Libraries: Curious about Making

That libraries care about making is amazing. Then again, it isn’t if you reflect on what their mission has been for hundreds of years: to bring free learning resources to the public. For a long, long time this meant having books available for people to check out but in recent decades that’s become less relevant.

Following in Andrew Carnegie’s footsteps, the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation spent heavily this past decade to put computers into libraries. This helped libraries extend their mission into the Internet era when so many learning resources are available online. Now, however, the mainstreaming of ebooks and the effect of recession-impacted government budgets are causing a new challenge for libraries.

Remember, the mission of libraries is to bring free learning resources to the public. If not books then what? Well, learning is changing in important ways. Learning through doing is increasingly accepted as is the notion of life-long learning. In a country where our ability to fabricate is atrophying but the tools which empower making are being revolutionized, a new niche for libraries may be emerging. Libraries could house the new tools of personal fabrication and build programs around them to help people grow as makers. In so doing, they’ll help retool America to once again be competitive in the next industrial revolution.

In view of this dawning realization I was asked to keynote the American Library Association’s “Mapping Transformation” conference. Over the course of an hour I introduced how making has changed, explained the phenomenon of makerspaces, and encouraged libraries to learn more and reach out. Makerspaces are filled with bright makers who love to learn and to teach and who would likely be an excellent resource to assist libraries in taking their mission to the next level.

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Makerspaces: 12 more to 61

HackPittsburgh

First on the list and extraordinarily welcoming for a Saturday morning with little forewarning, the HackPitsburgh crew was decked out in their official uniform. This space is legendary for being early, being active, and having a great spirit. Touring HackPittsburgh reinforced that there is a rhythm to the lifecycle of spaces (accumulate and purge), consistency of layout (clean shop, dirty shop) and a good esprit de corps.

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U.S. Nationals Swim Meet

A giant tribute by Omaha to the swimming events they hosted this summer.

Quickly following on the tail of the U.S. Olympic Trials, the U.S. Master Swimming association held our Summer Long Course Nationals in the very pool the olympians swam in. The facility was remarkable. The warm-up pool itself had something like 15 lanes while the competitive pool had 10 lanes of 50 meters. The water was a perfect temperature and, as we say in swimming, the pool was fast. Thousands of people attended this four day meet and I swam in six events.

Did I make a dent in world records? Did I set the world on fire with my awesome swimming skills?

Of course not!

However the calibre of swimming was such that records were broken all day, every day. This was truly a memorable event.

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Great Rail Stations of the Midwest

Opulence on a scale that brings awe to mere mortals: Union Station in St. Louis.

There was a time which I’m sure I romanticize but which I sense was a golden age of transportation where powerful machines hauled long trains of passengers across the landscape of our still-young country. When all the disparate rail lines with separate terminals finally matured and agreed to co-terminate in major cities for customer convenience, the concept of a Union Station was born.

I’ve been to many and most leave you feeling small, emotionally affected by their scale and beauty. The three I visited on this trip were exceptional. For what ever reason (and they each had different stories) they were saved, brought back to life after they grew unused and neglected after passenger rail slowed to a crawl. Thankfully, money brought them back to life and these three example are a real joy to have visited.  Continue reading

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Old Rag by Evening Light

Kelsey took this from a new vantage point, exposed by evening light.

It’s not possible for me to go back and count how many times I’ve hiked Old Rag. At this point, I’m probably approaching 100 climbs. Yet, almost all of them have followed the same script: arrive early morning, climb the front, and descend the back to complete the loop. It’s a WONDERFUL hike but obviously not the only option.

Early on I tried various ascent and decent combinations but quickly settled into my current pattern. A few times I hiked in the middle of the day but often found it hot, crowded, and less pleasant. Recently Kelsey and I have hiked the loop in the dark which is really quite an adventure and very likely to be repeated. However, not until today had we hiked Old Rag in the evening and it was a pleasure.

 

The vantage point from where Kelsey took the picture of me.

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