This Wednesday was our second 3D printing workshop and it really left me wanting more! That’s not to say that the workshop was insufficient, but that it did it’s job of making me realize how possible and realistic it is for me to create and print 3D models. For her second workshop, Michelle introduced the open source program Inkscape (“drawing” software comparable to Adobe Illustrator). In Inkscape, users can change black and white images/objects into vector images that can then be imported into Tinkercad and manipulated. The same thing can be done with text as well.
I got another look at the maker movement in some of my readings this week. I read two papers by the Deloitte Center for the Edge, A Movement In The Making and Impact of the Maker Movement. The two papers, particularly the latter, explore the economic and cultural impact makerspaces and the maker movement are having and will continue to have in the future. I am somewhat familiar with the ways the movement is manifesting itself in the education world (i.e. this whole grant project) and had heard it tossed around that the movement is predicted to revitalize the manufacturing industry in the country. But I had never really heard it put into such precise and optimistic (is that the right word?) terms.
One of the points I found interesting in A Movement In The Making was Dale Dougherty’s breakdown of makers into three categories: 1) zero to maker, 2) maker to maker, and 3) maker to market. These seem to capture the different aspects of the movement pretty well.
Zero to maker (the level at which I proudly know I am most rooted in) is those who are just learning and/or putting their skills to use. This category quite nicely captures the idea that everyone is a maker, that the access to ideas and technology are putting making back in peoples’ hands. The maker to maker aspect captures the sense of community, sharing, and building on others’ ideas that is so vital to the maker world. And clearly maker to market reflects the economic impact of the market.
Possibly my favorite line or concept from both articles was the seemingly contradictory idea that our digital technologies are, paradoxically, leading us back to the physical realm. “Physical ‘making’ is the new frontier,” the authors say. When so many lament the “end of society” because of the machines, it is refreshing to think of the potential renaissance that all of these machines could be leading to. While I often wondered whether the authors were a bit idealistic or self-serving in their predictions about the impact the maker movement has/will have, I am also hopeful that they are mostly right. Their ideas clearly strike a chord with me and how I would like to see the world continue to evolve in the future.
“The same forces that are democratizing information— improved cost-performance of technology driving digitization and connectivity— are also lowering the cost to produce physical objects.”
--A Movement In The Making, Deloitte Center For The Edge
So, as it is with the laws of the universe, a Blackboard malfunction coincided with our first workshop on 3D printing this week. However, I don’t think this really slowed down the pace of the workshop. In fact, it may have actually helped in some ways, since Michelle was able to record a tutorial introducing us (I consider myself a participant) to some basic 3D modeling tools without the interruption of other technical difficulties.
One of the most notable revelations I’ve had thus far working with the makerspace team is the value of open source software. As a young, naive undergrad and even during my professional duties as a writer/page designer at a small newspaper, I was often snobbish about having to use such open source software as Open Office - it didn’t work the way I WANTED it to. I was spoiled and, having never really incurred the costs for such software, blissfully ignorant of how prohibitive those costs are. The wonderful thing about Michelle’s workshop this week was that all of the tools she used (with the exception of the printer itself) were free. The development of web applications has really enhanced access to these tools and allows people to harness their experimental and creative powers much more easily. I cannot imagine having to pay for proprietary software in order to tinker with (pardon the pun!) Tinkercad, the application we used for 3D modeling.
The availability of such programs really fits well with the maker mindset of sharing and collaboration and greatly increases one’s ability to try new things. Within 30 seconds, and at no cost, I was ready to start basic 3D modeling, or to modify the free downloadable models available at Thingiverse. I can go home and share this with my sister, or send her the link and let her try it on her own. I am not prohibited by the fear of paying for a program that I will never use, and in this case, I’m not even slowed down by the need to download the program.
The workshop itself was a great introduction to Tinkercad, which is surprisingly easy and intuitive to use. I am looking forward to next week and to hopefully making some neat additions to our poster for ALISE (fingers crossed)!
