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Library as place, make the space: makerspaces as community development

Tania Barry, Hume Libraries


Over the last 12 months, makerspaces have become an important means for both public and academic libraries to engage with the community, providing additional services or programs to what is currently on offer.  The next major step forward for library makerspaces is to incorporate more STE[A]M (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths) principles into their programs and services to help people develop important 21st century learning skills.  This paper argues that library makerspaces play an important role in contributing to the library’s mission of supporting lifelong learning, in particular through STEAM-based activities. It demonstrates this with reference to “Light Makers”, a week long event facilitated by Curtin University Library Makerspace in 2015 during National Science Week.  Reflections on the event highlight the importance of collaboration between academic and public libraries, university and community groups, to effectively engage the wider community in STEAM-based maker activities.


Libraries around the world are changing significantly.  Widely recognised for the role they play in literacy and learning, libraries have moved from using spaces for shelves of books to thriving, innovative places, offering environments for communities to gather to learn, play, explore and share.  Literacy nowadays involves much more than simply reading and writing; the term has evolved to include ‘transliteracy’, the ability to communicate across a range of platforms.  In recent years, there has been considerable interest amongst libraries in all sectors to take the lead in hands on, experiential learning spaces now popularly known as makerspaces.

While libraries have traditionally played a significant role in knowledge creation, makerspaces provide facilities for users to become creators themselves. They can provide interactive, digital learning environments and technologies for content creation such as film making and editing, recording studios, programming/coding and 3D printing.

As newer, high tech, cutting edge technologies appear, such as 3D printers and 3D scanners, libraries also have a role to play in providing access and information on their use.  In some cases, the library may be the only means of obtaining access to these technologies.  Makerspaces in libraries enable users to share their knowledge whilst creating and learning simultaneously because of their public accessibility.


Solicited feedback from individuals and key stakeholders from Australia and around the world will be used, as well as experiential evidence-observation of interaction, use and program development in libraries and their makerspaces.  Interviews will be conducted with public library staff who have involvement in the development and use of makerspaces.


The results of the experiential evidence will be collected as the study continues up until paper submission in October 2014.  The final presentation in February 2014 will report on the use of makerspaces as a community development tool and the important role they play in a public library setting.  It will also present findings on challenges faced when developing a makerspace and provide evidence of best practice both nationally and internationally.


The rapidly growing interest in developing these spaces in Australian public libraries demonstrates that a more in depth look is required at the successful role makerspaces play in community development.  This paper aims to provide information on successes and challenges that have been faced by other public libraries so that appropriate, site specific makerspace models can be developed.


Makerspace technologies, for example 3D printing, have the capacity to bring about great changes in the community. However, although the price point has dropped considerably, they are still difficult for library users to access easily. Integrating these technologies as part of community development is a good opportunity for libraries to provide for the future informational, educational and recreational needs of users.

Paper link

Presentation link

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