Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Make Room for a Makerspace: Students, Faculty, and Staff Members Are Learning New Things, Working with Their Peers, Considering New Ideas, Exploring, Tinkering, Inventing, and Making

Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Make Room for a Makerspace: Students, Faculty, and Staff Members Are Learning New Things, Working with Their Peers, Considering New Ideas, Exploring, Tinkering, Inventing, and Making

Article excerpt

Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) is a private, not-for-profit university. Its main campus is located on the border of Hooksett and Manchester, N.H. While SNHU originated as an accounting and secretarial school, it has grown to include a wide range of programs. The university's main campus serves more than 3,000 undergraduate and graduate students, while its College of Online and Continuing Education and College for America serve more than 50,000 additional students. The Shapiro Library supports the university community, offering access to 160-plus databases and 200,000 print and electronic books. Located within the university's new 50,000 square foot Library Learning Commons building--which also houses a cafe and an IT help desk--you will find the brand-new Shapiro Library Innovation Lab & Makerspace, complete with a 3D printer. Here's the story of how the new lab evolved ... quickly.

Our Perfect Storm

In 2011 and 2012, a number of factors contributed to our decision to purchase a 3D printer and develop a full makerspace. First, the university administration was supportive. Kathryn Growney, the library dean, advocated for makerspaces during strategic discussions about innovative ways to serve students.

Second, the university wanted to expand its curriculum and was developing STEM-related educational programs, including math, lab sciences, video game design, and robotics. Having a 3D printer to support these new programs was logical.

Third, on the staffing front, a decision was made to hire a technologies and systems librarian, with the new position focused on investigating, implementing, and supporting new technologies and equipment. Lastly, in 2011, the university decided to construct a new library facility. Conditions were right to implement the ambitious idea of having a dedicated makerspace in the new facility.

By summer 2013, the university discovered that its information technology solutions (ITS) department had funds available for a 3D printer. We could not resist the opportunity to rush forward and start implementing our ideas, even though the planning and staffing to support the printer were not yet finalized. While we did not have time to gather data, consult constituents, or otherwise go through the planning typically involved in a new initiative, we were able to move forward without the time constraints of the traditional planning process.

In mid-October 2013, the library acquired its first MakerBot Replicator 2X 3D printer. It was temporarily installed on the side of the circulation desk that faced away from the heaviest foot traffic, since there wasn't a dedicated space for it yet.

Early Response and Ready Go-Ahead

There was a great deal of early enthusiasm for the 3D printer. Students regularly stopped by to watch it work, ask questions, and request that objects be printed. Within the first few weeks of operation, several faculty members requested that we introduce their students to the 3D printer, even for courses that didn't have obvious uses for the technology. While much of the initial enthusiasm was simply the wow factor--and though some criticized the equipment as being nonessential--we had an immediate opportunity to show how it could support curriculum by helping students complete a model-making assignment for a visual merchandising course.

The new Library Learning Commons building, which was under construction, had been designed to include a video production suite. The library dean encountered limited enthusiasm for the suite, but was impressed with the positive reactions to the 3D printer and brought forward the idea of changing the video production suite into a makerspace. Since the building was already under construction, the desire to implement a plan change required another quick decision on how to adapt the space intended for filming into a makerspace for 3D printers and other related equipment. …

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