Maker Meetup at SXSW

March 10, 2014

On the eve of SXSW, a group of librarians and I attended a maker meetup hosted by the Austin Mini Maker Faire at the Thinkery, an Austin children’s museum. Adults of all ages engaged in crafts, water exhibits, shadow art, and oversized Lite Brite–like designs before listening to a brief address by Dale Dougherty, founder of Maker Media (Make Magazine). Dougherty reminded the audience that “making isn’t just about technology,“ and whatever your hobbies are, “once you start doing something, you meet other people also doing those things.”

This is a message that is important to spread: If your library would like to join the maker movement but doesn’t have the funding for a 3D printer or the community interest to support educational Arduino and Raspberry Pi programs, that’s okay. Select workshop topics that will engage your audience, be it be canning, backyard beekeeping, or bike repair. The goal is to provide a space, temporary or permanent, where people can connect to ideas, resources, and other people in a fun, exploratory, experiential way.

The question Dougherty then posed to the crowd seemed to be one of the overarching ones at SXSW: Where do people come up with new ideas?

Dougherty’s answer resonated with me because it’s one of the key concepts driving the pop up makerspace programs at my library, Mountain View (Calif.) Public: “Ideas come out of a mindset of being playful.”

3D-printed bust and owl created with Tinkerine 3D printerThe theme of learning through play was on full display at both the Gaming Expo and Create, a space showcasing makers and Makerspace designs and tools. After watching demos for new 3D printers and 3D imaging devices and gadgets like the Oculus Rift, an immersive gaming virtual reality headset, it seemed like SXSW would also provide a good answer to Dale Dougherty’s question.

ANN AWAKUNI is an ​online instructor at Infopeople and technology librarian at the Mountain View (Calif.) Public Library.