Euro pallets packed to the rim with used go-cart tires, defunct computer components, washing machine drums and ancient electric domestic devices – not to mention chipped tableware and vases – this is what awaits visitors entering the Main Library of Aarhus.
Some of the visitors don’t seem to register this atypical library deposit, a few are offended, but most are curious and want to explore the space. Some visitors take up painting old porcelain, converting empty beer cans into candlesticks, or sewing pencil cases from tattered banners. Others, more daringly, set to work dissecting devices with hammers and electric drills, reassembling the refuse into their own inventions and designs.
This is Skrotlab!, or Wastelab! to use its English name. October 2013 was all about waste materials, sustainability, and recycling. Users, along with library staff, got busy repairing, recreating, modifying, and developing the rubbish. There were also lectures, waste dates, repair cafès, basketweaving workshops, ethnographic workshops, and a variety of other maker-cultural activities.
Skrotlab as a cooperative venture
At first glance it might look like a big mess but there is reason in this madness – considerable, systematic, thought underlies Skrotlab’s piles of “skrot”, its tools, activities and the roles played by its staff.
Skrotlab is a project shared between five local community groups, some of the partners have contributed refuse and tools, whilst others have fielded staff; all involved have brought a professional attitude.
Skrotlab is a fine example of a whole being greater than the sum of its parts, producing results that none of the participating groups could have achieved on their own.
Makerculture in the library
Skrotlab is a makerspace and is the second lab to be held in the lobby of the Main Library. The first was Techlab, a month long hackerspace, where people could create devices such as universal remote controls or brush–o-bots, or take computers apart and rebuild them in unique, new configurations.
Both labs form part of a project through which libraries, including Roskilde and our Main Library, are exploring the potential of employing maker culture in public libraries. We are trying to discover new ways of supporting individual citizens’ constructive and creative thinking; of actively promoting the interplay of knowledge and fields of expertise amongst the public; and of trying out ways in which public libraries can become innovative spaces in the local community. The lab series is a concrete way of carrying out these explorations.
Maker, makerspace, making – WTF..?
The project has been inspired by maker culture, and the makers, the people who partake in making. Using statements such as If it’s broken – fix it!, If it is not broken – improve it!, Be curious!, Share premises, tools and knowledge!, Do it yourself!, Create together! as starting points, they create, develop, and share.
Making is ”learning by doing” in it’s most potent sense! It’s all about actually getting your hands dirty rather than abstract, book learning. Making is to share experiences, to enable others, to customize according to individual desire, and to make things just that little bit better. All of which makes making especially interesting in the context of a library! Can libraries become a melting pot of actively shared knowledge and expertise? Can libraries be even more active in their support of creativity? Can they become places of action, wherein one learns, explores, and creates across generations, educational background and profession? And how?
Skrotlab and Techlab are created as a part of the innovation project People’s Lab. You can follow the project on project on www.peopleslab.dk
Roskilde Libraries, Roskilde University, Aarhus Universitet, INSP!, Open Space Aarhus and The Main Library in Aarhus create the project together and it is funded by the Danish Agency for Culture.
This article was originally published in Danish on Danmarks Biblioteksforening