This spring, I worked on data collection and analysis to underpin my library’s forthcoming strategic plan. My colleagues and I conducted focus groups with students, faculty members, librarians, and library staff. We collected student responses to a question posed on a whiteboard in our lobby. We also sent out a survey to local school media specialists. We asked everyone what they thought that libraries will/should be like in five years’ time (among other things), and a recurring theme that came up about a dozen times was that the library of 2020 would provide resources in support of maker activities.
The maker-oriented answers really caught my eye. Although the school media specialists were the only ones who actually used words like “makerspace,” interest was present across all the groups we talked to. Here’s a brief excerpt of the finished report on what we learned:
Multimedia Production or Makerspaces were mentioned 12 times, spread relatively evenly across all respondent groups. [School media specialists] stated that such facilities and resources will be expected of libraries by 2020. Students seemed particularly interested in more access to 3D printers, something which library staff agreed with them on, but students also mentioned that the library of the future might offer services like professional-quality photo printing and more availability of advanced multimedia-creation software. Faculty members spent a long time discussing what they called a “communication lab,” where students could have all the resources they needed to film themselves and edit multimedia, including support staff to help them learn new skills. Library staff agreed with faculty members that there needs to be skilled support available to students using these resources.
Librarians focused on ideas of expanding and improving the multimedia production resources already available in Penfield Library, especially by sound-proofing the [existing] multimedia production rooms.
Much of what’s mentioned there is an extension of what our library already offers. We already offer 3D printing and rooms students can check out to gain access to all kinds of multimedia-creation hardware and software. We don’t quite have “dedicated support” for maker activities, but we do have a Learning Technologies Librarian whose job includes teaching workshops about multimedia creation, plus a handful of other librarians who have stepped up to teach such workshops in the past. We also have further plans afoot to make sure that every librarian has some basic knowledge of multimedia creation–at least enough to get a student started on a digital storytelling project.
Hearing and reading the maker-related responses to our study is reassurance that our users value the path we’re on. Obviously it’s still early days; this is just the data analysis leading up to our strategic plan, which I’ve yet to see. Still, it’s exciting to me that every group we talked to mentioned something in the way of making as a direction that the library should take. Hopefully this will mean that our strategic plan leaves room for–or, better yet, aims for–growth in this area of library services. I would love to see us be able to support all the predictions mentioned above!
Has anyone else done any kind of library user study or strategic planning where support for makers came up? Let us know in the comments, or tweet us @makerbridge.