing, FabLabs and Hackerspaces become a regular feature–in addition to its other services–at every public library in the country. This video was made in support of Lauren Britton-Smedley’s proposal to create a pilot FabLab at the Fayetteville Free Library. This is Lauren’s final project for the “Innovation in Public Libraries” class taught by Meg Backus and Thomas Gokey at Syracuse University’s iSchool. In this class we looked at avant-garde art from the past 60 years (social sculpture, relational aesthetics, institutional critique, interventionist practice, and hacker/maker/DIY culture) and used it as a way to rethink what the library of the 21st century could be. We remain committed to the essence of a public library as a genuine commons, as a “university of the people,” as a place where the knowledge of past generations is preserved for present and future research. Our class explored what this essential function means today. The class was, in some respects, run as a studio where each student proposed and then actually created a project like this one.

Other students are working on organizing CSA drop offs through the public library network, redesigning the bus schedules for our local public transit (badly needed), making a library’s piano available to the public, and creating a self-watering, self-tweeting network of cacti with an Arduino (so that you don’t over-water your cactus). You can view are class website here.

-Meg Backus and Thomas Gokey

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Is It Time to Rebuild & Retool Public Libraries and Make “TechShops”?

Phillip Torrone

Editor at large – Make magazine. Creative director – Adafruit Industries, contributing editor – Popular Science. Previously: Founded – Hack-a-Day, how-to editor – Engadget, Director of product development – Fallon Worldwide, Technology Director – Braincraft.


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