This week, Beth proposed that Michelle and I consider attending the ALISE and/or mid-winter ALA conferences in Chicago in January, with the goal of presenting a poster at one or the other. After some research, we realized that ALISE hosts a Works In Progress poster session during their annual conference. This is especially exciting for me, because it presents a number of great opportunities (not to sound self-centered or anything). One, it gives me the opportunity to attend some of my first conferences as a soon-to-be professional librarian. It also gives me the opportunity to visit Chicago, somewhere I’ve never been and a city that holds some special significance to my family (my grandmother’s sister lived there for most of her adult life). Finally, it gives me the chance to come up with a really great deliverable for the practicum/independent study portion of my role with the team.
I am also quite excited about the possibility to present a poster on such an interesting and relatively innovative topic and something that I am so interested in sharing. The Mobile Makerspace project is remarkably in line with the “Re-imagining LIS Education” portion of the poster session theme. Below is our abstract/poster description that will hopefully land us a spot at the ALISE conference. Here’s hoping!
LIS Education - Making Makers
In the past few years, there has been a shift in thinking that libraries have a responsibility as spaces for creation. With that in mind, it is important to prepare and familiarize librarians-in-making with makerspaces. The Mobile Makerspace Team at the University of North Carolina Greensboro’s Jackson Library received a Library Services and Technology (LSTA) grant from the North Carolina State Library for the 2014 - 2015 year. The grant furthers the team’s goal of educating LIS students and others about the world of makers and makerspaces with the message that EVERYONE IS A MAKER. As two LIS students working on this grant project, we have helped spearhead this project for our classmates and colleagues. Our resources include a 3D printer, Arduino kits, a laptop with open source software, and a mobile cart to hold them all - comprising the Mobile Makerspace. Our poster will include discussion on our involvement in the initiative, what we have accomplished so far, such as workshops and assessment creation, what we have learned and what comes next. The poster will bring the products and results of our venture to the conference with a three-dimensional twist and will include LED lights and sample 3D modeling projects. Preliminary assessment results will also be available to explore the impact our workshop sessions may have had on participants’ perceptions of their “maker” abilities.
This week we met with Bob Anemone, chair of UNCG’s Anthropology Department. One of the goals of the LSTA grant is to reach out to academic departments on campus and show them how 3D modeling/printing and circuit technology can be incorporated into their curriculum. This was not much of a leap for the Anthropology department. In fact, the department (or Bob, actually) has a 3D scanner which it already uses to create 3D images of various artifacts.
We particularly got a close-up look at several mammalian teeth and jawbones Bob and his students found during recent digs. His undergraduate assistant, Ashley, explained to us that patterns on the teeth could indicate everything from the animal’s diet down to its species. It’s her job to scan the teeth and jawbones and other objects using the scanner, a process that even at its fastest takes several hours. The scans can be saved as any number of image file types, including PDFs, which can then be manipulated on several dimensions.
The obvious value of 3D printing in that environment is to create scaled replicas of artifacts, like teeth, that can be increased in size, measured, handled by students, or sent to colleagues. In fact, Bob said, there is a certain amount of sharing among colleagues of 3D scans. In some aspects, it increases access to physical items in ways that molds and casts may not. This was one area of particular interest to him, the accuracy of such replicas. A potential research project would be to compare the accuracy and precision of different replicas (casts, 3D prints, 3D images) to the original by comparing measurements. This was an application, Bob said, where 3D technology may (dare I say it) surpass even the purity of the physical object, the ability for much more precise measurements of hard-to-measure surfaces.
I probably showed my ignorance, or idealism, when I asked whether 3D technology was incorporated into the Anthropology curriculum AT ALL. The answer, I’m told, is no. While Bob and his undergraduate assistants are becoming versed in the possibilities, the department itself has no formal or informal education on the subject. In a previous job as a newspaper reporter, I was accustomed to being at least 10 years behind such current trends, but I was definitely surprised that even in a field where there is such a direct application, the transition is relatively slow.
I can see both positive and negative aspects to this. While it’s a little disappointing that these awesome tools are not being totally taken advantage of (and yes, I understand budgetary and bureaucratic restraints), it’s also pretty neat to realize just what a positive force something like the Mobile Makerspace can be in educating others about what’s available.
It’s hard to believe the end of the semester is approaching in less than a month. I have spent the last few weeks working in BiblioBoard, learning my way around and uploading content, creating metadata, and arranging items for the Secrest Artists Series anthology (like the clipping from the 2006-2007 season mailing above). I’ve really enjoyed this process, as in some ways it reminds me of what I loved so much when I worked at the newspaper – the layout and design of the pages.
