The maker movement is hard to define. The library workers I spoke to over the last few weeks describe it in different ways. One young teen librarian in Chicago stated:
'It's a buzzword right now... I'm from a video development background so my idea of a Makerspace is the original name. It's like a club people would go to after work or during the weekend, and they would devote a great portion of the day to advance their skill to STEM, such as coding, engineering, or LED object. The Silicon startup valley, a lot of those ideas come from Makerspaces, it's people who are devoted to their craft'.
In Vancouver Public Library, the maker movement is being associated with the craft of making stories. The central library, designed by Moshe Safdie and DA Architects, and completed in 1995, has developed a programme that enables patrons of all generations to record and share their own experiences. The circulation services manager who showed me around stated:
'One of the things, looking forward, is we’re really looking at the hyper-local as an area where we can really focus on ... and own. There is a lot of information of course that is widely available on anyone and everything … when we looking at Vancouver specific things, creating our own story, creating our own identity, that is something that the Vancouver Public Library can really focus on our showcasing that. It would be something that we would have that other libraries would not have'.
In May 2015, the library installed an ‘Inspiration Lab’ on the third floor. This is a space for patrons to record their stories through audio and visual methods. It indicates the evolving way in which stories are created, stored, and accessed. 'We get all sorts of people coming here ... not just young people. We are doing programmes to encourage people to record their own stories. So, bring in your grandparents, hear about their immigration journey. It's a very popular space', explains the circulation services manager.
As well as recording new material, the library provides facilities for accessing old material. The 'conversion stations' in the library are for converting analogue to digital. Those who have a whole load of video camera tape, but nothing to play it on can now convert into a format that they can use. The library is also looking for ways to convert digital to digital. The library workers I spoke to anticipate a future need to transfer the contents of a floppy disk to the cloud.
Next to the 'conversion stations' are computers on which patrons can self-publish and edit their own written material. There are already several 'zines' on the shelves in the library addressing hard-hitting issues - sexuality, race, and gender. As the circulation services manager explains, ‘We’re still very strongly branded by the book. And there is a lot of interest in that, so we’re really looking at how can we support self-publishing? How do we engage with this and bring it into our collections?’
The library will be creating an area in which to display the 'Vancouver Stories' on the 8th floor, currently being renovated, due to open in 2018. The contemporary stories will sit alongside historic stories in the special collection, which will be moving up to the 8th floor, providing patrons with a detailed history of the Pacific Northwest.