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Production: Media Commons to Multimedia Makerspaces

From game labs to recording studios, libraries are finding creative ways to provide audio and video production hardware, software, and spaces for users.

Many libraries maintain media services departments that specialize in innovative technology and media creation including audio and video, along with 3D printing and other activities. These spaces have names like media commons, design studio, and makerspaces.

The Denver Public Library's space is called the ideaLAB. Their website states:

"call it a makerspace, digital media lab, or just your own workspace: ideaLABs are community spaces to make things. Do you need to produce videos, create games, make music, or learn about electronics? We aim to provide the tools and resources you need to make your projects happen."

Design and production spaces have been popular in libraries since the first reel-to-reel audio recorders were introduced. During the 1970s, "wet carrels" provided library users a place where they could use electronic devices. By the late 1970s and early 1980s, video recording devices and video editing studios took hold. Soon, computer software were introduced to assist with audio and video editing. During the past several years, the terms "digital media commons" and "makerspaces" has been associated with spaces that provide devices and materials for creating audio and video along with many other types of projects from knitting and LEGO making to 3D printing and robotics.

Digital Media Commons

Originally known as the A/V department, these dedicated areas of the library have been around for decades. During the 1980s and 1990s media services departments reached their peak. Over the past several years, many of these departments have merged with information and educational technology to become digital media commons, digital scholarship labs, or digital technology departments. Others have maintained the media center name. While some of these facilities are focused on faculty services, others emphasize student production.

While these spaces were originally designed for library staff to produce materials, they're increasingly shifting their services to provide resources for library users to build their own digital materials.

Academic Libraries

Many of Digital Media Commons maintain their own video channel where they can share information about their facilities and their work. Go to Digital Media Commons from the University of Michigan for an example.

videoTry It!
Watch Faculty Stories from Penn State. Then, browse Case Studies.
Think about how video production might be integrated into your library setting.

Public Libraries

From young children to senior citizens, a wide range of people enjoy using recording studios. Although teen programs are particularly popular, don't forget about the many other library users who might enjoy creating audio and video projects.

School Libraries

In many cases schools maintain recording studios for classes focusing on digital audio and video. These studios are often maintained by the librarian.

Read Build Your Own Digital Media Lab (November 8, 2011) from The Digital Shift.

try itTry It!
Spend some time exploring the specialized software, hardware, and spaces. Also, examine their use policies and other guidelines. If you were building a facility for users, what would you include? Create a spreadsheet showing each item from computers and cameras to microphones and software. How much would it cost?

Multimedia Makerspaces


While digital media commons focus specifically on audio, video, gaming, and related media production, makerspaces may have a broader mission that includes everything from building LEGOs to knitting stations.

Makerspaces have become common in public, school, and academic library settings. According to EDUCAUSE (2013), "a makerspace is a physical location where people gather to share resources and knowledge, work on projects, network, and build."

Read 7 Things You Should Know about Markerspaces (2013). EDUCAUSE.

Burke notes that makerspaces may include audio and video equipment along with spaces for editing. Although some libraries focus on desktop computers and digital video cameras, others are using cameras on mobile devices. Part of the process is also showing users how to upload to YouTube or Facebook. Makerspaces may also provide the tools for converting older video formats such as VHS tapes into digital recordings. Burke (2014, 69) notes that “video projects give patrons a way to communicate their ideas and their creativity while learning technology skills”.

In Makerspaces in Libraries, Willingham and De Boer (2015) note that makerspaces represent a “significant shift for libraries” as they move from places that store information to engaging environments where people use information and create in new ways. Video production is one example. Library users can be involved in shooting and editing their own ideas. They note that libraries often include audio and video production studios and provide cameras for checkout.

In her book Makerspaces, Caitlin Bagley (2014, 43) points out that video production is an effective makerspace activity. She notes that

“one of their first major projects was the QuickFlix project, where teens created their own short videos using the video technology at the labs. They did a great deal of promotion to market this event, and they had eighteen final entries submitted to the contest. The library posted these videos on their YouTube channel, on their own website, and even as links of individual entries on their Twitter account. By doing this, they had a great spread of potential users watching the videos. Their hope is that when they run the contest in the future, even more people will be aware of the program and teens will return again and again, in hopes of doing better and potentially winning… the library tries not to worry too much about how many people view a particular video or tweet. Instead, they hope to get the message out - slowly but surely - that the makerspace exists, allowing for steady, manageable growth.”

Greg Roza (2014) notes that “some makerspaces feature recording studios where you can learn the science and practices behind music production. This includes working with mixing boards and other standard equipment… You may also use video recording equipment and green screens in makerspaces. These give musicians the opportunity to create professional music videos and demonstrations… some makerspaces have started programs to help train DJs.”

Digital cameras and editing software are just the beginning. Some libraries are developing learning spaces, production studios, and other facilities that reach beyond the makerspace concept.

Innovative librarians are finding creative ways to provide resources and spaces for a wide range of user activities.

Read at least one of the following articles:

Agosto, Denise; Bell, Jonathan, Pacheco; Bernier, Anthony; Kehlmann, Meghhann (2015). This is our library and it’s a pretty cool place: a user-centered study of public library YA spaces. Public Library Quarterly, 34, 23-43.

Bartz, Laurie (Winter 2016). Community experts mentor teens and new adults. Young Adult Library Services, 18-19. Available through IUPUI.

Gargano, Jason (March/April 2015). Lights, camera, create! Library recording studios on the rise. American Libraries, 46(3/4), 20-21. Available through IUPUI.

Hodel, Mary Anne (January 2014). Technology center focuses on innovation and creativity. Public Libraries, 53(1), 48-51. Available through IUPUI.