I don’t know if it makes sense to a lot of people (at least outside of the library world) to say that I genuinely love to organize things. I don’t think I’m taking it too far by saying that it’s a form of creative expression for me. I love seeing the “before” and “after” of something – maybe that’s why I love shows like This Old House so much. Nothing is more satisfying to me than to actually be able to see the fruits of my labor in some meaningful, tangible way. And while I guess it would be hard to call a digital collection tangible, it did start out that way. I have been able to organize the physical collection from a relatively large amount of items to the select highlights that will end up in the exhibit. Even as I write this, I’m looking at a cart full of real-life, touchable boxes that holds the entire collection. Although I did not process the initial collection, it has been an invaluable experience to really evaluate the items and understand the thought process behind it. It has also been quite the experience to watch these real world, physical items transformed into their digital counterparts.
For the upcoming classroom portion of my internship, I know I’m going to be asked what I learned this semester. I’ve actually learned quite a bit both from a technical standpoint and a more philosophical one. I’ve learned the value of Google docs and spreadsheets in a work environment, I’ve learned about the functions of command line prompts and writing scripts, batch processing, about new features I was unaware of in Adobe Acrobat and Photoshop, how to digitize with various (mostly cooperative) pieces of scanning equipment, and how to create a digital exhibit – just to name a few.
More important, to me, has been the real world experience in an archival and digital environment. One of my major goals coming into grad school with little direct library work was to get as much hands on experience as possible. I feel very fortunate to have had that so early in my school career. Something else I’ve mentioned more than once is my newfound appreciation for the element of time. This has left quite the impression on me – really having a grasp of the amount of time that goes into digitizing and processing collections and understanding that even though a task may be computerized that does not necessarily mean it will be quick and effortless. In the digital age, we forget this sometimes.
I have also been fortunate to learn some of the standards in archival practice and they have helped me through some of my own struggles. One thing I struggled with earlier in the semester was why we were digitizing entire folders when we may just need one or two items for the exhibit. While I understood the value of the collection as a whole I was concerned (again) about time. What helped me push through this barrier was understanding that it’s not the archivist’s job to make that judgment call. How can I say that what’s unimportant to me will not have some contextual value to a future researcher? I certainly understood this in the theoretical sense before starting working with the collection, but again, it was nice to have theory meet practice during my internship.
As I continue to work with and finalize the Secrest exhibit, I look forward to the lessons that remain!
The past few weeks have been a little hectic between snow/ice and spring break. My focus at ZSR has been slowly transitioning from the student newspaper, Old Gold and Black, to the digital exhibit I will be creating for the university’s Secrest Artists Series (see the image to the right from a mailing about the 1991-1992 season).
Chelcie, my supervisor, shared several readings with me, through which I am slowly making my way. One of the first I read was More Product, Less Process, or as it’s efficiently called MPLP. The timing of this reading was amazingly spot on, since as I started reading it, I was also starting to “process” Secrest materials. (At least, my version of “processing”, or evaluating for inclusion in the exhibit.)
Reading MPLP made me much more consciously aware of my thoughts and actions as I was going through the materials. I realized earlier this week that I had actually physically touched every single item in the collection, with the exception of one box of scrapbook materials (that’s 11 boxes and one oversized box of materials!) If I were to estimate the amount of hours spent just looking at the collection and considering items for inclusion in the digital exhibit (keep in mind the collection was already processed for the archives), I’d conservatively say I’ve spent at least 20 hours selecting “items of interest” and the further organizing and paring down the list. Although this differs from the procession of a collection that, say, came in from a family member, or even a department on campus, as Secrest did, it helps put the issues raised by MPLP into context.
I can see both sides of the argument. On the one hand, it has been valuable “getting to know” the collection from spending so much time with it. I felt this possibly even more back in October and November when I helped process a collection of letters between a physician serving during World War II and his wife back home in Wake Forest. I felt I understood an aspect of the war that I had never considered before and their relationship even more so from their letters. I would love for such a wonderful and complete collection to exist within my own family. I am grateful I had the luxury of time to get so intimately acquainted with their letters. At the same time, I consider the amount of time I spent taking letters out of envelopes and organizing them painstakingly by date. (Is “painstaking” too dramatic in reference to a couple that wrote to each other at least once daily for the duration of the war?) To be fair, this process was took considerably longer because of my reading of their letters and inspecting all of the greeting cards and other keepsakes. But, as much of my work at ZSR has done, it gave me an appreciation for the time factors involved.
