Code4LibDC Unconference Workshop

Monday and Tuesday of this week I had the opportunity to attend the 2014 Code4LibDC Unconference, where I had been invited to lead an introduction to hardware hacking workshop. Thanks in large part to the generosity of SparkFun Electronics, whose Education arm let me borrow the hardware necessary to run the workshop (15 sets of the Sparkfun Redboard Arduino clone, breadboards, wiring, LEDs, and sensors).

I decided that I wanted to try and reverse the normal order of pretty much every “Learn Arduino” workshop that I’d seen, so rather than start with a blank slate and have the students build a circuit to blink an LED, I decided that I wanted them to start with a working circuit that was a bit more complicated and then deconstruct it. As a result, I spent most of a day late the week before building out a dozen or so circuits that would light a series of 4 LEDs dependent on the value of a potentiometer, and then packing them up and hoping the TSA didn’t find them “interesting”. The idea was that the participants would immediately have a working thing, and then could break it, alter it, change it, and they would have something that was immediately useful rather than struggle to make it work from the outset. Judging from the reactions I got, I think that was a good call…the participants seemed to have a grand time deconstructing why the circuit did what it did. It also provided an example of how something very simple could be useful in a library…you could, with very little change, basically replace the potentiometer with a thermistor and have a temperature gauge, or with a microphone and have a noise indicator for “too loud” rooms.

We weren’t without problems (no hardware session ever is) but overall I felt like it went well, and I can’t wait to work on making this particular workshop even better. I really want to teach more and more librarians how to hack on hardware to benefit their libraries. A few of the participants really had a field day, with one group altering the simple 4 LED series to instead be a 4-bit binary counter, and another working out an algorithm that allowed for soft fades instead of simple on/off of the lights.

If anyone is interested, below you will find my slides from the workshop. They need work before I try to give this again, but I think they are a good start.

Month One

Today marks the one month anniversary of leaving my position at the University of TN at Chattanooga, walking away from a tenured professorship, and trying to build a business on my reputation and skills.

So how’s it going?

Right now, it’s mostly proposal limbo. I have something like 8 different consulting proposals that I’ve either put together or been attached to over the course of the month. Of those 8, 2 are definite no-gos, 2 need revisions and resubmittal, and 4 are still floating in the ether of uncertainty. I’ve got a handful of speaking engagements (but am always happy to come and speak with librarians about technology) and over the next few months will be:

Those are all in roughly the next 12 weeks!

Which is a lot of words to basically say: Things are uncertain, but good, and I’m keeping busy. :-)

I’d love to hear from anyone who needs technology planning at their library, though…I would love to turn a few proposals into contracts. What can I do to help your library?

3D Printers for Libraries

I spent yesterday hanging out at the GigTank Demo Day, listening to 3D printing startups pitch their ideas and companies at investors. It was a fantastic event, as is normal for things that the Company Lab is running, and I had a good time listening to the excitement around 3D printing as a technology.

It made me want to look back and see how long I’ve been following this technology, and I was dumbfounded to discover that the first mention of 3D printing on this very blog was in 2006. In October of 2006 I posted about a company called Fabjectory that was way ahead of the curve in providing 3D printing as a service for people. Then, not quite a year later I held the first 3D printed object that I’d ever touched, and it happened to be a print of myself as a Nintendo Mii. That was in August of 2007!

In 2011 I was asked to record a video by the LITA Top Tech Trends committee as an experiment for doing some information updates on technology between ALA Annual and Midwinter, and the trend I pointed to was 3D printing.

There’s a lot more that I’ve written over the years, ranging from my interviews with Bre Pettis (CEO of Makerbot Industries) about libraries and 3D printing to reporting last year for American Libraries on the 3D printing news from CES 2014.

3D Printers for Libraries

All this time and interest in the technology is coming to head in the publication of a new Library Technology Report that I have written on 3D printing, called 3D Printers for Libraries. In it I explain all of the varieties of 3D printing and 3D printers, from the inexpensive fused-deposition printers that most libraries are installing to the highest end Electron Beam Melting printers that are used to produce medical-grade implants. I go through the pros and cons of a variety of manufacturers, and make suggestions for libraries who are just getting started in offering 3D printing as a service.

If your library is looking at starting to offer 3D printing, this is a good reference work to help you make some decisions about types of printers and pitfalls and problems you may see with them. If your library would like some help in making decisions like this, or in figuring out how  to offer 3D printing to your patrons, feel free to contact me (griffey at gmail.com or @griffey on Twitter). I’d love to help you get to a place where your staff is confident in offering 3D printing as a new technology offering from your library.

