Exploring The Storyhouse

Exploring The Storyhouse

Here are a few snaps from a short visit to the new Storyhouse in Chester on a Saturday evening. It was really busy – however I don’t have many ‘action shots’ as I tried not to disturb anyone!

The Storyhouse is a new £37million theatre, library, cinema, bar, restaurant and arts centre in the middle of Chester. 

Further information can be found on the Storyhouse website.


The Den – children’s area


The Second Floor

Library, bar and restaurant 


And relax…

Come to MozFest 2017!

Come to MozFest 2017!

‘The eighth annual MozFest will be held in London, from Friday, Oct. 27 to Sunday, Oct. 29. MozFest is an annual celebration of the open Internet movement. It’s where passionate technologists, educators, and makers come together to explore the future of the open Web.’

I attended last year thanks to an SCL Digital Leaders bursary, along with a bunch of librarians from across the country. Over the course of the weekend we became a band of merry #MozLibs. Half of the 2017 gang are going again this year and we’re delighted to be joined by a new group of SCL sponsored library folk.

The #MozLibs movement is definitely growing, and there is still time for you to get involved! If you are interested in digital inclusion, web literacy, the open internet, innovation, digital technology, collaboration, people centred change, or generally how we can make the world a better place – then MozFest is definitely worth a look! 

The festival is divided into themed spaces (Decentralization, Web Literacy, Youth Zone, Privacy and Security, Open Innovation), where a diverse range of workshops, sessions and talks are run by real people, with real knowledge or simply a question that we can all contribute to. You can get hands on with digital making or get your head around a lively debate.

You still need convincing? Here are some of my favourite reasons to come along:

  • You will meet some really great people from around the world (1,600+ participants from 50+ countries).
  • It will stretch your mind, challenge your thinking and enable you to learn loads of new things.
  • You can share your knowledge and passions and relate them to people ready to absorb or challenge your perspective.
  • You will find ways to be truly forward thinking within the library sector.
  • It’s on your doorstep… seriously, people travel from around the globe, but for us it’s a train trip away.
  • You can join a fun loving group of library people, all proud to be representing libraries and how we can play a core role in a healthier internet – it’s all about people afterall!
  • You will have a totally awesome time!

If you’re free this weekend, come along! 

Tickets are available online.

The programme is available from: Guidebook.

But if you can’t be there in person, be sure to check out #MozLibs.

You can read about the evolution of MozFest from Mozilla’s Executive Director, Mark Surman, here.

Library Carpentry South West

Library Carpentry South West

What is Library Carpentry? It is a toolkit providing core lessons to help build librarians’ knowledge, skills and confidence of data and software tools, including:

  • Data intro
  • Shell
  • OpenRefine
  • Git intro
  • Python intro
  • SQL

Library Carpentry was the winner of the 2016 British Library Labs Teaching and Learning Award. This provided funding, which Somerset Libraries Glass Box Project bid for to run a workshop for librarians across the South West (and further afield).

Purpose? The Library Carpentry pages say:  ‘Library Carpentry is made by librarians, for librarians to help you:

  • automate repetitive, boring, error-prone tasks
  • create, maintain and analyse sustainable and reusable data
  • work effectively with IT and systems colleagues
  • better understand the use of software in research
  • and much more…

Library Carpentry introduces you to the fundamentals of computing and provides you with a platform for further self-directed learning.’

Target audience? Library professionals

How might it be used? The modules have been developed and published under Creative Commons to be delivered in face to face workshops, used online for self directed learning or adapted by library professsionals. We ran our Library Carpentry South West workshop recently – I have included details of what we did below.

How to find out more? There is a lot of information on the Library Carpentry GitHub pages. You can access the modules online. Also check out Twitter @libcarpentry and #librarycarpentry.

