FAB the Library!

The digital revolution is here.  We are now in the times of an exciting technological shift—not unlike 1981 when IBM introduced the personal computer to the world.  And, now as then, we can hear echoes similar to what we heard in 1981:  “Why would anyone want a personal computer?  What real practical use are they anyway? blah blah blah”

We hear the same babble today regarding digital fabrication—the ability to program in the physical world—not just the virtual world—the ability to use computer programming/software to create and manufacture products, objects, even food that we can eat.  In the future, factories will be downsized to local institutions such as libraries and even to bedrooms and offices in our homes.  That’s right.  We will make a lot of the stuff we use today and the stuff we can’t make at home we will make in community centers.  That’s the future.  The global sweatshops and factories may become things of the past.  This technological shift has some real implications for local.  Our cities will become much more self-sufficient.  This technological shift has some real implications for permaculture principles and learning from nature’s designs.  Many of the materials used to make our “stuff” of the future will be from recycled materials—even plastics.

Cities, like Barcelona, are already preparing for the future by establishing FabLabs all over their city.  Even though digital fabrication had its birthplace back in the 1980s at MIT, this technology seems to be more deeply rooted and making faster advances now in Europe than here in the USA.

Almost daily now, literature, such as Makerspaces in Libraries, is rolling off the shelves of bookstores to help us move this revolution along.  We will get there fast.


Although disappointed this book written by Theresa Willingham and Jeroen de Boer isn’t available now, I’m happy to see that “Makerspaces in Libraries” will arrive on August 16, 2015.  This is just the shot in the arm that our libraries need to pull them into the forefront of the 21st century as places where people come to learn.  

Our libraries will now have a social aspect that has been missing from their stacks and rows of books from day one.  Remember those days of “Shhhhhhhh, quiet please?”  Until recently, learning and acquiring knowledge has been more or less an isolated, solitary, individual pursuit and not a social experience.

Now, however, all that is changing.  Makerspaces, sometimes also referred to as hackerspaces, hackspaces, and fablabs are creative, DIY spaces where people can gather to create, invent, and learn--together. Learning is now a social event, a collaborative effort.  If someone is looking for an investment—they might consider creating a FABLAB space.  I’m sure our future will be filled with them all over our communities—not just our libraries.


Makerspaces are becoming increasingly popular in both public and academic libraries as a new way to engage patrons and add value to traditional library services. Some libraries now have 3D printers, software, electronics, craft and hardware supplies and tools, and more.  I know that at least one school library in Garland, Texas (Watson Tech) that has a maker space. And the reports I get all tell me this space is incredibly popular with the students.

This book promises to show us how to create a makerspace within the library though a step-by-step process. From planning the innovation center to hosting hack-a-thons, guest lectures, and social events in our new lab, Makerspaces in Libraries promises to provide detailed guidance and best practices for creating an enduring, community driven space for all to enjoy and from which both staff and patrons will benefit.

The information in this book may also serve anyone interested in creating a Maker Space in any setting not just a library.  Highlights and best practices include: 

  1. budgeting and business planning for a librarymakerspace,
  2. creating operational documents,
  3. tools and resources overviews,
  4. national and international case studies,
  5. becoming familiar with 3D printers through practical printing projects (seed bombs),
  6. how to get started with Arduino (illuminate your library with a LED ambient mood light),
  7. how to host a FIRST Robotics Team at the library,
  8. how to develop hands-on engagement for senior makers (Squishy Circuits), and
  9. how to host a Hackathon and build a coding community.


From one of the authors of this book, Theresa Willingham:

“The process of writing Makerspaces in Libraries with Jeroen De Boer, of Frysklab in the Netherlands, was exciting and reassuring.  The time is clearly ripe now, for libraries to take their rightful place at the heart of our communities as 21st century centers of skills and knowledge development.  Makerspaces are central to the revitalization of libraries, and thriving communities. For maximum sustainability and measurable impact,though, those spaces need to be developed intelligently and thoughtfully, from the ground up in a way that leverages the interest and support of all stakeholders.

Makerspaces in Libraries draws on the best practices of progressive libraries and practiced leadership from all over the world, including my own experience in makerspace development, to chart a path that helps libraries explore maker culture, understand and develop staff capabilities, evaluate community needs and preferences, understand volunteer capacity and collaborative possibilities to help ensure long term program sustainability and growth. Libraries hold the key to an empowered future for all of us and I'm honored to share here some valuable tools for helping librarians open the door to that future.”


NOTE:  In the province of  Fryslan (northern part of The Netherlands) they are using a mobile lab facility, named FryskLab (a former library-bus) to bring making and 21st centurys skills to primary and secondary education, trying to find solutions for local socio-economic challenges.  FryskLab is Europe’s first mobile Library-powered FabLab

See FryskLab in action at this video:





1.  Read Makerspace in Libraries when it is released on August 16.

2.  Read Arduino Cookbook – Michael Margolis  This cookbook is perfect for anyone who wants to experiment with the popular Arduino microcontroller and programming environment. Arduino is an open-source computer hardware and software company, project and user community that designs and manufactures microcontroller -based kits for building digital devices and interactive objects that can sense and control the physical world.

3.  Attend a Maker Faire.  Meet the people who are already putting the concept of digital fabrication in action.  See some of the things they have made.


The 2015 Maker Manual is now online. You can find a copy here.  Read it to better understand what you will be able to see at the faire.  All makers are responsible for reading this document and being familiar with its contents. Be sure to carefully review the new Maker Check-In information, as there are changes for 2015.

Detroit is about 17 hours away from the DFW area.  This is one of the large Maker Faires in the USA.  This one will be especially informative as visitors can also see the role that permaculture principles and urban agriculture are playing out in the recovery of the local economy.



This event will showcase 150 makers. The 2015 Tulsa Mini Maker Faire offers the opportunity for us to see ourselves as more than consumers; we are productive; we are creative.  Everyone is a maker and our world is what we make it. 

Tulsa is a little more manageable as a drive from the DFW area than Detroit. (271 miles—about 4 hours and 28 minutes)

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