Honoring Orwell

I am continually amazed, every day, at the reach and spread of the LibraryBox Project. This tweet from today took my breath away:

It refers to the 1984 Symposium, a group of people who gather every year on the anniversary of Orwell’s death, to honor him and discuss the ideas contained within 1984 by picnicking at his gravesite. That there is a small piece of me there in the form of a box that helps to make information that much more open and free…I’m so very, very pleased by this.

SparkFun @ ALA Annual 2014 – Hardware and Coding!

ALA Annual 2014 in Las Vegas is going to be a fantastic conference for a ton of reasons, but at least one of those reasons is that there is a new exhibitor that anyone interested in technology, coding, and general hardware hackery should get to know: SparkFun Electronics.

SparkFun is a company that not only makes awesome hardware and hardware kits, they have an amazing educational wing that works with schools and libraries to teach Maker skills to people across the country. I had the opportunity back in February to visit and learn from Sparkfun along with a handful of other Chattanooga librarians you may have heard of. Their educational materials are top-notch, and they are happy to work with libraries who want to teach Arduino, coding, soft circuits, and a few dozen other projects.

At ALA Annual they will be in the exhibit hall, Booth 1870, and will have a ton of interesting stuff to look at and play with. Sparkfun’s Jeff Branson along with Nate Hill from the Chattanooga Public Library will also be taking part in the LITA Library Code Year Interest Group Technology Speed Dating event on Saturday, June 28, in the Las Vegas Convention Center Room N119. That looks like an incredible lineup of presenters, and will be a great program.

In addition to all of that, they will be hosting a number of short classes in the Networking Uncommons if you want to get a quick 1/2 hour introduction to Arduino, AruBlock, Scratch, or Processing…or if you want to stick around for the whole shebang and have a 2 hour block of technology awesomeness. They will be doing two classes of each:

Saturday, June 28 – Networking Uncommons
3-3:30 Ardublock
3:30-4:00 Arduino
4:00-4:30 Scratch
4:30-5:00 Processing

Monday, June 30 – Networking Uncommons
10-10:30 Ardublock
10:30-11:00 Arduino
11:00-11:30-Scratch
11:30-12:00- Processing

If you have any interest at all in Maker technologies, I recommend showing up for one of these…Jeff from Sparkfun is a great instructor, and I guarantee it’ll be a good time. I hope to see you all there!

LibraryBox Installfest @ ALA Annual 2014

Are you going to be at ALA Annual 2014 in Las Vegas? Would you like to build your own LibraryBox for yourself or your library, but aren’t sure how to make that happen? Well step right up, I’ve got your answer!

On Saturday, June 28th from 11:15am until 12 Noon in the Networking Uncommons in the Las Vegas Convention Center, I will be holding the fist ever LibraryBox Installfest! What does that mean? It means that you buy the hardware and bring it with you, and I will walk you through the install process, show you some tips and tricks for customizing, and generally answer any questions about the LibraryBox Project that you might have. I’ll be there helping anyone who shows up, so just drop by anytime during that 45 minutes.

What you DEFINITELY need to bring with you

The install process, from beginning to end, will take about 10-15 minutes. If you show up with the equipment listed, I will make sure that you leave with a working LibraryBox.

Join me in the Networking Uncommons for the first ever LibraryBox Installfest, and learn how to build your own LibraryBox. Or just swing by and ask questions. Or heck, just come say hello and grab a LibraryBox sticker.

See you in Vegas!

Maker Spaces in Libraries & The White House Maker Faire

As some of you may have heard, the White House is hosting a Maker Faire in the very near future. See this release for more details: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2014/02/03/announcing-first-white-house-maker-faire

Maker spaces in libraries allow everyone to develop critical thinking and problem solving skills and facilitate opportunity for collaboration and community engagement that will aid in the next generation of STEM jobs. They provide access to tools (from books to 3D printers) and, most importantly, ‘access to each other’. Library maker spaces are powerful informal learning spaces that give local community members the ability to create, hack, and make their future.

A number of organizations are working together to show library support for making in our communities. If you and your institution support President Obama’s call for, “an all-hands-on-deck approach to science, technology, engineering, and math…to make sure that all of us as a country are lifting up these subjects for the respect that they deserve,” please email Lauren at lmbritto@syr.edu to sign up as a supporter. Time is running out, and having as many names as possible on the list will help show the White House that libraries are a vital part of the Maker movement, and integral to supporting their communities.

The Case for Open Hardware in Libraries

Over a year ago, I was approached by Ken Varnum to write a chapter for a book he was editing, at the time called Top Ten Technologies for 2017. He was persuasive, and I had this crazy idea that had been bouncing around in my head for some time about libraries and open hardware. I told him my idea, and described the argument I wanted to make, and he told me to go for it.

