Patrons at the Heart of Studio 300
Digital media labs and makerspaces continue to be relatively new and popular additions to public libraries. We have been fortunate to be able to learn from the early adopters who originated the basic ideas around what these spaces can mean to the library. This experience has helped provide many resources available to help you plan — what to look for in a space, what equipment to buy, what software to purchase, how to pay for this service expansion and so on. However, don’t be tempted to stop when these logistical questions are answered. The real questions are how do your patrons plan to use your lab and its resources, and what do they want to do with the technology you plan to offer them?
Located in Bolingbrook, IL, Studio 300 is Fountaindale Public Library’s answer to what their community needs in a space that allows creation and collaboration. While there is never a typical day at Studio 300, there is a common theme. Patrons use lab resources to curate, create and share their own stories. They become digital content creators instead of just media consumers. Having a clear idea of how patrons might use the space to complete their projects influences both logistics and your daily operations. A benefit to staying focused on what your patrons create is that their projects and word-of-mouth support provide you with a rich source of effective promotion for the lab and its resources.
So, what happens in Studio 300?
At Fountaindale Public Library’s Studio 300, patrons work on videos, podcasts, music, graphic and web design, photography, illustration, animation and more. Look around the lab and there will be a wide-range of activities including:
- Transferring VHS tape to DVD
- Recording an opera demo with the hope of winning a scholarship to study
- Editing a church service to share with homebound parishioners
- Drawing Manga with a tablet connected to illustration software
- Creating a model to realize on our 3D printer
- Scanning pictures for a slideshow to debut at an upcoming retirement celebration
- Repairing a badly damaged photo and sharing the fully restored version with a loved one
- Videotaping a product demo against the green screen for a local business promotion
- Designing a postcard invitation for a graduation party
- Meeting with a client to discuss revamping a website
- Rehearsing newly composed music for a band demo
- Printing a large poster to promote an upcoming event
- Collaborating on a school project
Many projects focus on one media discipline, but increasingly, patron projects have grown in sophistication often requiring a diverse range of skills and equipment. Recently, a patron came in with an audio cassette recording of her grandfather narrating a slideshow. The recording was over 40 years old. She also had the slides that he referred to in his commentary. She digitized the cassette and then used iZotope RX audio restoration software to reduce the cassette noise and make the recording sound its best.
Next, she digitized the slides using an Epson scanner and turned to iPhoto to organize and enhance these digital images. Switching to iMovie, she combined the images with the audio narration and effectively recreated an event from four decades ago. Finally, she was able to make DVDs of her work and share them with other family members.
Studio 300 Stats
Opened: March 2013
Space: 7,000 sq. ft.
Location: Fountaindale Public Library, Bolingbrook, IL
- 40 training classes per month
- 18 Mac computers, 8 with dual screens
- 6 sound/recording booths
- 3 collaboration rooms
- 2 video/photography production spaces
- Designated staff: 1 full-time manager,
6 part-time assistants
- Media creation software from Apple, Adobe and others
- Steelcase media:scape furniture with media sharing technology
- NewTek™ TriCaster television production system
- Video cameras
- Musical instruments
- Digitization equipment (e.g. VHS to DVD)
- Full color laser printer
- Poster printer (printing up to 42″x100″)
- 3D Makerbot replicator
- Laptop computers
Another patron took on the daunting task of documenting her son’s first 18 years of life. She had many hours of video, in a variety of formats, which she then edited into a 2-hour highlights video. Despite not having experience, she quickly gained confidence and skills. As the project progressed, she was in the lab using multiple computers to capture, edit and complete her work. Pleased with the success of this venture, she’s now embarked on making the story of her daughter’s life. She’s even volunteered to help other patrons produce similar videos.
These anecdotes paint a truer picture of the mission of Studio 300. We’re not only about equipment, production spaces and computers. Our resources are here to support our patrons so that they can help themselves and each other meet their personal and professional goals.
The most rewarding aspects of Studio 300 are the success stories of the patrons who use its rich resources. When the elevator doors open in the morning, Valante Grant is often the first patron to step into Studio 300. She is a professional graphic designer, but that work is only a small part of how she uses Studio 300. One day she’s at a dual-monitor iMac computer with headphones and another in our full TV production studio. She regularly produces new episodes of her popular video blog for her YouTube channel — WBDN Media Channel — seen in 85 countries with as many as 40,000 viewers.
“I’m interested in empowerment and helping other people,” said Grant. “I use my video show to feature young people and entrepreneurs who are doing positive things.”
Though she claims to not be technical at all, she nevertheless completes some amazing projects using Studio 300.
“I didn’t believe I could learn audio production, and the first time I looked at the NewTek™ TriCaster video system, I thought there would be no way I could master it,” said Grant. “The amazing staff at Studio 300 continues to help out and I’m quite happy with the progress I’ve made. Having access to these tools continues to inspire me to move ahead with my goals.”
