Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Libraries. Because information!

Let me start by saying that I think makerspaces are awesome. I love the idea of having a space where anybody can come in and have access to technology and art supplies and can just make stuff. And they're starting to pop up here and there, which is great.

The thing that I find curious is that it's libraries that have seemed to have taken ownership of the makerspace. Which is great for makerspaces, but what does it mean for us as librarians? 

I read an article on journal article about makerspaces lately - yes, it was one of those "Breaking News: Libraries aren't just about books!" articles. The reasoning for makerspaces? Well libraries have always been about information. And makerspaces are about democratising the creative process and making creative technology accessible to all, thus promoting the free flow of information.

Just like 3D printers and gaming consoles. Pretty awesome, huh?

You know what else promotes the free flow of information? Internet access, music, films, meeting rooms, recording studios, performance spaces... and caffeine! On the weekend, I visited the opening of the new branch of the Melbourne Library Service, simply called The Dock, and it had all of the above and books! If anything were to epitomise the modern public library, it was this place.

But you know what was sadly lacking? The word "library". 

I think the "libraries are about information" argument is a little dangerous, because by definition, we could put pretty much anything in a library and it would be about the transfer of some kind of library. But the more we become about anything and everything, the less meaning we hold for ourselves as a profession. Besides, we already have the internet for that.

Maybe I'm just self-conscious, because the moment something ceases to be a library, then the value of having a librarian there will also diminish. Then again maybe, like the library, we need to cease to exist as librarians and evolve into something more awesome.