So I did.

The book ended up being called The Top Technologies Every Librarian Needs to Know: A LITA Guide and my chapter in it The Case for Open Hardware in Libraries. I’m pretty proud of it, as it’s as close as I’ve been able to come, after a couple of years worth of thinking and speaking and writing, to distilling why I think this is an important thing for libraries to be doing.

Click the above link to download a copy for your very own, or take a look below for a quick skim. Either way, I hope that it starts or continues some conversations on this front in libraries. As always, if there are libraries out there that want to do this sort of thing, build their own hardware, create their own measurement tools, I’d love to hear from you. I’d love to help you. Just let me know.

What can I do for your library?

The next stage in my career is going to be helping libraries everywhere be the best they can possibly be. How can I do that? Well, after almost a decade at the forefront of library technology, I have a broad set of knowledge that could be useful to libraries everywhere. I can help your library and librarians with:

  • Makerspace and maker equipment planning and training
  • Strategic planning for technology in the library
  • New building or space planning for patron and staff technology
  • LibraryBox building, development, use in outreach, gaming, disaster planning and more…
  • Implementation and management of electronics in the library, including iPads, eReaders, and other personal electronics
  • Communication planning and structural operations between librarians and external IT
  • Hackerspace/Makerspace workshops; Arduino, Raspberry Pi, 3D printing

I’m very interested in talking with libraries and librarians who would benefit from having my experience with library technologies directed at the issues facing them. I would also love to speak at events, staff days, conferences, or other places where a fresh take on technology and libraries might be needed…I have a rich and varied speaking career at this point; check out my CV for examples of the sorts of talks that I’ve given, and feel free to contact me for references.

I’m also interested in what libraries and librarians need, so if the above list isn’t what you’re looking for, let me know. Leave a comment, drop me an email, send me a tweet, whatever you’d like…let me know what would be useful to you and your library. What would be useful for your staff? Where can I do the most good, help the most, be the most effective? I’m interested in reinvention, so if I haven’t thought about your need, let me know.

As noted in my previous post, I’m going to work on LibraryBox over the next couple of months, but I’m interested in helping libraries everywhere be better with technology. Let me know what I can do to help you…email me at griffey@gmail.com and let’s work together on how we can make libraries even more awesome.

IMLS, Maker Faire, and Montana Academic Library Symposium

IMLS_Logo_2cStarting Wednesday, I’m heading out for a couple of really exciting events. The first is an IMLS Stakeholder meeting in San Francisco, CA on May 15th that is dedicated to a discussion of how library spaces are changing. From the press release:

The San Francisco meeting will focus on current trends, challenges and opportunities to consider for framing future investments in this area. The discussion will cover the following:

  • The Shift to Participatory Learning
  • Approaches to Technology and Space
  • Staffing and Mentorship Models
  • Connected Learning
  • Community Engagement: Partnerships and Programming
  • Measuring Success: Evaluation

I’m really excited to be a part of this discussion, and can’t wait to meet everyone involved. The event is going to be livestreamed, and they are looking for lots of community involvement, so please join in. The twitter hashtag is #imlsfocus and if you’d like to tweet me directly at @griffey, I’d be happy to ask questions on your behalf.

makerfaireThe incredibly awesome side-effect of being in San Francisco on Thursday and Friday of this week is that Saturday is Maker Faire Bay Area 2014, the largest Maker Faire in the world. This will be my first time being able to attend the grand-high-holy of maker faires, and I’m completely excited. I will of course have a few LibraryBoxen with me, and will be hanging out with Sparkfun showing it off when I can. Sparkfun is going to be located in the Intel booth, so come by and say hello, or just download some free books from the LibraryBox that will be stationed there.

And to round out the awesome week, I’m going to be heading over to Bozeman, MT for the Montana Academic Library Symposium 2014: Makerspaces, DIY Culture, and the Emergence of the Smart Library Building, where I’ll be delivering a keynote about…Library Spaces! I’ll be talking about how the digital devices that are coming over the next 5-10 years will impact the use of our physical spaces, how we can react to that, and how we can bolster our efforts in appropriately marketing ourselves to stakeholders regarding these issues. I’m really excited to meet the fantastic librarians in Montana, and talk about the future of our spaces.

As always, if you’re going to be at any of these events and want to meet up, drop me an email at griffey at gmail.com, or send me a message on twitter. I’d love to continue any of these conversations, or if you just want a LibraryBox demo, I’ll be happy to do that as well. Let me know!