Over the past year , the Fayetteville Free Library (FFL) has enjoyed the successful rollout of its Fabulous Laboratory (Fab Lab), a Maker space that resulted from the library’s commitment to community engagement and innovation. During this time, the library’s staff have been honored to speak about the Fab Lab and to explain not only its success but also the variety of challenges and assumptions that most libraries will face when developing a similar space.
Over the past 40 years, public libraries have followed popular culture through the ever-more-abstract artifacts of the digital age, offering music and video in every format, public computers for Internet access, online branches, and downloadable content. Now, some libraries are following Maker culture back to things we can hold in our hands.
Maker spaces in libraries are the latest step in the evolving debate over what public libraries’ core mission is or should be. From collecting in an era of scarce resources to curation in an era of overabundant ones, some libraries are moving to incorporate cocreation: providing the tools to help patrons produce their own works of art or information and sometimes also collecting the results to share with other members of the community.
In the not-so-distant future, communities could view their local libraries as the place to go when they want to publish their own ebook, create and edit their latest song or video, or even design and print out plastic tools, toys, and prototypes. A growing number of libraries already offer their patrons tools such as recording equipment and sound and video editing software. Now, some are beginning to house 3D printers. In fact, many libraries have begun viewing such services as a core part of their mission.