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TL v62n4: David Ratledge
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David Ratledge



David Ratledge In libraries a Makerspace is a community space offered as a service that brings people into the library to build, create, and learn by doing. Makerspaces can be small or large, simple or complex, low-tech or high-tech, and they can cost as little or as much as you have to spend. Makerspaces may revolve around a 3D printer that can create physical objects from computerized designs, but the focus and function can be anything ranging from a woodworking shop or art studio to a computer lab for digital audio/video production or computer programming.

I admit, upon first reading about Makerspaces in libraries I was skeptical. It did not fit with my image of a library. I always thought of libraries as spaces solely for the mind. Information was not something physical that was dug out of the ground and hauled off to factories in trucks, but something that existed solely in the realm of intellect and was discovered through research and learned through education. I thought of libraries as information warehouses and the minds of those who used them as the factories where the information was processed.

I believe my skepticism came from being an academic librarian. When I think of Makerspaces in the context of public libraries it makes complete sense, but when I think of them in terms of an academic or special library I do not feel the fit very well. Public libraries serve the general public, and this means they serve a much broader set of interests and needs. Academic and special libraries have a different and tighter focus. Academic libraries for example are always seeking to provide library services that help students learn and complete courses and faculty to perform original research and teach what they have learned. While this does not rule out the possibility for a Makerspace, without an overabundance of resources it is hard for me to imagine putting the time and effort and money into creating such a space when there are always needs in these other priority areas.

With a public library however, I see Makerspaces being an excellent fit. They are very much about community, and there is no better library than a public library to bring together a diverse array of people of all ages, from a variety of backgrounds, and with all manner of knowledge and skills. Such an environment is ideal for fostering the collaborative work, learning, and creativity that Makerspaces are about. If you have never considered creating a Makerspace in your library, especially if you work in a public library, perhaps it is time you should.  

For further information I suggest the following:

First Public Library Makerspace

Maker Librarian

Libraries as Makerspaces (Lyrasis Online Course – Feb 20, 2013):

3D Printers


David Ratledge is Associate Professor and Head of Systems at The University of Tennessee Libraries, Knoxville. He can be reached at 




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