2011/03/11

'Retooling' Libraries Into TechShops

Make magazine recently had an article about 'retooling' libraries into TechShops. Although the Fox Valley and northeast Wisconsin may not be quite ready to have any of its libraries begin hosting and encouraging a significant amount of DIY / hacker / maker activity, it makes a lot of sense for the DIY / hacker / maker community to connect with libraries in this region to discuss this retooling concept.

To begin this conversation in the Fox Valley region, I contacted the Appleton library to request a meeting to discuss the above retooling article. This meeting has five objectives:
  1. Find out what the current interest level is at the Appleton library for getting more involved in Make magazine type activities and what their vision is for future involvement in those activities.
  2. Find out how DHMN (Distributed Hacker/Maker Network) can assist the Appleton library achieve their 'TechShop retooling' vision and generally be a technology resource for the library.
  3. Work with Appleton library personnel, and others at the meeting, to identify initial 'TechShop retooling' contacts at other New North libraries and at other organizations in the New North; also identify individuals in the region who may be highly passionate about TechShop types of activities.
  4. Schedule a DHMN work session at the library if they are willing to provide a free venue for that purpose.
  5. Request general feedback about DHMN from people at the meeting who are not DHMN members.
The Make magazine retooling article's stated purpose is "to get everyone talking about one of our great resources, the public library, and its future." DHMN's members are more than happy to initiate and participate in that discussion in the Fox Valley and the New North.

An interesting concept presented in the article is tool-lending libraries. This seems like an appropriate point of discussion to include in conversations about TechShop retooling of libraries. At least one of the tool-lending libraries in the USA appears to have been started with a community block grant. When DHMN identifies a Fox Valley library which is highly interested in collaborating on the TechShop retooling concept, it will probably make sense to pursue a grant from the Community Foundation of the Fox Valley Region or identify and apply for other relevant grants to help launch a tool-lending library or to fund similar high priority activities to facilitate the TechShop retooling initiative.

Two concepts and organizations highly relevant to TechShop retooling of Fox Valley libraries are community sustainability and collaborative consumption. One of the reasons to do TechShop retooling of a library is to make its community more sustainable. If you are highly interested in sustainability in the Fox Valley, you should consider participating in Sustainable Fox Valley -- it's the primary sustainability organization in the Fox Valley, and they have a meeting scheduled for March 14, 2011 -- you can register for it here. Building a more sustainable community is also a concept of strong interest to many DHMN members, especially as embodied in the holon concept presented in Freedomâ„¢.

The collaborative consumption concept is closely related to the tool-lending library concept. The book What's Mine Is Yours has sparked or added fuel to a national conversation about this topic and the book author established an online 'collaborative consumption hub.' Two websites that are promoting and enabling collaborative consumption are NeighborGoods and ShareSomeSugar. The tagline for NeighborGoods is "Save money and resources by sharing stuff with your friends" while ShareSomeSugar's is "why buy when you can borrow?" At least one neighborhood association in Appleton has its own 'neighborhood resource sharing' service designed to facilitate people within that neighborhood share things like extension ladders, rototillers, lawnmowers, and other tools that are used infrequently or are relatively expensive.

Merging the four concepts of
  1. DIY / Hacker / Maker
  2. TechShop retooling of libraries
  3. Sustainable communities
  4. Collaborative consumption
and building a strong distributed network between the groups of people involved in or interested in those four topics will lead to interesting and worthwhile conversations. If enough common ground can be established and cultivated between those four groups, it will lead to fantastic innovation and entrepreneurial opportunities which will not otherwise happen in the Fox Valley.

This is a call to action for each person in the Fox Valley who is interested in at least two of the above four concepts.
  1. If you are interested in the DIY / Hacker / Maker approach to 'making' things, do some online reading on those topics, check out the DHMN website and consider becoming an active participant in DHMN; start by coming to a monthly meeting or a DHMN work session; contact Bob Waldron if you have questions, bwaldron [att] gmail (dot) com. After you get involved with DHMN, start building connections between DHMN and people working on the other concepts above in which you're interested.
  2. If you see value in some or all of the points discussed in the TechShop retooling article, contact your local library, identify the person or people with the authority and passion for developing and implementing TechShop retooling at that library, start conversations and meetings about retooling, then develop and implement the key next steps to start retooling your library. If you do find a Fox Valley library interested in or already starting on their TechShop retooling, please let Bob Waldron know about that.
  3. If interested in, but not yet involved with, sustainability in the Fox Valley, go to the Sustainable Fox Valley meeting on March 14, 2011, participate in the upcoming Natural Step Community Study Circle which begins April 26, 2011, or start getting involved in the group by contacting them at info@sustainfv.org.
  4. If collaborative consumption (CC) appeals to you, check out the relevant websites linked above and start getting involved in one of the established CC organizations. After getting a little experience with CC, consider starting or getting involved with a CC service in the Fox Valley region.
"Be the change you want to see in the world!"

*****

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