Librarians: Ambassadors to New Technology

Libraries are increasingly becoming places for individuals to learn about new technology. Devices such as 3D printers and scanners, laser cutters, and wire benders, which were typically located in engineering and technical schools, are now finding their ways into library “makerspaces” across the country. A makerspace is a place for people to explore new concepts and ideas, as well as get value from the hands of making their own creative projects. Through library makerspaces, people of all ages and backgrounds have access to technology they may have only dreamed possible and as a result, librarians are thrust into a familiar role: ambassadors to new technology.

It’s hard to imagine a time when the internet wasn’t a daily part of people’s lives, but that was the reality just 20 short years ago. At the time, home internet access was not very common and the local library was the where many people were first able to surf the web. Librarians served as ambassadors to this new technology by teaching library patrons how to send email and assisting with research through online sources. The same thing is happening now in library makerspaces, where librarians assist patrons in creating everything from 3D printed toys and models to prototypes of products and medical devices.

One potential issue in the implementation of makerspaces is that not all librarians are experts with 3D printers or laser cutters. One common theme about librarians who successfully implemented makerspaces is that they looked to their communities for help and found people who were enthusiastic to share their knowledge about the new technology with librarians, who were then able to spread this knowledge to anyone in their community who wished to learn. This collaborative effort between librarians and their community created an atmosphere of both learning and doing in the libraries and allowed librarians to fulfill their role as ambassadors to new technology.

The facilitation of learning has always been librarians’ core mission, whether it’s through books and research or advances in technology. This facilitation occurs not only in the local community of library patrons, but also in the nationwide community of librarians who seek to create their own makerspaces.  By helping their colleagues break down barriers to the implementation of makerspaces in new areas and constantly refine the process to benefit to the nationwide library community, librarians again serve as ambassadors to new technology – both locally and nationwide.

View this video to see how the D.C. Public Library successfully utilizes it’s “Fab Lab” makerspace:

You can also view this video of John Rennie, Editorial Director for AccessScience, who spoke recently at ALA Orlando about how makerspaces help librarians deliver STEM learning to their communities.

Download our free AccessScience Maker Project white paper for instructions on creating a Laser-Grid Intruder Alarm.

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