In-between serving her graphic design clients and building her video blog, Grant also finds time to mentor several young people. They meet regularly in one of Studio 300’s Group Collaboration Rooms to work together on important issues.
Another patron, Jeremy Lynch had been meeting with friends at the library to talk about and make short videos. He lacked any formal video production training and originally had no equipment. When Studio 300 opened, he jumped at the opportunity to sharpen his skills and gain access to the equipment and production spaces he needed. He’s often either making a video or editing a project using Premiere Pro on one of Studio 300’s dual-monitor iMac computers.
Recently, his personal work has led to paying projects, and he’s using the money earned to purchase equipment to use for future projects and this is a great example of how such spaces can act as business incubators for entrepreneurs.
“I’m getting a media education without spending thousands of dollars,” said Lynch. “Being able to work on my own projects, experiment and get help from the Studio 300 staff is very valuable for me.”
Lynch and his filmmaking friends also focus on helping at-risk kids and are hoping to make a difference in the community via filmmaking. He’s also involved with a local Christian Arts Conference called Karitos, where he does stage production and lighting and then edits a video of the annual multi-day event.
“Every new project is a way for me to learn more, expand my skills and be able to take on more challenging work,” said Lynch.
Sharing our patron successes is a key component of the Studio 300 promotional plan. We have a tack wall where patrons post completed projects, such as before and after photo restoration examples. We use blog and related social media sites as the primary method for sharing the work patrons complete. The blog also highlights upcoming and past programs, profiles of equipment and software available in Studio 300, and features production tips for patrons to make their own work better.
Another successful method for promoting Studio 300 is by providing complementary activities to programs offered by other library departments. For large events such as the recent Doctor Who Celebration and Winterfest, we took patron photos in front of a green screen which allows slipping in different backgrounds. We shared the finished composites on our Flickr account. This kind of activity encouraged people who haven’t visited the space to see how Studio 300 could help them. Seeing a crowded lab full of other patrons working on various media projects can inspire others to pursue their own ideas.
Learning digital media production
There are several different methods for our patrons to learn about the tools available to them. The Studio 300 staff teaches a variety of classes about audio and video production, photography and photo software, animation, graphics, etc. It’s a busy schedule with about 40 classes per month. Patron favorites include programs devoted to digitization — VHS to DVD, cassettes/LPs and scanning pictures, slides and negatives.
We also work with both the Children and Teen Services departments to co-teach classes that use Studio 300 technology. Our recent Teen Tech Week held programs on light painting, robotics, web design and culminated in a Friday Teen Geek Out. We opened the lab to teens only and they experimented with computers and other equipment including podcasting, music, and TV production. This summer we will hold eight week-long summer camps for tweens and teens on video, animation, photography and TV production.
In addition to typical library resources, we offer free access to online training resources, such as lynda.com. This video-based site offers basic and in-depth training in a variety of media software products. A new addition for Fountaindale Public Library is Learn4Life (now called Gale Courses) with its six-week instructor-led courses on many topics, not just media.
We also encourage those patrons with a specific project in mind to schedule a 30-minute one-on-one session with a Studio 300 staff person to get the help they need. And, of course, the staff will assist patrons in the lab too.
However, no matter how much you prepare, every issue can’t be anticipated. There will always be a new wrinkle or variation to challenge you. What’s the remedy? Studio 300 has a staff well versed in a variety of digital media areas and they each possess the personality and skills to solve problems including those that may be outside their current knowledge base.
The popularity of Studio 300 continues to grow. Our one-year anniversary in March 2014 was a record month for us with over 1,300 patrons using the space and 3,000+ pieces of equipment checked out.
It’s important for Studio 300 to continue to serve our patrons and celebrate their success. We constantly look for new resources and training opportunities that promote and support our library mission as an exploration gateway that inspires our community through education, knowledge and recreation.
School or Public?
Are makerspaces more for public rather than school libraries?
During a recent webinar, a number of school librarians asked this question. From what we have seen, the answer is quite to the contrary. In School Library Journal’s recent School Library Technology Survey, participants indicated that 23% already have makerspaces and another 9% are planning to add them. Some of the examples cited for popular activities include electronics/robotics clubs, web design, Minecraft club and much more. In many cases, schools are conducting hands-on learning activities on a daily basis and often already have access to the appropriate equipment in other areas of the school.
Common Core standards being adopted across the country were designed to foster critical thinking skills and prepare students for the evolving 21st Century landscape of technology and innovation. The Standards challenge students to analyze, inquire, conceptualize, problem solve, create, and more. They also place an emphasis on communication and collaboration, as well as understanding and making strategic use of digital media. Makerspaces provide tools, resources and opportunities to extend learning and cultivate these higher-order thinking skills.
Resources for school makerspaces:
Beyond the books: Fountaindale marks successful year in the digital arena
Studio 300 Blog
Studio 300 Flickr