by Laura Damon-Moore

Maker culture continues to be integrated into the everyday workings of public, school, and academic libraries, as demonstrated by today’s feature. Lots of libraries around the world are hosting Maker Faires in conjunction with community partners, and we’re thrilled to present one example of a Mini Maker Faire at Kent State University Libraries that took place this spring.

Faire co-organizer Kate Harmon, program manager of the Libraries’ Blackstone Launchpad, as well as Libraries staff members Hilary Kennedy, Manager of the Library’s Student Multimedia Studio and Ken Burhanna, the Library’s Assistant Dean for Engagement and Outreach, answered a number of questions that we had about the Mini Maker Faire and the logistics of putting on such an event.

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Library as Incubator Project (LAIP): What was the impetus for bringing a Maker Faire to Kent State’s campus? How did the library become involved as a venue – e.g., is the library already hosting maker activities or resources, or was this a new venture?

Kent State University Libraries (KSU Lib): The idea to host a Maker Faire at Kent State University was initiated by Kevin Wolfgang of the Kent State University Fashion School’s TechStyleLAB. There was already a developing relationship between the TechStyleLAB and several other units on campus – Blackstone Launchpad, University Libraries and the College of Architecture and Environmental Design – who each had an affinity for the maker culture. The University Library is considered to be a valuable learning center at Kent State and with its central location on campus it lends itself well to collaborative events. With the mission behind Maker Faire being to encourage participants to show what they are working on and share what they are learning, the library was the perfect location to host such an event!

The University Library has been a venue for previous maker activities, such as the 24-hour Hackathon and hacKSU gatherings (a student organization). University Libraries also encourages the maker culture through resources that are available in the Student Multimedia Studio, such as a 3D printer, leap motion controller and 3D pen tools.

Dean Bracken of University Libraries has a real vision for making at Kent State and sees his libraries playing a strategic role:

“The Maker Faire at Kent State is really just the first step in building a discussion about what a Kent State makerspace should be. We invited technology and systems support people, along with academic leaders to experience the Maker Faire and then discuss the need for a dedicated, coordinated makerspace in a central location like the University Library. We’re all excited here to move this conversation forward and develop a dynamic makerspace that helps Kent State provide unsurpassed learning experiences for our students.”

LAIP: What was the planning process like for the Mini Maker Faire? Who was involved?

KSU Lib: The organizing committee was spearheaded by Kevin Wolfgang from the Fashion School’s TechStyleLAB and included Kate Harmon and Zach Mikrut from Blackstone Launchpad, Mark Meszar and Brian Peters from the College of Architecture and Environmental Design and Hilary Kennedy from University Libraries’ Student Multimedia Studio. The planning process began back in the fall of 2013 with the first major task of securing the official Maker Faire branding. Once that was secure we were provided with an assortment of templates and Maker Faire standards to help guide the process.

LAIP: Any advice for librarians/library administrators/staff/etc who are looking to host or partner on a large-scale event like this one at their university or college?

KSU Lib: What helped ensure the success of our Maker Faire was the partnership between departments on campus that shared the same enthusiasm for the event and the maker movement in general. Having great collaboration enabled us to share the effort of creating and promoting such a large event. Each member of the organizing committee had unique skills to bring to the table, which made the delegation of tasks much easier. Additionally, we reached out to and visited several other makerspaces and Maker Faires in our local area. This was helpful for understanding the overall conceptual shape of the event, plus helped build awareness for some important details we might have otherwise overlooked. For example, we needed to really be aware of the available power (electricity) in our event space. It’s not rocket science, but it was important to think about this early on.

LAIP: And in retrospect, how did the event go? What was the campus/community response?

KSU Lib: We feel that the event was a great success! There were 38 exhibitors and 200 attendees. We received positive feedback from those who attended and are looking forward to making this an annual event!

Learn more about the Kent State University Libraries.

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