Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Libraries, Hackspaces and E-waste: how libraries can be the hub of a young maker revolution

Libraries, Hackspaces and E-waste: how libraries can be the hub of a young maker revolution. Cory Doctorow. Raincoast Books.  February 24, 2013.
The problem with people who say "What do we need libraries for? We've got the Internet now!" is that they have confused a library with a book depository. "Now, those are useful, too, but a library isn't just (or even necessarily) a place where you go to get books for free." Libraries have always been places where skilled information professionals have helped people understand the world.

Librarians have been selecting credible books, cataloging and shelving them, and then assisting patrons in understanding how to synthesize the material in them. Libraries have been hubs where the curious, the entrepreneurs, the scholarly and others could gather in the company of one another, surrounded by untold information-wealth, professionals who could lend technical assistance where needed. "All these people were using the library as a place, a resource, and a community. Because that's what libraries are. And we've never needed that more than we need it today." Now we're *drowning* in information. We live in a "publish, then select" world: everyone can reach everything, all the time, and the job of experts is to collect and annotate that material, to help others navigate its worth and truthfulness. Society has never needed its librarians, and its libraries, more. The major life-skill of the information age is information literacy, and no one's better at that than librarians. It's what they train for. It's what they live for.

But there's another group of information-literate people out there who are a natural ally of libraries and librarians: the makers who build physical stuff. "They make robots, flying drones, 3D printers (and 3D printed stuff), jewelry, tools, printing presses, clothes,... Today's tinkerer work in vast, distributed communities where information sharing is the norm, where the ethics and practices of the free/open source software movement has gone physical. " We need to master computers  to master the systems of information, so that we can master information itself. Why not take surplused computers and components and make libraries "book-lined, computer-filled information-dojos where communities come together to teach each other black-belt information literacy, where initiates work alongside noviates to show them how to master the tools of the networked age from the bare metal up."
"Only through understanding the tools of information can we master them, and only by mastering them can we use them to make our lives better, rather than destroying them."


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