Makerspace

In Vaggeryd, in the county of Småland, there is what may be Sweden’s first makerspace in a library. Here, the library is making space for all kinds of creative expression; everyone is welcome to learn from one another.

Inspiration The Arduino electronic platform is a part of the technology that, it is hoped, will rouse the interest of children and young people in the natural sciences. Photo: Helén AnderssonIt’s quiet at the library in Vaggeryd when I visit one weekday afternoon. A lone woman at a computer, a few older men reading the newspapers and some highschool youths hanging around a table. But if chief librarian Lo Claesson and the staff at the library in Vaggeryd have their way, there will be significantly more activity after March 29.

The inauguration of the library’s makerspace, Skaparbibblan, is on that date; right now, preparations are fully under way with purchases of technology, computer games, storage lockers, shelves, and tables.

“We’re in the middle of the process,” Ms Claesson says, and shows me around the library. “We won’t have very clear boundaries for where Skaparbibblan is; it will be a little fluid.”

Makerspace is built on sharing, learning from one another and working on joint projects. Much of it will build on technology and the 3D printer, but it doesn’t have to. It could be ordinary Lego, sewing machines or knitting as well.

A makerspace, simply put, is a place where people with the same interests can meet, socialize, and cooperate. Often, it’s about a kind of fusion of new digital technology and traditional handicrafts where people make products, often with the help of 3D printers, laser cutters and other technology. The idea is that anyone at all should be able to come and work on their own or others’ projects, and share experiences and knowledge.

Entrepreneurial spirit 

Lo Claesson was inspired when she read Makers: The New Industrial Revolution by Chris Anderson, who is perhaps the foremost spokesperson for what’s called the “makers’ movement”, and the pieces fell into place.

“The Vaggeryd Library is an integrated school and public library; I saw what op portunities there are in collaboration between the schools, the library and the business community, and how well the municipality’s vision tallied with the makerspace concept,” says Ms Claesson, smiling; she is supported by Cathrine Palmcrantz, a business developer in Vaggeryd who was looking in on the library.

“That’s absolutely clear,” she states. “We have an overall process of change in which the entire municipality has processed what Vaggeryd is to be in the future. And something that’s specific to this municipality, which many of us lay claim to, is a spirit of entrepreneurship. In this region, the feeling is an authentic one. It’s in our souls,” says Ms Palmcrantz, laughing.

Creative meeting 

The spirit of entrepreneurship she is thinking of includes the furniture industry that characterizes the town, but there’s also an upper secondary school with visions of the future that contain handicrafts and design.

“It will be a creative meeting between technology, handicrafts, and design. Makerspace and Vaggeryd really click, and fit each other like hand in glove.”

“We have a clear idea of why we’re building a makerspace in the Vaggeryd library,” Ms Claesson clarifies. “It goes with municipal development, and there is involvement from the municipal leadership. We’re working very actively with the business community, and we’re creating our makerspace in collaboration with them and the upper secondary school. We need this here for our municipality to develop and for us to have an industry that needs young people; we are trying to adapt the skaparbibblan to Vaggeryd, to local furniture industry and to the high school.”

Many associate a makerspace with a 3D printer – a printer that prints out objects in plastic in every possible form – and 3D printers have become a kind of symbol for a makerspace.

When Lo Claesson took the initiative towards collaboration with the schools, municipal developers and the business community, the purchase of a 3D printer was also the first joint decision.

Very big

“For now, the 3D printer is located in the upper secondary school, next door to the library. It’s standing in a lecture hall and is bigger than I imagined – almost as big as a ceramic oven. On the table around the printer are heaps of printed plastic objects, all sketched in a drawing program and printed out by the 3D printer.

“We were sponsored by the companies
so that we could purchase a really good
printer,” reveals Rolf Claésson, head of the
school’s industry and technology programme,
and proudly shows a model of
the classical Lamino sofa that was printed
in plastic.

“The difficult thing is learning the drawing program, the printer takes care of the rest,” says Mr Claésson, who hopes that when the 3D printer is moved to the library it will be used by more people.

“We’ve had exhibitions of the printer for the companies, so they know that it exists and how they can use it,” Ms Claesson adds. “We want companies and industry to also find their way to the library and do things there.”

New rooms 

When the 3D printer is moved to the library, it will be in a room in the cellar along with three sewing machines, computers with drawing programs, and a laminating machine.

Much of Skaparbibblan will be in the cellar, where the library has many unused rooms, but there will also be a cleaner section on the ground level of the library with computers, technology, places to sit and knit, space for different workshops and a new section for children to be called Barnhack. There will be special computers for children here with simpler programming software, robot Lego and the Arduino electronic platform.

Creating knowledge

“The design and equipment also depend on what the users want or contribute themselves,” Ms Claesson says. “That’s a little bit of the idea of a makerspace. And how we use the rooms is not written in stone, but when we see that there are rooms we’ll use them, of course,” she continues.

“An old storeroom, for example, is being remade into a creative teen room, the genealogists will have to move over for the middleagers and the old story room is being remade into a workshop with various tools and a laser cutter. And, of course, we’ll be offering workshops and courses in all the technology,” she replies with a laugh, when I ask what Arduino is.

“It has to do with learning. I see a makerspace as a development of the tradition of mass education that public libraries have had since the 1800s. But we don’t need to just convey knowledge already found in books or on the Net. Here, we’re creating knowledge.”

Journalist