Not one to back down, AUT is today the first university in New Zealand to have a library makerspace. Kim Tairi, University Librarian at AUT shares her experience of setting up a makerspace and measuring the success of it.
Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa (hello, hello hello to you all) from Aotearoa (New Zealand). My name is Kim Tairi and I’m the Kaitoha Puka or University Librarian from Auckland University of Technology (AUT). If you want to know more about the kind of university we are, I suggest you watch this wonderful video of our UniPrep students. You might need tissues!
Like most libraries, we are grappling with how to continuously transform our library in an incredibly competitive higher education sector. One of the strategies we are using at AUT is to firmly position the Library as a learning and social space, changing the perception that we are merely repository for books. Many people are “nostalgically protective of libraries” as Dr Layla McCay notes in Huffington Post, which can add layers of complexity to making changes to much loved libraries and collections. Thus, bringing the community along with you when creating new services and spaces requires lots of engagement with users. I want to share with you an example of where we have been successful.
You may already be familiar with the makerspace ethos. Essentially, they are shared spaces where people with different skill levels, can come together for informal peer-led learning (Gardiner, D 2016). In the Library we were keen to create a space that mirrors some of the more innovative teaching and learning spaces in the university as well as real-world workplaces. It seems likely that many of our graduates won’t ever work in office spaces as we now know them. They will work in co-working spaces and studios. We also recognized that studio space in faculty is often restricted to students from that faculty. Thus we wanted to offer faculty agnostic space for all.
We opened the makerspace in semester 2 of 2017 and the response has been wonderful. The name Studio 55 is a homage to the artist and musician David Bowie, who frequented the New York nightclub, Studio 54 and our street number, 55.
We program regular activities in Studio 55 and in the first few months an alumnus, Ryder Jones was our artist-in-residence. He created works of art and ran workshops for the AUT community. The makerspace is particularly popular with our design and engineering students, many of whom weren’t using our physical library spaces before because we weren’t providing the right environment to meet their study needs.
Our program includes activities such as: printmaking, yoga, mindfulness, zine-making, sustainability and hack-a-thons. Some are facilitated by students and faculty and our ultimate aim is for the bulk of the workshops to be run by our community.
The makerspace provides the perfect place to engage and collaborate. We offer meaningful opportunities for people to acquire new skills and knowledge. Attendance at workshops is steady and growing. The library looks and feels more vibrant and dynamic. When Studio 55 is not being used for workshops, students/staff are free to use the space, materials and much of the equipment. In fact, we have increasingly found that staff from the Library and other areas in the University are using the space for stand-up meetings, agile sprints and team activities.
Spaces like this are relatively easy to create. We have kept ours deliberately low tech. The focus is more on peer-led learning. We set the whole thing up for $50,000. Our Marketing and Engagement Specialist Hans Tommy coordinates the space and does the programming and promotion alongside his marketing and communications responsibilities. Ideally, we’d like more resources to expand and grow the activities offered but we’re managing for now. The space is a great investment in terms of changing perceptions about academic libraries. The positive PR and wow factor has paid dividends. More people see the Library as a place that fosters learning, creativity and innovation.
Our Library Roadmap (our mission/strategy) talks about creating an environment that encourages curiosity, creativity and experimentation plus fosters learning, teaching, research and openness. The makerspace does all of these things. AUT is the first university in New Zealand to have a library makerspace. It is a win/win for AUT!
Kaitoha Puka (University Librarian)