The Library as Classroom model turns the library into an active laboratory for creation, as seen in Makerspaces, Hackerspaces and the like. Criticizing the emerging trend of 3D printers in libraries, Hugh Rundle offers a harsh reality check against the Library as Classroom. As Rundle contends, libraries are in the business of information, not object making. The 3D printing craze steers librarians away from the mission of information advocacy. This shift toward fabricating objects makes Rundle question if any limits remain: “You might lend out ‘Guns of the world’, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to lend out a community gun. Your 3D printer might be used to make chocolate bunnies, or prototypes for local entrepreneurs, but what will your policy be on people printing dildos?” (NSFW). There’s an obvious shock value to his rhetoric. It’s irreverent and evocative. The sting makes you take pause.
Yet Rundle’s stinging language might also be his downfall. There’s no subtly in his critique of the Library as Classroom; he punches the reader across the face. When the sting wears off you come back, re-read the entry, and see the message for what it really is. This is biblio-Conservatism, plain and simple, revealing a certain suspicion of non-traditional library services. Rundle advises libraries to focus on the “intangibles” of information, which he purports is the province of librarians. He says: “There has never been such an abundance of information, ideas and stories. It’s not enough any more for information to be organised – it needs to be made available in new and meaningful ways.” In other words: know your role and stick to it, librarians.
It behooves Library as Classroom advocates to understand Rundle’s critique because his position neatly captures the counterargument against the Library as Classroom. The counterargument says Makerspaces, MakerBot Replicators, and media labs are not within the library’s purview. Purists express rather conservative concerns over these kinds of hands-on learning spaces. “The teens can make WHAT?!” The Library as Classroom looks like an attempt to stay relevant in a time of increasing competition for information and learning. “Stick to your mission,” they snort.
Thing is, education IS the library’s mission. And the Library as Classroom is one of best platforms for education. The Library as Classroom is about collaboration, experimentation, and action. Learners work together. Knowledge and skills are shared in an open environment. The education is robust, happening through convivial trial and error. Librarians play an active role facilitating learning in the Library as Classroom. What’s more, learners apply information to make tangible creations, like a robotic hand for a person in need. The model takes the library to the next level. The Library as Classroom advances the library’s mission from “study for the sake of knowledge” to “study for the sake of action.”