Academic Libraries

While some makerspaces are part of the media services department of an academic library, they're sometimes separate. For instance, Makerspaces at North Carolina State University have their own area.

Public Libraries

The Cincinnati and Hamilton County Public Library maintains a combined makerspace and digital audio, video, and photography area.

Madison Public Library's Bubbler is a makerspace that includes a media lab.

The San Francisco Public Library's The Mix is a place for teens to create media.

Many public libraries offer audio and video as an aspect of their larger makerspace programs:

School Libraries

The Makerspace Station by the Daring Librarian has lots of ideas to get started with makerspaces. Keep in mind that audio and video may not be the focus on the makerspace. Instead, children make be creating a product, then using audio and video as tools to record their experience or share their learning.

Production Challenges

Looking for a fun makerspace project? Get library users involved with contests.

Challenge participants to create:

Explore the following contest ideas:

Read Teens Promote Summer Reading Through Video Contest (June 17, 2016). Digital Shift.

try itTry It!
Create a video contest including the program, rules, guidelines, directions for creating a video, hardware, software, ideas, and promotional materials.

Oral History Projects

The Storycorps project is a model that has been replicated in makerspaces across the country.

Check out a couple examples of oral history projects:

Librarians can find many guidelines for organizing oral history projects such as the Oral History Audio and Video Recording Log Sheet from the Library of Congress.

Read at least one of the following articles:

Kaufman, Peter B. (Winter/Spring 2013). Oral history in the video age. The Oral History Review, 40(1), 1-7. Available through IUPUI.

Warren, E. Robert; Manicscalco, Michael P.; Schroeder, Erich K.; Oliver, James S.; Huitt, Sue; Lambert, Douglas; & Frisch, Michael (Winter/Spring 2013). Restoring the human voice to oral history: the audio-video barn website. The Oral History Review, 40(1), 107-125. Available through IUPUI.

Audiobook Projects

From pronunciation of character names to strategically placed sound effects, producing audiobooks is a fascinating craft. Audiobook creating is a fun project for people of add ages.

In particular, seek out adult volunteers who might produce audiobooks for visually challenged library users. Focus on resources that might not be available through other channels such as audio recordings of the local newspaper.

Watch Behind the Audiobook: Stonewall.

Read Burkey, Mary (September 15, 2010). Its’ on the tip of my tongue. The Booklist, 107(2), 76. Available through IUPUI.

Read at least two of the following interviews sharing the audiobook production process.

AudioFile (February 2015). In the Studio: Arnie Cardillo, Marilyn Singer, and Joe Morton. AudioFile, 62-63. Available through IUPUI.
AudioFile (December 2014). In the Studio: Scott Sherratt and Amy Poehler. AudioFile, 44-45. Available through IUPUI.
AudioFile (April 2015). In the Studio: Emily Durante and Scott Brick. AudioFile, 48-49. Available through IUPUI.
AudioFile (December 2014). In the Studio: Ali Muirden. AudioFile, 64-65. Available through IUPUI.
AudioFile (April 2016). In the Studio: Tony Hudz. AudioFile, 58-59. Available through IUPUI.
AudioFile (April 2016). In the Studio: Jim Meskimen. AudioFile, 38-39. Available through IUPUI.

Sound Projects

People of all ages enjoy exploring nature. Consider a field recording project focusing on nature sounds and soundscapes.

try itTry It!
Go to the How To page from the Macaualy Library. Browse the equipment needed for audio and video recording in nature.
Create a list of what you'd like to purchase for a field recording makerspace.

Video Projects

You don't need to produce fancy video projects to have a high impact. Use simple tools to show the activities around areas of the library such as makerspaces or a special events. Use them for a quick library tour. Or, consider using the tools as part of your annual report to show foot traffic. Try a "short and simple" project. Some ideas are below:

Hyperlapse is a tool that allows users to easily create a time-lapse of activities in the library. The app allows users to record videos up to 45 minutes of video. Then, the video can be accelerated to create a hyperlapse effect. Explore a few library examples below:

Vine (shut down in 2017, but videos still available) is a website where users can post very short videos.

Read Bourne, Weland (September 2016). Getting started with Vine. Videomaker, 62-63. Available through IUPUI.

try itTry It!
These videos are fun to make.
Try Hyperlapse just for fun!

Digital Storytelling Projects

Producing videos is about telling stories. Librarians work with stories all the time. We share books, programs, and experiences that all involve stories.

Read At least two of the following articles:
Saricks, Joyce (November 1, 2014). At leisure with Joyce Saricks: story people. The Booklist, 112(1), 41. Available through IUPUI.
Sharpe, Stephanie (October 3, 2014). Multimedia Storytelling in Government: Ghazni Towers Documentation Project. DigitalGov
Wawro, Larence (April 1, 2012). Digital storytelling: more than the sumo its parts. Children and Libraries, 50-52. Available through IUPUI.

Video Game Projects

From coding activities to full-blown video game development projects, libraries are building engaging makerspaces related to video games. Bagley (2014) also notes that the basics of how to build custom video games is a popular makerspace program.

Consider a temporary makerspace related to a special event such as Hour of Coding.

Kotzer, Zack (February 14, 2016). The New York Public Library hopes you’ll make video games. Motherboard.


Bagley, Caitlin A. (2014). Makerspaces: Top Trailblazing Projects. ALA-LITA.

Burke, John J. (2014). Makerspaces: a practical guide for librarians. Rowman & Littlefield.

Rosa, Greg (2014). Getting the Most Out of Makerspaces to Make Musical Instruments. Rosen Publishing Group

Willingham, Thera; De Boer, Jeroen (2015). Makerspaces in Libraries. Rodman & Littlefield.

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