Recipe we used for Library Carpentry South West

I’ve had a few requests for information about how others can organise a Library Carpentry event. There’s loads of information on the Library Carpentry pages and I hope our recipe for a successful event is also helpful:

  1. 1 host – this was me as part of the Somerset Libraries team. We’ve been working on an experimental digital collaboration space for a year and Library Carpentry leapt out as an obvious fit.
  2. 1 trainer – this is the most essential ingredient! Dave Rowe is a software engineer and GIS (Geographic Information Systems) developer. He works as a library systems officer, freelance developer and CTO for CartoConsult. He knows his stuff! Dave and I collaborated on the event from the start, as we were both tweeting about the opportunity at the same time, knew each other and were in a similar locality. Finding a confident presenter with a good working knowledge of the content is key.
  3. 2 or 3 Modules/Lessons – we selected the modules by creating google doc survey that we circulated on Twitter. This helped us to choose content that was relevant and also collect contact details for potential attendees. As a mapping enthusiast Dave also offered to create an ‘Everyone loves maps’ module, which was a very popular choice.
  4. 1 date – this was set a couple of months in advance (after a couple of attempts to get it right).
  5. 1 space booked – we chose the Glass Box Taunton, which has good Wi-Fi, large screen (although the bigger the better), electric for laptops to plug in, plus tables and chairs set up for group work.
  6. 1 online booking page created – we used Eventbrite (click view details). We always overbook by about 10% to get a good turnout. We had bookings from public, health and academic library workers.
  7. A good pinch of promotion – we spread the word via social media, our networks and the Library Carpentry pages.
  8. 1 planned timetable.
  9. 2 emails to attendees – it’s important to keep in touch with the event participants, providing information about IT kit to bring (we had laptops to borrow if required), location and transport, confirmed timings etc. This also reminds people to get in touch if they can no longer make it.
  10. At least 1 helper – I am no expert, but working through some of the tasks in advance allowed me to help out with some of the group data tasks.
  11. Plentiful refreshments – we had funding for this, but the ‘library camp’ style lunch could also work – everyone brings something to share. There is a lot of group discussion so water, tea and coffee was essential. The WI cakes from the local market also went down a treat!
  12. 20 sheets of flipchart paper and pens that work (I’d recommend not using your daughter’s dried out felt tips).
  13. 2 or 3 helpful hands to support with room layout, signposting and general navigation of the day (Thanks Catherine, Olly, Emma, Christina and Mandy – ok then, the more the better!)
  14. Enjoy a fun, mind stretching day!

The content of our event can be viewed in full (well apart from our group discussions) at: Library Carpentry South West. You can also view the tweets at #librarycarpentry.

I’d like to thank Dave for his time and efforts in making the day a success, everyone who attended and helped on the day, the creators of Library Carpentry and British Library Lab for funding the event.

Mozilla Clubs

Mozilla Clubs

I was drawn to the Mozilla Clubs session as an opportunity to find a new method for building web literacy – ensuring the internet is open and accessible to everyone. As libraries know, it’s not simply about access, there is a need for skills and confidence as well.

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Mozilla Clubs can be set up anywhere to teach local communities web literacy. I got to speak to a Mozilla Club coordinator who is enabling communities across India to collaborate and build their knowledge of the web; where there is no internet access the learning is still passed on in order to empower individuals with knowledge.

To form a Mozilla Club you need:

  1. A club captain – that could be you or a dedicated volunteer. Training and a network contact is available.
  2. A venue – we have plenty of them!
  3. Members from the local community – you could invite the whole community or target groups e.g. girls.
  4. A learning plan – resources and tools are available and can be tailored to local need. The curriculum is ‘free, open and educator tested’

Find out more and get started: Mozilla Clubs; eeek look there is even a page especially for us: Hosting a Mozilla club in your library

Be sure to check out Maker Parties too!

 

More about my MozFest adventures.

Sharing the knowledge gained from the adventure that was MozFest 2016. Big thanks to SCL for the bursary that enabled me to attend. 

Open Badges

Open Badges

I’ve had my eye on Open Badges for a while, but I took MozFest as the opportunity to uncover some practical uses for libraries in the community. Luckily, I chose the perfect example from a huge list of Open Badges workshops; completely by chance I selected to hear about a collaboration between a community foundation and the public library. Awesome!

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What is an Open Badge? In simple terms an Open Badge is a digital badge that allows you to record and others to recognise your achievements and skills. Open Badges have been around since about 2010, which means millions have already been awarded around the world. But can we use them in our libraries and communities?

Here’s an example of what one city has done – Chicago City of Learning started in 2013 following a Summer initiative where more than 100 organisations worked together to create greater visibility in what they were doing independently. Young people earned digital badges recording and recognising their achievements in the community.

