Library as Makerspace

Library as Makerspace

The link between Libraries and a banana piano is not immediately obvious but it has everything to do with the Library as educator, community engagement and addressing the digital divide by making digital technology available to all.

Using a 3d Printer to build an Advent Calender

Our last #citylis DITA lecture focused on learning about the Library as Makerspace:

Makerspaces, sometimes also referred to as hackerspaces, hackspaces, and fablabs are creative, DIY spaces where people can gather to create, invent, and learn. In libraries they often have 3D printers, software, electronics, craft and hardware supplies and tools, and more. 1

We were fortunate to have Carlos Izsak visit us with his Makercart – a trolley that allows him to transport the equipment from place to place and provide a pop-up Makerspace. As part of the session we were able to have hands on with 5 different types of technology, including a 3D Printer, Digital Cutter, Audrino Computing, Robotics and a sampling of literature on the subject of Makerspaces and the associated tech.

Split into groups we all got time to spend experimenting, creating and playing with each different technology:

Now if you imagine that a group of Library students could get totally involved, just imagine the excitement you would get from Children. The great thing about the Makerspace is it’s hands on participatory nature, participatory learning is a big tool in the Library as educator toolbox. It fosters engagement and boosts motivation through meaningful experimentation  and play. And in our case it certainly did, from the get go we were taking everything out and plugging things together to see what happened.

The Robot revolution

Maker cart as open educational resource

The idea of the Makercart is to work with libraries, education and the community and bring about the opportunities for the young and perhaps not so young to engage with digital technology in a way which is perhaps not achieved by normal classroom based learning.

Putting the tools in the hands of learners and giving them the opportunity helps them see the relevance and perhaps possibilities that can be opened up by learning and using technology.

The Makespace and Makercart technology is relatively inexpensive – some of its roughly the same price or less than a new video game. Obviously the 3D printer and cutter are costlier but still cheap compared to larger commercial alternatives and the majority of it is easily transported.

Another benefit is that the technology and software is Open Source meaning its community based, and can be shared, modded and reused freely. For the Librarian the Makercart and Makerspace relate in many ways from giving free access to information or tools.

The idea of Digital Inclusion that I previously mentioned and providing access to Digital Technology for those that don’t have access themselves. It provides an opportunity for the consumer to become the creator, reusing open tools to make and create things which can then be shared and reused by others.

It also offers an opportunity for communities to create solutions to local problems – why buy in parts when you can 3D print them to your specification?

Again it allows for community engagement, something which Libraries are always aiming to do, providing a safe environment for family friendly activities and learning. Makerspaces facilitate sharing knowledge, through showing and telling, learn by doing, and provides an opportunity to use the library as space for information and engagement.

Its also about empowerment and enablement of the user, just as Librarians aim to teach patrons about Information Skills which they can apply in the real world, Makerspaces provide the opportunity to learn Informational and practical skills, such as coding, circuits and communicating.

The Information Architecture of Makerspace

Lastly, from the perspective of our Digital Information Technology and Architecture (DITA) module. In DITA we have looked at how web and data technologies have changed the way we interact with information. Much of the technology we used in the session run on software that either can be downloaded or even runs in the browser, from websites built with html, css or php and MySQL.It also uses APIs for easy interaction and connection between PC and equipment.

Other resources use programming languages or coding which transforms physical information into digital information and back again.

3d printing convert digital information into physical information

 Openness in Education

At its core the idea of the Makerspace and Makercart is about bringing down the barriers. Just as Open Access was born out of the desire to enable access to information and allows for reuse so to does the Makerspace and Makercart facilitate access to new ideas, information and technology and allowing it to be reusable, free of charge and restrictions.

I leave you with this video of the banana piano from its creators.

Thanks for reading, Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas.


  1. Kroski, E. (2013). A Librarian’s Guide to Makerspaces: 16 Resources | [online] Available at: [Accessed 8 Dec. 2015].
  2. Tweets from #citylis cohorts

Links and Resources

Fablabs UK – Fablabs –

How to Build Your Makerspace

Arduino  – open source software and hardware

Arduino blog creative technology classroom – featuring a post about the robot that was featured in the session

Makerspace and Kickstarter – Makerspace projects seeking Kickstarter funding

MakeyMakey- for fruit orchestra’s and more

Public Libraries Online – Do it yourself Raspberry Pi OPACS

Blog post about how US Libraries are using Digital tools and Makerspace to engage with and support community

