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Libraries and TechShops

2011-03-11 17:18:54.923543+00 by Dan Lyke 7 comments

On the Chugalug list, Meuon passed along Make: Is It Time To Rebuild & Retool Public Libraries And Make “TechShops”? I'm vaguely intrigued. I'm about to spend $10k+ to put a shop in my back yard. It'd be great if this could be a social experience, on the other hand I'd also like to share that space and time with Charlene, being out every night at "the tech shop" rather than in the back yard seems counter to that aim, and I'm still not sure how tool sharing really works in practice.

But I can totally see giving a few select friends keys to the shop.

And libraries? Well... Lots of issues there.

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comments in descending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2011-03-19 20:09:03.503235+00 by: slickpickle

Will there be problems with people that don't know how to use the tools correctly. I could see problems with tool upkeep and tool stealing.

#Comment Re: made: 2011-03-13 00:51:19.72412+00 by: meuon

The "adult ed class" thought is what I went to CSTCC (no link on purpose) to get some basic welding education and to work on some machine projects. It would have cost several thousands and many many months to get where I wanted to get to quickly. I spent about $2k total at Northern Tool, another $2k elsewhere and built what I wanted to build. I can cut threads, and weld aluminum.. which is where I wanted to be. As Nancy and I contemplate some lifestyle changes, I would possibly equip a "hackerspace" in return for a long term membership. It seems a waste for it all to not be used much, but I don't want to lose the ability to make things when I need to.

#Comment Re: made: 2011-03-12 07:02:00.348259+00 by: ebradway

I've been trying to use my local library a little more. For the most part, they don't have many books I'm interested in. I have probably 40-50 books out from the University library though. As a grad student, I can keep books indefinitely unless someone else recalls it. This turned out to be a boon when the Map Library flooded and many of the books were damaged. Several choice volumes were on my bookshelf and not theirs!

I'm going to have to get a membership to our tool library. If anything, I'm going to need an air compressor and an impact wrench the next time I do the brakes on the Ford pickup. One of the brake calipers has a frozen bolt, so I've been limping along by just replacing the outer bearing and packing lots of grease on the inside. I have to do this about every 15K miles because I can't get to that inner bearing. Getting detailed here because Dan may experience the same thing with his truck. Although I've found that bearings wear much faster when the roads are salted.

#Comment Re: made: 2011-03-11 23:27:39.958118+00 by: Dan Lyke [edit history]

Interesting to read how Mars is solving the logistics problems. For me, it's nice to go out and glue something up, and come back in and hang out, so I'm not sure how the dedicated space elsewhere would work.

Santa Rosa has a tool library, and if I ever decide to drop the transmission out of my truck I may borrow some stuff, but most of it's the sort of thing that's cheap and small enough to have around, and that I use often enough to buy. The things I'd like to borrow are things like time on a big bandsaw, and it seems like the right way for me to do that (short of buying one for my own shop) is to take an adult ed class at a local high school. Which seems kinda silly when what I really want is that board resawn for grain matching while I'm working on this project.

To the libraries comparison, I wonder if perhaps the comparisons with libraries are about how we expect to use libraries? I largely stopped going to libraries when I became an adult. They rarely carried technical books that were worthwhile, and in my 20s I was reading either literature or SF, neither of which seemed to be managed well. I've tried to get into the habit of the local library, but when I go to explore a given author they seem to carry book #2 of a series, or the waiting list for the book is so long that when they email me to say my name has come up I've forgotten what the book was about.

So libraries, to me, are one of those "in theory" kind of places, they're for people who can't afford paperbacks, or don't have terribly deep intellectual needs ("Learn To Program HTML 1.0 In 21 Days!"), or, alas, daytime homeless shelters.

Something we support "for our kids' sake" (ie: because we've been told by our parents, who were told by their parents, that they were important), but don't actually use ourselves.

#Comment Re: made: 2011-03-11 23:17:32.846751+00 by: crasch

I think it's a great idea, and already happening to some extent. For example, there's a tool library near you (Santa Rosa):


Noisebridge, HackerDojo, The Crucible, Cellspace, and other hackerspaces are also filling some of the gap. As print media moves to the web, libraries should start offering services that can't be provided better online.

#Comment Re: made: 2011-03-11 20:42:48.383236+00 by: ebradway

Boulder recently got a public tool library: The Center for Resource Conservation.

#Comment Re: made: 2011-03-11 18:37:43.714322+00 by: Mars Saxman

I just got a new "makerspace" going here in Seattle: ALTSpace, at 23rd & Cherry. There are half a dozen of us right now and we are hoping to recruit a few more members, up to ten or twelve. I don't think we've spent $10k on it yet - more like $6k - but we haven't needed to buy many tools, since we all have collections in our basements or garages that are now moving in to the shared space.

Our solution for tool sharing is to tag everything green, yellow, or red. Green tools are free for all, yellow tools mean "ask the owner for training first", red tools mean "ask the owner for permission every time". Tools that are absolutely never to be shared under any circumstances (like the fancy Japanese sewing shears my wife gave me for Christmas) are stored in one's allotment of personal storage space. I suppose you could just red-tag them and always say "no", but that seems unsporting and so far nobody has tried it.

One obvious problem with tool-sharing is what to do when something breaks or wears out. If we leave that responsibility on the tool owner, nobody will share their tools; but if we put the responsibility on the tool borrower, well, sometimes you're just the unlucky one, and that sucks too. So we decided that we would have the shop cover the cost of maintenance or repair for borrowed tools, assuming the borrower got appropriate permission. It is still the tool-borrower's responsibility to get the tool repaired or replaced, but they only have to do the legwork; the shop pays the costs.

I'm hoping this will be a good solution to the fact that I like a lot more social engagement than Ava does. We moved into a little apartment just around the corner from the new place, just the two of us now (we'd been sharing a house with some friends previously). The idea is that our apartment can be a private quiet place for the two of us, and I can be as noisy and social as I want over at the shop, and neither of us has to feel like we are getting in the other's way.

As far as the libraries idea goes, I think the article is sort of missing the point. The kind of facility and tooling that a hackerspace / makerspace / techshop needs doesn't overlap all that much with a library. It's true that the world would be better off with more community workshop spaces, but there's nothing we'd really gain from turning libraries into workshops. Why not just leave the libraries alone and build workshops separately? It seems to be working well so far. If me and my bunch of random artist / techie friends can do it, in three months, without raising any outside funds, well - what's the hang up? Let's just get on with it!