The legacy is a significant and growing network of opportunities for young people to learn online and through events and activities – gaining a portfolio of digital badges along the way.

(PRO)jectUS is an initiative between the Commonwealth Foundation and YouMedia at Chicago Public Library to create a skills based pathway through learning to real life experiences.

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Three creative suites are available for 13 to 23 year olds:

  • Sound – music, singing, rapping and poetry
  • Media – photography and blogging
  • Fashion – design

Badges are awarded to recognise milestone or learning a new skill. Each participant builds a portfolio of badges; five skill badges can unlock a master badge, which includes a real world opportunity. These experiences act as incredible incentives and also give great confidence to the participants. Examples include design being produced and sold in a local shop.

The programme is very conscious of creating industry standard skills, accreditation is core and participants work closely with mentors from the business sector.

The badges are created using Badge Lab and are awarded via Chicago City Learning.

This was powerful stuff, and I don’t think I can do it justice here. I really do encourage you to find out more.

Find out more: Chicago City of Learning: Chicago Badges;  A Pro-jectUS toolkit will be available in January 2017.

 

More about my MozFest adventures.

Sharing the knowledge gained from the adventure that was MozFest 2016. Big thanks to SCL for the bursary that enabled me to attend. 

iPad Orchestra

iPad Orchestra

I could see immediately how this iPad Orchestra workshop could work well in a library:

  • Knowledgable cultural partners (A Little Learning with Transformance Music were awesome!)
  • Children and families getting hands-on with digital in a fun and engaging way
  • Intergenerational groups – confidence building through collaboration

It felt like I was in a library! #LearnInLibraries

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The session leaders explained the stages in the process, we went into groups to create some music, returning to hear each group’s creation and all had a chance to comment – the feedback from the young people was well considered and exceptional!

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A few tools that the session required:

  • iPads preloaded with the GarageBand app.
  • A portable speaker (a Mini Rig was recommended).
  • Headphones.

If Transformance Music or A Little Learning were near a Somerset library, I would certainly pick up the phone today!

You can read more about the session at the Arts Award Voice blog.

 

 

More about my MozFest adventures.

Sharing the knowledge gained from the adventure that was MozFest 2016. Big thanks to SCL for the bursary that enabled me to attend. 

Order of Balance

Order of Balance

At the end of the first day at MozFest we got to follow the Order of Balance – a ‘mega secret order of monks that maintain the smooth and blessed running of the I n t e r w e b.  The Order of Balance is the greatest public service that the world has never heard of.’

Hover over the images for an explanation (although there really is no explaining this). You kind of had to be there!!

 

More about my MozFest adventures.

Sharing the knowledge gained from the adventure that was MozFest 2016. Big thanks to SCL for the bursary that enabled me to attend. 

Open Data

Open Data

Whilst at MozFest the SCL libraries gang used the #MozLib hashtag on Twitter, which resulted in people contacting us to find out more. Stephanie Wright, Program Lead from Mozilla Science Lab (and former librarian) was one of those people, so we arranged to meet up at breakfast on the second day. The meeting was brief; Steph arrived with an arm laden with brain diagrams on her way to organise the Open Science space! She mentioned that she was running on Open Data workshop a bit later and we agreed to pop along.

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This workshop turned out to be the perfect introduction to Open Data. It was simple, well presented and to the point.

The message – there are two new Open Data Training Programmes from Mozilla Science Lab, freely and openly available on Github:

  • Primers – for anyone wanting to know more about Open Data.
  • Instructor Guides – for anyone wishing to share the benefits of Open Data through customisable workshops.

It’s a work in progress, so in true Open Leadership style there is time to contribute.

 

More about my MozFest adventures.

Sharing the knowledge gained from the adventure that was MozFest 2016. Big thanks to SCL for the bursary that enabled me to attend. 

Open Leadership

Open Leadership

This MozFest workshop appealed to me as I’m a big fan of the collaborative nature of a ‘Camp‘, but also because I was keen to learn more about the benefits of Open Leadership.

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The workshop was pretty handy, because I got to see Open Leadership in practice. Employees from MIT Media Lab and Mozilla worked with participants in small groups. They shared their plans and asked contributors to use their experiences, knowledge and ideas to build on, test and challenge the plan. I could see how these discussions will allow MIT to iterate towards the final product.