Nesta – Top findings from the open dataset of UK makerspaces

TheWorldBank – Communities of “Makers” Tackle Local Problems

Open Access and the Serials Crisis

Open Access and the Serials Crisis

The history of Academic and Scientific Journal Publishing can be traced back to the late 17th Century; on 5 January 1665 Denis de Sallo published the first ever scientific journal  Les Journal de Scavans, a few months later in March 1665 the Royal Society published its Journal Philosophical Transactions, or to give its full title, Philosophical Transactions: Giving some Account of the present Undertakings, Studies, and Labours of the Ingenious in many considerable parts of the World. 1

Les Journal de Scavans
Le Jounal des Scavans – January 1665
Cover of the first issue Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society March 1665
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society – March 1665

From that point onward other journals began to be established and over the next 300 years the number of Scholarly journals published grew exponentially, with the number of journals doubling roughly every 15 years until the 1960s. Today there are nearly 20000 journal titles in Thompson’s Web of Science alone.2

This expansion was famously illustrated by Derek De Solla Price, one of the founders of Scientometrics  in his 1963 book Little Science. Big Science.

Graph showing the Total Number of Scientific Journals Founded from
Graph showing the Total Number of Scientific Journals Founded from 1665


The growth in the number of Universities across Europe and the United States in the 19th Century, resulted in increasing demand for journal subscriptions and larger journals began to increase the cost of non-member subscriptions.

The Spiralling Cost of Subscription

By the late 20th Century the amount of Scholarly publishing was causing fears of “Information Overload” amongst scholars and in the LIS world a serious concern was the rising costs of subscriptions in relation to Library Budgets.

The specialized nature of many academic journals inevitably resulted in smaller print runs, which resulted in rising subscription costs, at a rate that outstripped Library budgets. The 2015 edition of  The  Study of Subscription Prices for Scholarly Society Journals states that since 2011

… print journal subscriptions have increased approximately $42.57, with those responding reporting an average print subscription rate of $254.57.3

Many Libraries faced a choice between cutting subscriptions, thereby depriving academics access to the latest research, or reducing book budgets thereby depriving students access to textbooks required for their course.

The rise of the internet also led to changes in the way Libraries acquired journals and further stresses on acquisitions budgets. Online subscriptions to journals made the full text of a vast number of articles available to read, search and download online.

However there are many difficulties, which have directly impacted both Librarians and academics that arose as a result of the move to full text online. Firstly, there has often been an additional cost to Libraries or subscribers that wished to maintain a print subscription at the same time as an online access, further straining limited budgets. Secondly , the licenses for content from the publishers are often complicated involving multi-year subscriptions and with separate access to the backfiles archive for titles which the Library already subscribes to.

Graph showing UK University Expenditure on Subscriptions from 2010 -2014 4

Furthermore publishers often only provide bundles or packages which contain multiple titles but without the option to customise thereby resulting in Libraries again having to make choices based upon financial restraints with regard to its choices of subscriptions and resulting in the limiting of access to research for academics. Although many Libraries have been able to benefit from joining consortia (groups of Libraries that are able leverage a form of collective bargaining and negotiation in regards to subscription deals with the publishers) the cost of subscriptions has continued to rise at a rate that is unsustainable for Libraries.

R. Luce and K. Rupp-Serrano of Oklahoma University stated that the:

  “inflationary rate of academic journals consistently averaged roughly three times the rate of CPI inflation for the past two decades.” 5

The effect of rising subscription costs effectively further entrenched the problems and has led to the growth of mega publishers such as Elsevier, effectively holding a monopoly over the market as smaller publishers find themselves unable to compete as Libraries cut subscriptions to smaller publishers in order to fund bundle deals.

The knock-on effect is that Academics, students and researchers find they are unable to access to articles required for research or face having to pay the high cost of  purchasing individual articles to complete their research.

The Paywall


The Research Cycle Paradox 

The paradox of the research cycle is simple, Researchers are commonly funded by public grants awarded by Research Councils UK (RCUK), to conduct research. During the course of their research Scientists and Academics rely upon access to existing research, contained in journal articles, since they are unable afford access to all the journals themselves researchers are required to use institutional subscriptions  through the Library.

These subscriptions are funded by the University which relies upon public funding. Once they have completed their Research the results are published in an article which has been signed over to the publisher, leaving the researcher with no control over access, dissemination and reuse of their findings. Subsequent use of such articles by the researcher and other academics is reliant upon access via a subscription or incurring other costs to license reuse, all of which is funded through public money paid to the University.

