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The library’s makerspace born in a lead user workshop


Crisp morning air gusts in through the windows, with the flip charts and post-it notes fluttering in the breeze. Markers in different colours have been scattered around the room in deliberate patterns. Everything is ready. People start to arrive, a little early, nervous, expectant, excited. Soon, some of them are already at the table tapping on their laptops, one takes out a knitting project – here we already have something quick and electronic and something hand-made and slow side-by-side, just like it should be in the maker culture. The first lively conversation is already in progress, and the back row is buzzing.

Lead users in hacking, fablabbing and maker culture, people who live the future trends already years before the mainstream, have been invited into the workshop. The first impression they give is already a multi-faceted image of the different subcultures of DIY and making stuff. The people involved include experts from IT firms to festivals, freelance creators to entrepreneurs, civil activists to coders – everything from ties to fuzzy hairdos, from people wearing Woody Allen glasses to sneaker aficionados.

This group has gathered in the Aalto University facilities to design together a makerspace suitable for a library. A makerspace is a communal space for people making stuff, where there are different kinds of tools and equipment available for making things, modelling, learning and creating ideas. Nerds, geeks, DIY and handicraft people coexist there. This year, the library is opening a makerspace as one of the pilot projects in participatory budgeting at the Meeting Point, and it will be further developed in the Central Library that will open in 2017.

The maker culture is about tinkering, hacking, making and fixing

Soon everyone has got their “hands dirty”, working full blast with post-it notes stuck to their fingertips. There is a lot to do – for example, it should be mapped where making stuff goes and what kind of places there are for making things in 2020. A library could really be a good communal growing medium for doing things, hacking, personalisation, crafting, making stuff, tinkering, coding, fixing, sewing, recycling and inspiration – all this comes together under the maker culture umbrella. A space in the library, open to everyone, could offer an easily approachable route for user-oriented innovation, exploratory learning, testing and prototyping.  

Great data on small post-it notes

Developing services is usually still believed to be mainly a job for experts. In the lead user workshop, this stereotype was turned upside down and the users were brought into the centre of design. And they had a great deal of work to do. A tailored lead user workshop model was used, in which the morning focused on identifying the trends in maker culture and the afternoon was dedicated to finding solutions. The purpose of the workshop was to investigate the boundary conditions of a makerspace suitable for a library – to create a kind of a requirement specification. People worked both alone and together to map out trends. First, the participants had a short period of time to list trends in speed note style. After this, they did open space work. The afternoon was used to model a good makerspace in practice. In the Aalto FabLab, post-it notes were used to note and tag prerequisites and possibilities directly on the walls, materials, tools and equipment.

A test of cognitive capacity

Plenty of post-it notes were used. Each participant received stacks of inspirational cards of different colours, already divided into categories. The categories were “technology”, “activities” “sharing/organizing/ipr”, “safety/risks” “other” and “sustainability”. They functioned as visual clues during the whole day, and acted as a reminder of the different aspects of maker culture. The categories also made analysing the results easier. The participants were clearly interested in not only the subject, but also the method. At times, everyone’s cognitive capacity was being tested and the atmosphere was like in a game of ice hockey: there was plenty of speed and good action, but you had to be able to keep your eye on the puck. In the end, an enormous amount of information in the form of post-its and recordings had been gathered for creating a good makerspace.                                                           

A big thank you to all participants for your ambitious work! The work you have done will take us far.  

The results from the workshop are being analysed right now! If you are interested in studying the results in picture formats, excel and pdf formats, please contact Virve Miettinen, .

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