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


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