Research Cycle Paradox

This situation came to be viewed by many as unfair especially the notion of erecting barriers (such as pay-walls) to research that was publicly funded. Libraries were faced with a choice of cutting book budgets or cancelling subscriptions, thereby depriving scholars and researchers access to material.  Many academics and researchers felt that the work they had created and was paid for by the public should be available to the public, they felt it was wrong to limit access to knowledge:

“The deeper problem is that we donate time, labor and public money to create new knowledge and then hand control over the results to businesses that believe , correctly or incorrectly that their survivial depends upon limiting access to that knowledge.”6

The advent of Open Access

Open Access was defined in 2002 by the Budapest Open Access Initiative as being :

“…free availability on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself. The only constraint on reproduction and distribution, and the only role for copyright in this domain, should be to give authors control over the integrity of their work and the right to be properly acknowledged and cited.”7

The Budapest Initiative advocated two forms of Open Access publishing Self Archiving and Open Access Journals, more commonly known Green OA and Gold OA. Both options would allow free access to the articles that were the output of the  and remove the restrictions from reuse that hindered them under the current subscription model. The differences between the two are detailed below:

Green Open Access (Self Archiving) – under this model an academic deposits a copy of their manuscript in an institutional or subject repository such as ArXiv. The copy deposited can be a pre-print, post-peer review or post-publication version, without the publisher’s formatting, depending upon the publisher’s permission.

Gold Open Access (Open Access Journals) – under this model the article is submitted to a journal publisher and following peer review the article is made freely available on-line. This can be a full Open Access Journal where all articles are freely available or a Hybrid-Open Access Journal where some articles are freely available online and others require a subscription to access. Under Gold OA authors must pay an Article Publishing Charge or APC to cover the costs of publication and peer-review.

How Librarians Support Open Access

There are several ways in which Libraries can assist with Open Access. Of the main ways is to provide advocacy and support for Institutions Open Access Policies. This can be via the Library website by proving FAQs and on-line Guides which can also be downloaded and printed. Libraries may also make these materials available in print form within the Library.

Many Libraries offer outreach as a means of supporting Open Access – as librarians are experienced in liaising with faculty they should be well placed to act as advocates for Open Access.  As part of their liaison activity Librarians may already discuss the costs of subscriptions, and promote the use of resources with Open Access they are taking on new roles which include advocating publication in Open Access Journals, advising on depositing in a repository and assisting researchers in ensuring their work can be reused.

Holly Mercer argues that:

“Liaison-librarians often are responsible for discussing scholarly communications topics, such as the rising cost of scholarly journal subscriptions and open access (OA) alternatives, and they are expected to advise authors to retain enough rights to their published work to use in the classroom, to share with colleagues, and to deposit in an institutional or subject repository” 8

Outreach can take various forms including One-to-One consultations with researchers, group training and talks delivered by a range of speakers including publishers, other academics and Librarians. Librarians are able to lead by example by choosing to publish Open Access –

“Not being tied up by tenure track expectations, they are described as being able to show a way for scholars by example. It turns out that almost half of all scholarly publications in the US, written by academic librarians, are available in Open Access as of 2011.”9

Libraries can also help make Open Access Journals more discoverable by adding them to the Library catalogue and ensuring they are included in online A-Z Journal lists. As platforms such DOAJ are commonly included in Link-Resolvers it makes it easy for librarys to share these titles via a Discovery Service. Also because the articles are freely accessible there is no need for Authentication a user can access the content without needing to login and Librarians don’t need to configure proxy server access.10

Screenshot of City Library Search
Link to DOAJ from City Library Search

The main way in which Librarians support Open Access is in building and maintaining the institutional Repository. This role fits in well with the Librarian’s role as curator, collector and aggregator, librarians are experienced in adding and controlling metadata to ensure discoverability. They are also experienced in managing data/information and therefore this can allow the repository to be expanded to incorporate materials beyond articles, such as research data, datasets, and Open Educational Resources.

Institutional repositories (IRs) contain an abundance of faculty-generated pre-prints and post-prints, conference proceedings, technical papers, research reports, white papers, theses and dissertations, and other text-based forms of scholarly work 11

There are a number of different Repository systems available and many of them are freely available under an Open Source license. The main ones are Eprints, DSpace, and Digital Commons. Because they are Open Source they allow a high degree of customisation allowing institutions to choose different options for Metadata, database configuration and interface options including branding. All three allow for interoperability via Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH).

