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Get Ready…Get Set…Fail! Okay, Try Again…

May 1, 2015

I recently began my own foray into a 3D printing program in my library, and to get beyond my hesitancy and dig in I sought inspiration at the Tri-State College Library Cooperative’s Spring Program, “The Maker Movement & You: Creating, Collaborating, and Crafting in your Library” which served as a fantastic forum to see what librarians and information professionals are doing under the large umbrella of “making”. Presentations from both sides of the academic/public library arena highlighted some of the large and small projects being supported through a little bit of money and a lot of creative energy from our peers.
As you may have guessed, the projects and initiatives showcased were designed for a very particular user base with differing interests in Making…from hobbyists to engineers…but what surprised me most was a common thread of best practices that ran through these disparate users and programs. Here are my (uber simple) takeaways:

  • Failure isn’t an option…it’s a certainty – Failure is a critical part of any ‘making’. Don’t put undue pressure on your makers to get it right the first time, or on yourself to show them how to get it right the first time. The beauty and joy of making is in the process…learn to explore and enjoy it.
  • 3D printing??? Who needs it?!?! – Yes, 3D printers are sexy right now. Anyone who has used one can tell you that, while we’re still on the ground floor of how this technology will change our daily living, we are a long way off from “Tea. Earl Grey. Hot!” The good news is that being a Maker Space doesn’t mean you need thousands of dollars in tech. Combining tried and true craft fodder such as clay, foam, glue, or stencils with dynamic free apps already on your phone or iPad and a bit of social media savvy can take you from zero to maker-space in a flash. Imagination > budget constraints.
  • Use the resources you already have – Whether it be an app on your smartphone or the closet full of leftover crafting supplies from last year’s program—use it. Again, it’s the process not the product we care about. If the energy is there then the medium becomes less important. Is it cooler if the play dough sculpture gets filmed as a stop-motion animation video with a user-created soundtrack? Yes. But it was a great idea when it was just the play dough. Create for creation’s sake and you won’t regret it.

  • Sit on your hands – Tied closely to the “fail” point above, a key to the process of designing a useful and engaging space is letting those you’ve brought in explore. Let them make odd choices…unusual approaches…something you know will not work…the entire point is the process. It’s the process that will drive success, not the produc

For anyone interested in the program or reaching out to the presenters who shed so much light on my own processes, I would encourage a visit to

2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 2, 2015 12:18 am

    Great observations, Ken. I was slow to warm to maker spaces, mainly because I tend to observe before following a trend to see what I can learn from others’ successes and failures. You make a good case for jumping in so that we can learn, fail, and learn some more. It’s how must of us got where we are, from infancy to adulthood, learning by doing, messing up, trying again, and working toward . . . something. This is very appealing, and I hope that more academic libraries and library personnel will get on board.

  2. May 6, 2015 3:00 pm

    Ken, thank you for this post! All of your points match my philosophy as well. I recently complete a Library Juice Academy ( course on MakerSpaces, which I found useful in guiding me to think about what can or should be accomplished and how to approach it. The MakerSpace Playbook ( is a really helpful read for people who are just starting out (like me!). We just ordered our first 3D printer, and I’ve been consulting with one of our Engineering faculty members about different approaches – he has a lot of experience using them and there already is one that he runs. The one we ordered is the Micro3D ( – it has not arrived yet. We are also going to perhaps purchase some kits. A lot of libraries are buying MakerBots, and that’s fine (I don’t have experience with any – I just know they are the ones that everyone seems to want), but I like the idea of experimenting with different ones and making my own evaluations. I have also been playing with TinkerCad (, which has some really great tutorials and is an easy way to launch into making designs (something else I have had 0 experience in). It is all fun, and my goal is to be able to learn enough to guide any students who want to use these things. “Create for creation’s sake and you won’t regret it.” I love that quote. We might have to appropriate it as the tag line for our MakerSpace, once we actually get it started!

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