What We Do

The Thinkery is a consulting service.

We charge money for our time, and in exchange, we help you understand three things:

  1. How to build a MakerSpace in your school or library;
  2. What tools, equipment, and materials your MakerSpace should have in it; and
  3. how to grow the knowledge and skills of your staff to make that MakerSpace successful.

That third point is really critical.  A lot of people don’t understand this, but we do — if you don’t have the right personnel, with the right skills as artisans and the right mindset as Makers, your MakerSpace will sit unused.  Your stakeholders will see it as an unsuccessful waste of time and resources.

Fortunately there are solutions to those problems. They involve training your people, and teaching your administrators what they need to know to support, build and schedule a successful MakerSpace in your institution.

We know how to do that.  Do you want our help? Contact us.

Thai Chang Bank Repair

IMAG0248One project today was the tear down and rebuild of the Thai Chang bank. We were not happy with the failure of the trunk to deliver its payload of a coin. So, we took it apart.
Sure, a simple mechanism — how hard could it be?
Well… since there are two springs, they get sprung when released from tension. But they fit together in a fairly logical fashion, with one spring bent around the cast iron pin on the trunk, a loop around the trigger lever, a hole and a matching pin for the tail.
We figured out how it works with the plate off easily enough.  Refer to your library’s copy of 507 Mechanical Movements. Of course — if your library’s MakerSpace bookshelf doesn’t have a copy yet, buy it now.
I was reminded of the adage “In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not.” Somehow, even though all we had done was taken the bank apart and put it back together, it seemed the spring was absolutely strong enough. Wasn’t I brilliant?
IMAG0246
 With the help of a clamp and my young apprentice, we got the plate back on after a good fifteen minutes of fiddling, fumbling, and the like.
Oh yeah, that spring was strong. I must have put it together better than it had been. My apprentice put the final screw in and have it a test.
Whoah, Whoah, whoah! What have we here??
IMAG0251Weak.  It seems that gravity is in effect and this cast iron trunk is too heavy for the spring. But, with the help of Hagrid and a hair tie for reins, the wise Chang can now deposit his change.
The lesson for Makers and for MakerSpaces, of course, should be obvious:  “In theory, theory and practice are the same.  In practice, they are different.”  It’s easy to read a number of articles about MakerSpaces and how easy they are to set up — but to keep them going requires a staff that isn’t afraid to take things apart, to figure out what does or does not work, and who are not afraid to make changes or modifications based on what they find inside.

Knowing About — and Knowing How

Most librarians are great at knowing about.  It is easy for them to know “about” information — the capital of Ecuador, the languages of China, the best books for a 15-year-old, how to apply for a government grant — because that information is available in the books of the reference department, or on the internet, or in the librarian’s own lived experience.

But MakerSpaces in Libraries represents something new.  A MakerSpace is a community-focused space concentrated on making and building stuff.  It’s noisy and messy — things not usually associated with libraries — and it requires a different style of knowledge: knowing how, as well as about.

It is not easy to know about things, but it is also not easy to know how things are done or made.  The Thinkery’s partners know both, though — we’re Makers and we’re Knowers.  We’ve built and managed MakerSpaces, and we know how Librarians and Libraries think. We can help you bridge the gap between what you know about Making, to helping you help your patrons be Makers themselves.  The bridge is helping you learn how to Make, and not simply learning about Making.

The Tools We Carry

What tools do you carry?

What tools do you carry?

The tools a person carries for problem-solving says a lot about the kinds of problems they’re equipped to solve. When a person carries a computer, their solutions have a tendency to look rather digital.  It’s hard to imagine solutions for the real world, when those solutions are generated inside of an imaginary world carried around on a hard drive and animated with a video card.  Sure, it can look impressive — but when every designer on a team starts with a digital foundation, none of the solutions are going to look human.

Technological solutions scale — that is, they get bigger and more elaborate the more technology is added to the mix.  But scaling rarely cares — technological solutions don’t really care about the humans they serve. So, usually humans wind up serving the technology rather than the other way around.

That’s why we travel with a fully-analog tool kit — ruler, compass, folding tools, knives, pencils, and pens.  Sure, we’ll use digital tools when they’re appropriate. But we start with human-centered tools, and with a human-centered approach to finding solutions to your problem.

Start Up!

Welcome to The Thinkery.

The Thinkery is the name that the ancient Greek playwright Aristophanes used for the school of Socrates — a man whom he admired, but also a target for some of his cleverest jokes.  We mean it in something of the same sense — a place and a team where individuals, corporations, and non-profit organizations can train themselves to do new things and think new thoughts, but which doesn’t take itself too seriously.

Operating on a base of rationality and playful design, the staff of the Thinkery meet regularly to solve problems and design solutions suited to the real-world and digital environments.  We’ve helped each other overcome challenges and solve difficulties using a combination of modern technical know-how, historical research, and plain common sense.  Our methods include design thinking, Renaissance-man training, graphic presentation, game-storming, and methods for opening up lateral thought processes in ourselves and in our clients.