Library as Publisher

Libraries are not strangers to the printing press, many Academic Libraries host print shops and binderies for the publication of Theses and Dissertations while many University Presses grew out of the Library in their early days.

With the advent of the internet as a means of publishing many Libraries have beconme involved with providing the means for some journals to publish online. Libraries are providing the technical support including, hosting and architecture to allow journals to publish online independent of a larger Publisher. Libraries also assist with archiving and sometimes digitisation of past issues 12

Obviously this requires considerable time and technical expertise as well as necessary infrastructure but the benefit is that is allows the Library to become involved in one the main activities of the faculty.

One final way in which Libraries can assist with Open Access is in relation to the handling and payment of Article Processing Charges (APC). In a traditional Journal the APC covers the cost of  Publication, it is usually paid by the author at the upon submission of an article to ( sometimes the cost is covered by their Institution or funder). The fees vary between publishers and journals and can run to nearly $5000USD in some journals. Some hybrid journals charge an additional fee to make an article Open Access.

The fees used to offset costs such as overseeing Peer-Review of articles, editing and proofing costs, including formatting and typesetting and final print costs. In Open Access costs are used to cover online hosting and archiving.

Some newer Open Access Journals such as Open Library of Humanities are seeking to eliminate APCs by covering the costs through a consortium of institutions. Under their  Library Partnership Subsidies Libraries use money from their serials budget to support the cost of Open Access publishing, the more institutions that support it the less the overall cost to each individual institution. The cost compared to a normal subscription model is much lower and furthermore each contributor is given a place on the OLH Library board enabling them to have a say in the governance of the platform.13


Open Access is only one possible answer to the serials crisis and even at 10 years old, there is still a challenge among advocates to win over academics who are concerned about publishing in specific journals for tenure and promotion purposes. There is clearly a need to change subscription costs as the current trend of increases can only end up hurting all parties involved, including publishers. There is a strong desire amongst many researchers, academics and Librarians to remove barriers of access to research and Open Access is one way to achieve this. Furthermore changes to funding and policies are increasingly insisting on research being available in Open Access. The hybrid method in which parts of a journal are made OA, while the remainder remains behind a pay-wall, may be am attractive model to Publishers but largely defeats the point of Open Access, especially as it results in ‘double-dipping’ whereby institutions are paying twice, for access and for Open Access. The growth of new platforms funded via a consortium model such as PLOS and OpenLibHums maybe the future of Open Access and a truer answer to the serials crisis for some but there will still need to be a role for publishers.



  1. Thompson Reuters (2015). Master Journal List – IP & Science – Thomson Reuters [Accessed: 24/11/15]
  2. De Solla Price, D (1963). Little Science. Big Science. New York: Columbia University Press.
  3. Dolcheck, M (ed.) (2015). Study of Subscription Prices for Scholarly Society Journals: 2015 Update Allen Press [Accessed: 24/11/15]
  4. Graph based up data from:Lawson, S; Meghreblian, B; Brook, M (2014).  Journal subscription costs – FOIs to UK universities. figshare. [Accessed 26/11/ 2015]
  5. Luce, R., & Rupp-Serrano, K. (2013). University Libraries and ‘Big Deals.’ Retrieved May 2, 2014 from http:// in 3. Study of Subscription Prices for Scholarly Society Journals: 2015 Update Allen Press [Accessed: 24/11/15]
  6. Suber, P. (2012). Open access. [ebook] Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press. [Accessed 25/11/15]
  7. Budapest Open Access Initiative (2002) Read the Budapest Open Access Initiative [Accessed 27/11/15]
  8. Mercer, H. (2011). Almost halfway there: an analysis of the open access behaviors of academic librarians. College & Research Libraries, Vol. 72(5), pp. 443–453.
  9. Hansson, J., & Johannesson, K. (2013). Librarians’ Views of Academic Library Support for Scholarly Publishing: An Every-day Perspective. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, vol. 39(3), pp. 232–240.
  10. Cryer, E. (2011). Incorporating Open Access into Libraries. Serials Review, vol. 37(2), pp. 103–107.
  11. Read, M. (2008). Libraries and Repositories, New Review of Academic Librarianship, vol. 14( 1), pp. 71-78. /10.1080/13614530802519139
  12. Collister, L.B., Deliyannides, T.S. & Dyas-Correia, S. (2014).”The Library as Publisher”, The Serials Librarian, vol. 66(1), pp. 20-29.
  13. Open Library of Humanities, (2014). Library Partnership Subsidies.  Available at: Accessed [Accessed 1 12 2015].