What is Open Leadership? Collaboration (with everyone) and sharing (widely and freely and online) are core principles of Open Leadership.

Mozilla have defined the principles and benefits of Open Leadership as:

  • Rapid prototyping in the wild = improved projects
  • Public storytelling, documentation and reflection = greater efficiency
  • Community contribution = increased discoverability
  • Making the content of work accessible = a stronger commons

Whilst Open Leadership has its roots in open source developments (Mozilla Firefox, Wikipedia etc.), it strikes me that there is value in utilising the principles and therefore benefits in both offline and online projects and developments.

It would be easy for us to think we already work in an open way. Libraries are pretty good at sharing, but this is often after the fact and upon request. I believe there is something to gain by a greater understanding of Open Leadership and Open Projects.

Could we improve our impact on the community by actively demonstrating the intention to share widely and invite others (e.g. library colleagues and the community) to collaborate and build on our products and innovations from the outset?

There’s more for me to figure out here, but let me know if you’d like to explore Open Leadership and its use in libraries with me.

Find out more: Mozilla have created a training series (using GitHub) Open Leadership : Best Practices Working Open. Take a look!

 

More about my MozFest adventures.

Sharing the knowledge gained from the adventure that was MozFest 2016. Big thanks to SCL for the bursary that enabled me to attend. 

Enterprise and Innovation – Somerset

[First published in the CILIP Public and Mobile Library Group Journal ‘Access’ October 2016]

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So do you need to be in a city to make digital making work? No!

In our experience being in an area where digital making doesn’t yet have a big profile puts your library in a unique and exciting position.

In 2015 a new set of commissioning outcomes were agreed for Somerset Libraries to deliver on, which include:

  • More people are enabled and inspired to make the most of the digital world
  • Libraries contribute to economic growth in Somerset

Whilst we already delivered well on ‘digital enabling’ and had traditionally offered business information, we were keen to develop a project that helped to give greater profile to resources already available in libraries (company data, market reports, electronic factsheets for start-ups, free Wi-Fi) and grow the ‘digital inspiration’ aspect of our offer.

We wanted to:

  • demonstrate and build on the libraries’ role in ‘cradle to grave’ skills development and how this supports economic growth.
  • broaden partnerships to bring relevant partner led business focused activity and ‘expert’ volunteers to libraries.
  • demonstrate what is possible, test demand and ‘prototype’ the future library offer for business start- ups, skills development and digital making.

We started by plotting what we were already doing and how this might be developed through an infographic. This proved very helpful when engaging partners with our ambition and ideas. (We had a lot of conversations!).

What emerged was a plan to create a new space for individual and collaborative working and learning at Taunton Library (our busiest library located in Somerset’s county town); to support business start-ups, digital making and skills development. A flexible space where we would host a range of digital maker and business events from Code Club to digital skills training for businesses.

The space itself, a shop front within the library building, had previously been the Tourist Information Centre. The phrase ‘Glass Box’ was coined by our commissioning manager and it stuck! We liked the way it represented what we were trying to achieve – creating visibility for library resources and giving people an inspiring view into the digital world.

Our property team granted us use of the space for a year, and we felt this offered a good timeframe to experiment with a range of partners, events and services.

Launch

We spent a few months planning, influencing and network building behind the scenes, followed by an intense period preparing the space.

We then held a Digital Day at the end of June to launch the project and it has been all go ever since.

Enterprise

Aim: to support budding entrepreneurs, business start-ups and creative minds, with business information, webinars and workshops.

Why?

  • Create a town centre focal point and unique space for knowledge sharing and digital skills for business start-ups and SMEs.
  • Early stage failure rates could be reduced from around 65% with the introduction of incubator and innovation centres.

How?

We are actively seeking partners to offer one off ‘pop up’ events or regular activities such as workshops or one to one drop-ins.
Highlights so far
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Google Digital Garage on Tour – A Google trainer came from Manchester and ran two workshops for over 100 local businesses. The sessions included ‘Tell your story online’ and ‘Reach new customers’. We were delighted to get ‘Google’ to Taunton!

Funding for Google Digital Garage Workshops – We successfully bid for funding from the Tinder Foundation to enable the delivery of small Google Digital Garage workshops to help businesses build digital skills to reach more customers online.

Social Media workshop – As part of the super-fast broadband roll out programme ‘Get up to speed’, we hosted a business focused social media workshop. We could have booked this out multiple times.

