In the last years, making has become an intrinsic part of western culture. Citizens have transformed from mere consumers to prosumers (producers-consumers) unlocking an ever wider active cultural participation. Technology has empowered people to be self-servicing, while in turn public and private life greedily reorganize accordingly. This broad cultural and economic change comes from the position that we are all makers and that through our choices, we can make our reality. Making as an activity is not just about the objects manufactured, but about the purpose and reality change it produces. Beer brewing, knitting, robotics and woodworking are now more accessible than ever to citizens thanks to both digital and physical resources. Contemporary society is like a big supermarket: consumers/makers need the right skills to make the right choices.
This trend has also transformed libraries. As literary resources have become readily available online, libraries have had to search for new functions and ways to remain significant to their communities. Library spaces have shifted towards performative spaces where visitors are invited to act, create and innovate.
In some countries, such as the US, Denmark, or the Netherlands libraries have started to introduce makerspaces to serve their active users. Leaving behind the passive idea of libraries as places of knowledge consumption, they are now becoming places of knowledge production where prosumers interact with the collections and the space to expand the boundaries of their capabilities. Besides traditional ways of learning, enjoying, and growing, libraries today are more and more offering ways to obtain new skills and experiment with them. Digital literacy, for instance, or the ability to become your own entrepreneur-these spaces are making makers.
This shift in the function of public libraries presents exciting new perspectives for designers. Introducing makerspaces can increase the public relevance of libraries and eventually produce positive social changes. How does spatial design and organization of performative spaces / makerspaces in public libraries contribute to cross fertilization and the development of a healthy makers culture?
Given this new and changing relationship between makerspaces and the public spaces they inhabit, we investigated the spatial aspects of this change in the case of Dutch public libraries, analyzing the characteristics of existing makerspaces in libraries and identifying future challenges in libraries in the context of a growing self-servicing society:
- MAKE IT BELONG! Makerspace embedding in the library: anchor makerspaces in contemporary library layering and context; cross-fertilization.
- MAKE IT YOUR PLACE! Diversity in makerspaces design: fight genericity by customization and specificity; context.
- MAKE IT FUN! Makerspace as leisure palace: playgrounds to counteract (too much) emphasis on education and business maximizing enjoyment, playfulness, and exploration.
- MAKE IT AN INFRASTRUCTURE! Co-creation and networking experience. Facilitate co-creation among centers (e.g. libraries, fab-labs, schools) in Netherlands and abroad.
- MAKE IT A CULTURE! Prepare for the future of making: personal robotics, bioengineering, human library, problem-solving, education.
It is easy to remark that these challenges, although originated from an investigation of spaces and places, might be as well significant for other societal conditions and challenges. The MAKERLAB Project (2021-2023) coordinated by the National Library of the Netherlands (KB) and with the support of the PICA foundation goes further in exploring the rise of makerspaces in the context of the Dutch public library by taking a multidisciplinary approach, combining the programming expertise of Hogeschool Rotterdam through Stadslab Rotterdam, the networking experience of FERS in the Dutch Friesland region and the design knowledge of the Delft University of Technology with its Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment. During this two year project, eight pilot libraries are undergoing a process to support the development of a makerspace taking into account the challenges and the current opportunities/threats proper of the specific context/community of belonging.
The preliminary results show how working on the visibility and accessibility of a makerspace to make it more approachable for library visitors or making an interior representing the local challenges and interests of the community can ensure a public activation of a library makerspace. We will be happy to share with you the findings of the MAKERLAB project once completed.
– Caso, Olindo & Joran Kuijper. 2019. Atlas: Performative Spaces in Dutch Public Libraries. Delft: TU Delft Open. https://books.bk.tudelft.nl/index.php/press/catalog/book/684.
– Caso, Olindo. 2020. “Public libraries and ‘Making’. Experiences in the Netherlands”. In: The New Spaces of the Common. Spatial and Political Models of Making, CPCL 2-2, (185-200). DOI: 10.6092/issn.2612-0496/9547
– Jochumsen, Henrik; Casper Hvenegaard Rasmussen, Dorte Skot-Hansen. 2012. “The four spaces – a new model for the public library”. In: New Library World, November (586–697) https://doi.org/10.1108/03074801211282948.
– Sacco, Pier Luigi. 2011. Culture 3.0: A new perspective for the EU 2014-2020 structural funds programming. Paper of the EENC–European Expert Network on Culture. http://www.eenc.info/eencdocs/papers-2/culture-3-0-%E2%80%93-a-new-perspective-for-the-eu 2014-2020-structural-funds-programming