Magazine article Computers in Libraries

NAU'S CLINE LIBRARY: How We Launched Our MakerBot Innovation Center in No Time

Magazine article Computers in Libraries

NAU'S CLINE LIBRARY: How We Launched Our MakerBot Innovation Center in No Time

Article excerpt

In fall 2016, Cline Library at Northern Arizona University (NAU) opened its MakerLab, a makerspace focused on 3D printing, scanning, and electronic prototyping. Designated as the first MakerBot Innovation Center in the western U.S., the MakerLab includes 20 3D printers, plus 3D scanners and electronic prototyping kits. It is the first largescale, public 3D printing service in northern Arizona. We will share why and how we built the MakerLab. More importantly, we will show how we built partnerships to make the project successful and convey some lessons we learned that can help you launch a successful technology project in your library.

NAU serves more than 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students, with 22,000-plus on the Flagstaff campus and the rest served via a variety of distance and online programs. Recognized as a technology leader on campus, Cline Library is a hub of learning and collaboration. Our building and online services are heavily used by students and faculty. The MakerLab is the latest of many projects to transform library spaces; other recent projects include creating a graphic design and media production area and the learning studio, which is a highly configurable and technology-rich classroom.

Building a Foundation

Planning for the MakerLab started with a fall 2015 staff visioning exercise to identify potential projects for targeted fundraising. Staff members selected a makerspace as a highpriority project, so we drafted a funding impact statement for the potential new program. While we had not (yet) found a donor, developing this statement got us excited about the project, so we searched for other funding sources. Through our research, we determined that the Arizona State Library's priorities for Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) funding were a good match for our project. For our grant application to be successful, we had to identify a clear purpose and goals for the program. In a nutshell, those goals were to do the following:

* Create a culture of innovation in which students can discover, innovate, and develop skills needed by employers

* Enable all NAU students, faculty members, and staffers- and the surrounding community-to access a variety of maker tools

* Support student success and position NAU as a national leader in interdisciplinary innovation

We also had to show why a makerspace was needed and why the library was the right place for it. NAU has strong programs in engineering, health sciences, earth sciences, and the arts-all disciplines for which 3D printing and other maker technologies are useful and relevant. Access to 3D printing was available on campus, but it was restricted to students and faculty members in specific courses or programs. A library makerspace would be available to everyone, regardless of major, program, or course enrollment. It would be in a space that's already heavily used by students. We also had an existing technology support model-the tech desk-that could be expanded to support the new makerspace. Our previous experience creating a multimedia production area and high-tech classroom demonstrated our ability to create a new technology-rich program.

Cline Library serves northern Arizona residents as well as the university community. Flagstaff is a center for scientific and cultural research in the region. At the same time, it is surrounded by large rural areas that are typically underserved by technology resources such as the MakerLab. Unlike many university libraries, we decided to open our makerspace to the general public.

Nailing Down the Details

After submitting the grant application in March 2016, we identified a space and selected equipment. The LSTA grant funds could not be used for construction, and the existing library budget would allow for only minimal facilities upgrades. Fortunately, we had a former photocopy room, about the size of a small conference room, that had Ethernet and plenty of power already built in. …

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