OLITA’s Lending Library On the Road
In 2010, a few intrepid OLITA councilors outlined a strategic plan to match OLA’s. They set a number of goals, including:
“OLITA will foster and promote innovation in library information technology in Ontario.”
To accomplish this, the councilors established the OLITA lending library. They wanted to make new devices more accessible – to libraries and to individual members. Gadgets can be expensive. The idea was to give library staff a chance to play with some of the tools. The opportunity to run a test drive or two with patrons without worrying about project plans and budgets is an added bonus.
We know: we’re fantastic. But we’ve found that not all OLA members know we’re here! So this year, the OLITA council has made an effort to get out and spread the word.
When I’m not volunteering for OLITA or experimenting in the kitchen, I work for the Southern Ontario Library Service as a Technology Consultant. One of my favourite aspects of this job is that I get to go out to groups of library staff and talk to them about trends in tech and libraries. We chat about everything you’d expect: internet access policies, wifi security, devices. More unexpectedly, the #freethenipple movement on instagram. Inevitably, makerspaces come up.
Makerspaces can be hard to explain. At the First Nations Fall Gathering SOLS ran this year, I spoke about them briefly. I explained that they are spaces people come together to collaborate and to share. Often, individuals will come away with a completed project, or ideas for a new one. Then we got our hands dirty.
The playdough came out, and small groups formed. Squishy circuits taught two the basics of circuitry. Another two used the Arduino Starter Kit to run a basic circuit and create a light switch. Another connected the Makey Makey to conductive TTC tokens and playdough and spent a little while playing pacman. A few more used the Flip video camera to record a 7min. short film. At the end of the hour, most had a chance to see what other groups were working on, and to share the bits of knowledge gained. We held a screening at the end of the session. The improvisation skills were impressive, to say the least.
I’d hazard a guess that the library staff enjoyed what I called playtime much more than they did my presentation. I wandered around the room and helped troubleshoot. Just the week before, I was learning the basics of the Makey Makey and the Arduino. At the end of the session, Karen Lewis, from the Tyendinaga Public Library pointed out that First Nations libraries have run low tech maker spaces for years, working on moccasins, quilts and other traditional crafts. In these – the library staff weren’t always the experts and they didn’t have to be. The community is a resource we can tap like any other.
If there were one message I could leave with the library staff, it would be that we don’t have to be the experts. We can help others get started with gadgets and tools. We can use our investigative skills to help patrons answer the questions that arise when their knowledge eclipses our own.
Borrow from our collection, and learn how to get started. Pass on the skills. Maker culture is about sharing and collaborating. You don’t need a brand new space, or even any space at all.
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