Library Services, Summer 2014: The College (and the Library?) as Makerspace
The concept of libraries as makerspaces–sites where library users have the means to create with technology, in the broadest sense of the word that includes tools of all kinds as technology–is an exciting and challenging new development in our field, and one that we at Gottesman are striving to incorporate. It’s an idea that I’m still trying to wrap my mind around, but it occurred to me recently that for us at Teachers College, the origins and founding principles of the institution may provide some insights and leads on what the library’s role should be.
It’s instructive to remember, for example, the College’s early incarnation as the Industrial Education Association, founded in 1884 “to teach boys and girls the industrial arts (including the manual arts and domestics arts) and to promote industrial education as a part of the public school curriculum.”*
The Historical Photographs of Teachers College collection, viewable in its entirety in our online archive PocketKnowledge, includes abundant images of labs, shops, and classrooms where the precursors of maker culture were actively promoted and practiced at our institution.
A connection that’s more difficult to make is between the work we do in public services and the kind of activity that’s at the core of what makerspaces are about. Though we unquestionably post news, analysis, and research support materials on this blog, and though our role as mediators and deliverers of information to the community is beyond dispute, the tools in the use of which we offer students training are strictly research resources, and the work we help students produce mainly intellectual work.
But this seems to me effort well worth making, and what’s made as a result by students as real and crafted as if there were tangible products. The following is a sampling of what students with whom we consulted during Summer 2014 were seeking:
- information on grants funding for teacher professional development in the
areas of digital literacy and inclusive education;
- resources for researching how teachers use textbooks in the classroom;
- help with the exploration of LGBT issues in secondary-level US History classes;
- research on how Muslim girls and their families perceive Islamic education, and how Islamic education shapes Muslim girls’ identity;
- research on the Amherst Project Collection and archives;
- research related to teaching singing and COPD, and on singing as a
- research assistance on how to develop inclusive curriculum that integrates the arts so that students with learning disabilities can access higher order thinking skills;
- guidance on investigating the effectiveness of problem-based Learning (PBL) for teaching science to 8th grade students;
- assistance formulating search strategies for a study of feminist pedagogies within three National Council of Teachers of English journals;
- help with research on the effects of the withdrawal of state financial and political support on higher education innovation: the correlation between withdrawal and innovation; whether the effects vary according to whether
a school is elite or non-elite, public or private, and whether diffusion varies substantially within an institution;
- assistance with tracing the history of a particular scientific idea and/or technological invention, before it was widely accepted by general society, back when there was still a ‘controversy’; focusing on the dictionary (Webster’s?) and definitions of American usage;
- recommendations on researching an 1818 sketchbook in the possession of the student; putting together a historical narrative about the artist (unknown); the only information is an address from the Academy at Erasmus Hall, Flatbush, LI, which turns out is the oldest secondary school in NY. Seeking to gather any information about Erasmus Hall and teaching art in NYC
during the early 1800s;
- help with tracing the history of family leave legislation in New Jersey (i.e., when bills were proposed, what failed, and what passed).
And these are some basic statistics on research and information services delivered to students, faculty, and researchers during Summer 2014:
- Senior Librarians and Services Associates fielded 1,137 in-person and telephone reference queries;
- Services librarians received and responded to 516 queries of various kinds submitted via the library’s email Support Request service, with a growing number of queries handled by Services Associates;
- Research and information services librarians provided 27 research consultations to individuals or small groups during the Summer;
- Library Services presented four course-specific library information sessions, either in the classroom
or in library spaces, for a total of 62 students.
It will be interesting to see to what extent maker culture takes root in our library, and as a services person I find it intriguing to speculate about how core makerspace tenets might be incorporated in how we deliver assistance to the community, or, perhaps more importantly, how we help create a space in which our users do, make, and create–do research, make discoveries, create knowledge–on their own.
*”A Tribute to Grace Hoadley Dodge,” TC Media Center, December 2000.