Information Centre or Makerspace

Guest post from Darren Jones  @darrenmjones  

RIPThe Information Centre is dead.

Many services have reduced their files and books, or got rid of them altogether, and more emphasis is rightly being put on online resources. Yet we wonder why footfall has dropped? However, if we want students to come to the Centre for anything other than careers adviser appointments or events (or to use the PCs because it’s the quietest place on campus), we need to give them a reason. We need to reinvent the Information Centre.

Makerspaces have been getting a lot of attention in the library world over the last couple of years. I was reading Ellyssa Kroski’s A Librarian’s Guide to Makerspaces: 16 Resources a few months ago and it occurred to me that there is a natural fit with careers centres too. A makerspace is an area where people can come together to create things, experiment and learn together. In libraries they often include 3D printers, tools, software/electronics and an array of physical things to help people make stuff. Creativity, learning together, engagement. These are all things that careers centres try to encourage in students. However, I often wonder how practical our encouragement is. Instead of career workshops, how about an actual workshop?

Think of the practical skills development we could actually be a part of. Also, it plays perfectly with the enterprise agenda that most services (I suspect) are engaging with now. Offering monetary support, getting entrepreneurs in to talk and providing encouragement is great. However, having a practical space for people to experiment and develop their ideas in a collaborative environment could provide a solid foundation for these other levels of support to build on. It could also help develop a student enterprise culture in a more organic way than we are doing at the moment. Careers centres should get in there now, and think about providing this space. Funding seems to be there for enterprise activities at the moment, so perhaps this isn’t too outlandish a possibility. It could be a chance to link up with departments on campus, too. Engineering, IT, Product Design or Fine Art? And maybe it’s time to be at the heart of something, rather than on the outskirts looking in.

Here’s another thought. Making things can be used as part of the career exploration process. In the Chaos Theory of Careers, Robert Prior & Jim Bright talk about collage and other arts-based techniques from the world of art therapy, as well as kinetic sculpture. I have also been reading the work of David Gauntlett, who developed ways to use LEGO as a social science research tool. Basically, getting people to build things out of LEGO to represent their ideas, feelings, experiences and to reflect on this and move on. To me this has always felt like an untapped area for careers centres to develop. The LEGO Group has developed LEGO SERIOUS PLAY as a way for organisations and businesses to use these methods. There is no reason why careers centres couldn’t develop similar approaches to help students navigate the careers thinking process in a physical way. And linking this to a careers makerspace would be a great way to do it.

Creativity, working together, developing skills and learning about yourself. Makerspaces are a great example of what careers services stand for. Why not put them at the centre of what we do? In the Centre…

The Information Centre is dead. Long live the careers makerspace!

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