Transformation of public libraries in digital makerspaces – centres for education, digital creativity and innovativity.
The best way to handle inequalities is by offering equal opportunities in education. The projects “STEM revolution in libraries” and “Digital citizen” implemented by IRIM in Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Kosovo deliver digital competencies through local libraries.
Libraries can be transformed into key centres for digital creativity development, application of new technologies, and development of innovations for children, young people and adults ‘left behind’ in digital transformation through robotics, Internet of Things technology, 3D printers and other technologies that can inspire young people to become digital creators and to acquire digital competences and help adults catch up with digital technologies.
The impact will be lasting, since libraries will be empowered by know-how and inspired to offer digital content, and be able to make all the equipment acquired in the project (micro:bit, digital making sets, 3D printers) available to citizens under equal conditions and free of charge.
Citizens will be able participate at free workshops and to borrow the coding devices and use already developed extensive content and plug into a rich ecosystem developed by IRIM, and trying themselves as makers (the technology in based on physical computing). Educated librarians will hold workshops for children and adults on the use of project technology. All interested citizens will be able to get 3D print education and use 3D printers to print their ideas.
The costs are 1500-2000 USD / library (purchase of one 3D printer per library and additional materials needed for creating the customer’s projects -filament for 3D printing). IRIM designed educational materials and trained librarians to work with citizens. Training was free of charge for librarians.
Evidence of success
Based on IRIM’s project "STEM Revolution continues - Libraries" financed primarily by a crowdfunding campaign (demonstrating a public support) in which 100 libraries were equipped with micro:bits (easy to use platform for teaching coding and digital creation); 10 libraries equipped with 3D printers; involved librarians were educated in using new technologies so they can help their users and hold workshops for the interested public. More then 250 free workshops have been conducted in 6 months.
Some libraries encountered problems related to technological equipment – small number of computers at the disposal of users, Internet connection. Every library found the most suitable way in resolving the conditions (e.g. users bring their laptops to workshops, working closely with schools).
Potential for learning or transfer
The best practice started in Croatia proved that the libraries are highly interested in transforming themselves into centers for digital innovation. With support from Google.org IRIM has started the knowledge and activities transfer to Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo. Through the Digital citizen project 170 libraries from Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo, with support from IRIM, will be transformed into digital innovation centers. IRIM will implement the “train the librarian” model, educating 340 librarians, ensuring that librarians are equipped to pass on knowledge to local citizens. The potential for transfer is high because technologies are easy to use and no previous knowledge about their usage is required. IRIM has the potential to transfer the project into other European communities through the organisation of training activities and providing the support for librarians in the transformation process.