The question becomes a more practical one of balancing how much is too much with how much is not enough. I think this has become an issue in many fields as budgets get cut and fewer people are asked to do more work. It has been educational to see in what ways this plays out in an archival setting, as well as in the digitization lab. It has certainly given me insight on time management and on putting my own preferences aside and assessing collections from an objective standpoint.
Well, I believe I may have missed a post between snow days and rearranging my schedule following them, so this may be a catch-all for some of the things I’ve been doing and thinking about the past two weeks. First, I wanted to provide a couple of links for some neat things I got to do this week. In my management course we have been discussing the book First, Break All The Rules and the importance of focusing on strengths rather than weaknesses in the workplace. While I’m not crazy about everything mentioned in the book, I found this seemingly simple insight very powerful. On our class discussion board, one of my classmates posted a link to the Gallup’s Clifton StrengthsFinder tool (Gallup also conducted the research that was the basis for FBATR). When I found out they also use the StrengthsFinder at ZSR, I decided to fork over the small fee out of curiosity. My Top 5 Strengths were identified as: Input, Adaptability, Empathy, Context, and Developer. Find out more about what those mean by checking out the report in the portfolio section.
The highlight of my week was probably the visit with ZSR’s Preservation Librarian, Craig Fansler, to see the antique letterpress (pictured) donated to the library by Carl Hein. Craig talked about the resurgence of the letterpress in the wake of new technology, and it’s really neat to see it used regularly for bookmarks, invitations, and other uses in the library. It hasn’t been that long, but it reminded me of my work at the newspaper and made me feel at home. I could always tell which press our print shop manager, Early Bailey, was running by the sounds coming from the back of the building.
This week, my supervisor, Chelcie, met with me to discuss some potential summer internship opportunities. I had expressed some interest in finding something to keep me occupied over the summer, and she was kind enough to look over some of the internships I found and offer some professional advice. She also asked me two questions for which I realized I didn’t really have answers – What do I want out of a potential internship and Where do I envision myself after graduation? – I wasn’t really satisfied with my answers to these questions and have been thinking about it since.
I went into grad school as a blank slate. I knew I liked reading and that sharing/preserving/making accessible information was important to me. I knew I had an interest in archives, simply because of my overarching fascination with the past and the belief that preserving it is vital. I also knew that I could not ignore the presence of technology in the field and viewed it as one of the major benefits of entering the library studies program. With all of that being said, I feel more than fortunate that I was offered this unexpected opportunity at ZSR, particularly so early in my graduate school career, because it meets so many of those expectations. But I don’t know that I had actively considered what I want when I get out of school, because from past experience where I wanted to be and where I ended up are usually two completely different places (in both positive and negative ways). I am wary of being specific because I don’t want to be disappointed, yes, but also because I am open to where life will take me. However, I also know that avoiding decisions out of uncertainty is no excuse. I’m not the greatest planner, I think, because when I sit down and think about the future I visualize all of the possibilities and cannot imagine planning for everything that could possibly happen. That being said, I have been giving it some thought.
So, what would I like out of a summer internship – or any other possible internships or learning opportunities during my time as an LIS student?
The reason internships are so important to me is twofold. First, I believe that I cannot truly know about a job without the experience of actually performing the work. And, two, I know that potential employers are looking for that experience, even out of entry-level employees. So those are my practical reasons for wanting an internship. But what do I want out of a potential summer internship? I want skills that I cannot get in a classroom. I want skills that are not always easy to master and can be technical – metadata creation, digitization, cataloging. This may lack the specificity that some people need, but for me, it is a fairly well-defined goal.
Where do I envision myself after graduate school?
This is a much more difficult question for me to answer. I entered graduate school with a vision of providing service to people. I envision myself doing this in two very distinct ways. One is in a role very much like where I am now at ZSR, preserving the past in some meaningful way for the users of the future. The other way is in service to the public in a small, community library where I can help people directly. But as I said, I am open to many different points in between.