Vancouver Mini Maker Faire 2014 highlights interactive libraries

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      Libraries are often thought of as dusty old places where you can smell the books in the air, but the Makerbrarians table at this weekend’s Vancouver Mini Maker Faire might change this perception. From DIY book-scanners to drones and mini-computers, makers are shaking up people’s ideas of what a library can be.

      The Vancouver Mini Maker Faire brings together makers from across the city to share what their creations with the public. The festival breeds innovation and creativity, and has a very community-based ethos.

      Scott Leslie, one of the co-sponsors of the B.C. Libraries Cooperative table, was excited for his team to get involved, because he believes that the principles behind both libraries and Maker Faires are similar.

      “Libraries are fundamentally about access and education and empowering people to educate themselves, and that’s very much the energy behind a lot of the maker movement,” Leslie told the Georgia Straight by phone. “You know, informal education, so people teaching themselves, teaching each other. It seems like a really good fit.”

      The B.C. Libraries Co-op’s table will include projects from libraries across British Columbia, such as the co-op’s own project to build a DIY book-scanner to help digitize books for the print-disabled, an exhibit on drones in libraries, knitting tutorials, and children’s workshops on the creation of little Raspberry Pi computers.

      “Libraries do what they do really well, [which is provide] access to books, but we’ve been trying to raise other possibilities for such a long time,” Leslie said. “It’s really exciting to see a lot of these libraries actually have these projects happening.”

      One such project is the creation of a tiny computer that prints out a random book recommendation for you every time you push a button.

      The idea came about when Matthew Murray, co-creator and UBC School of Library, Archival and Information Studies student, saw a photo on Tumblr. Now, three months and countless instances of trial and error later, the little machine is almost ready for display.

      The contraption consists of a Raspberry Pi computer hooked up to a thermal receipt printer and a big red button, all encased in a transparent acrylic box. When the button is pressed, the computer chooses a random recommendation from the 50 titles currently available on file.

      Murray believes that this is a fun way to bring more interactivity into libraries. “It’s really libraries acting as a place where people can get access to information and tools that they might not normally have access to,” he said while showing off the finished product at UBC.

      “I just want to give people some book recommendations, which is awesome; I hope some people follow through with it,” he said. “I’d like to show people that you can come in and do a project like this with absolutely no knowledge of what you’re doing [at first].”

      The Vancouver Mini Maker Faire takes place this weekend (June 7 and 8) at the PNE Forum from 10 a.m to 6 p.m.