Seeing a Space

Late last week, a library board member gave the Thinkery a tour of a storage space at a Connecticut library.  It was all very unofficial. I don’t know that anyone knew we were there.  We barely knew it was happening ourselves.

When we say “storage space”, though, what we really mean is “junk room”.  Broken tables. Broken chairs. A shattered podium “that someone with carpentry skills is planning to fix.”  Boxes and boxes of old books and magazines that would “eventually get sorted for the sale rack by volunteers.”  Supplies “for the teen program” that looked like they hadn’t been opened since a Clinton administration year. Some stuffed animals from the children’s space that had been “removed for cleaning after a lice scare” (Did they ever get washed?).  No one had clear responsibility for the room, and so the room was never cleared.

After the visit, the Thinkery sat down and wrote up a plan for that space as a MakerSpace.  We envisioned some redesign of the shelving; some tables in the middle; some computers and some equipment along one wall; a work-bench on another wall.  We wrote up a two-year plan for a more detailed response to an RFP, a construction phase, a training program for library staff and volunteers; and some technical documentation about websites and equipment the library could get.  We imagined a space that forward-thinking libraries would love to bring to their communities; and our initial estimate on what it would cost was very reasonable.

And then we closed up our notebook and put away that whole vision. Because the library we visited last week isn’t ready for that plan.  They’re too busy trying to plan another conference and presentation room with chairs, and a digital projector, and a podium.  They want a community conference room, very much like the other conference and presentation room they already have.

But when they’re ready, we’re ready too.  We have sketches.  We have a calendar. We have an initial estimate on a budget.

In other words, we have a plan.  And we think your community of patrons will like it a lot more, because it’s not about seeing another film, or hearing another lecture.  It’s about putting those “children’s program” supplies to use. It’s about clearing out the junk.  It’s about making something new.

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?
 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.

Strategic Planning for Maker Spaces

Are you a library or a school, planning to open a MakerSpace to the public?  Are you a team of designers, considering building a semi-private workshop to paying members?  Are you hoping to start a business serving budding Makers?

We can help.

Our consulting team has a combined 40+ years in school teaching, carpentry, workshop behaviors, and design skills.  We’ve designed and built workshop spaces for three people, and workshop spaces for twelve.  We’ve taught classes in treehouse building, bookbinding, weaving, electronics, and 3D printing, so we can help you.

contact us today.