One of the bigger movements afoot in libraries is actually a subsection of a large movement all over the world, HackerSpaces. Well, some people call them MakerSpaces or whatever, but I really like HackerSpaces. It’s probably got something to do with the fact that I grew up making clicky sounds with a keyboard, trying to make computers do something they may or may not have been designed to do. To me, that’s hacking and hacking encompasses far more than just the digital realm. So I call them HackerSpaces.
As libraries grow more and more interested in their own HackerSpaces, they’re going to have to be really careful about how money gets spent. As I say in the podcast, libraries can be very much a high tech, low budget situation but one thing that can help a library do great things for less money is free and open source software (FOSS). Many of the 3D printers out there will work with FOSS and I love that. James Hobson over at Hack A Day has a great article on what you can do with you take a 3D printer and pair it up with a laser engraver. (Spoiler alert: AWESOME things happen!) But for my money, the really cool thing is the software.
Because this killer set of hardware runs Inkscape.
Inkscape is a vector drawing programme similar to Adobe Illustrator but with a price tag that’s 100% less, as in it’s free. I’ve never been able to get into vector illustrations like I did with my other digital art, but I love looking at vector art done by people who know what the hell they’re doing. Since it’s vector, the size and shapes of the drawing are encoded by math and not pixel locations. That’s perfect for engraving things large and small and creating art that will scale properly to your needs. It makes me happy whenever I see FOSS in a library. With the HackerSpace movement catching on in public libraries, check out Mesa Public Library’s THINKspot for a great example, I hope this opens another door for FOSS in the public library. So much can be done with it from running the infrastructure to, you know, laser cutting.