FSB Meet the expert (Growth hacking) – The local branch of the Federation of Small Businesses developed and ran an event providing expert advice to help businesses grow, promote and increase their profit. Five top experts in their field were available to advise and help businesses with social media, business planning, networking, digital resources and accounting.

Coming soon

A programme of business and expert delivered events are in the pipeline as local partners have come forward having attended an event themselves.

Innovation

Aim: Inspiring digital skills development through coding, robotics and digital making.

Why?

  • The CBI estimates that nearly 40% of firms looking for staff with digital skills have had difficulties recruiting.
  • House of Lords report warns that the UK could be left behind in terms of digital skills.
  • 82% of young people are interested in digital making. However, half of young peoplemake things with digital technology less than once a week or never.

How?

We are recruiting expert volunteers and STEM Ambassadors to set up a range of digital making workshops and events.

Highlights so far

Raspberry Jam – Taunton’s first ever ‘Raspberry Jam’ was organised and hosted by two teenage volunteers and included workshops exploring digital making – scratch, python, electronics, robotics and the sonic Pi.

Maker in Residence – The Technical Director of a large company, (with a background in electronics, software and innovation through technology) is volunteering as the first Digital Maker in Residence. His ‘make things, do stuff – robotics for fun’ sessions have proved popular and he is currently exploring evening coding sessions for adults.

Code Club – Our weekly group for 9-11 year olds to learn coding and digital making such as games and websites from expert volunteers restarted after the summer
holiday in its new home.

3D Printing – The 3D printers have been used for a variety of projects, including miniature train enthusiasts, for school homework and by our Maker in Residence to create robotics chassis. There has been interest from a number of businesses and local schools also.

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Fun Palaces – As well as hosting a SCL SW regional workshop in the lead up to Fun Palaces, we also held a staff invented and led robotics themed Fun Palace on 1st October. The day was hugely successful in engaging a range of ages, most notably it attracted eight to 16 year olds and kept them busy at the library for hours! The mobile 3D printer was requested at the Wells Library space themed Fun Palace – printing the ratchet sent into space for Tim Peakes.

Taunton Developers Meetup – The local developers group now meet in the Glass Box, to raise their profile, recruit new members and hopefully support community activity, such as skills sharing or hack events.

Coming soon

3D Printing Workshops – Local 3D printer manufacturers, Robox, are running workshops to demonstrate their innovative product. This includes multi material printing, as well as router and cutter options

Open Innovation Challenge – WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff are sponsoring an Open Innovation Challenge for local college students. Groups of students will be asked to think innovatively under the theme of SMART Somerset, resulting in a pitch of their ideas to a Dragons Den style panel. The process will be facilitated by an external Digital Making expert.

Apps for Good – We have been keen to use the Apps for Good programme (teaching young people to develop and create apps) and are excited that one of the local colleges are planning to run this for students in The Glass Box.

Workshops with schools – We also have some workshops planned that will actively engage with schools and colleges about how they can further use the space and resources.

Open Data – Very early conversations are starting about the potential of Open Data. The recipe

The recipe

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Flexible, highly visible space – It was important that the space we designed was flexible to allow us to easily reconfigure for a variety of needs. We also wanted any furniture to be reusable after the end of the yearlong experiment.

Team – The development of the project was very much a team effort, and it certainly would not have been possible without the dedication, hard work and commitment of all involved.

Expert volunteers – Central to the delivery of events has been expert volunteers. They have come forward through STEMnet (we ran a local event in the lead up to launch) and people have also come from the local community by dropping in to find out what we are doing.

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Kit – We have invested in some kit to get us started. This includes:

3D Printers– One Ultimaker Pro and one Ultimaker2Go.
We decided to hire these from a company as one of the teams main concern was about support, maintenance and training – this is included in the package. The other benefit of hire is that after the three year hire period we could easily upgrade to a newer model (budget allowing). We also have a 3D scanner but haven’t got the software connected yet.

Lego Mindstorms and BB8 – Mindstorms offer a range of robotics projects and work well as a step up from our popular Lego Clubs. The little Sphero BB8 is a hugely popular droid! The robots can be controlled by code as well as apps.

Raspberry Pi and Pi kit – this kit included Kano kits (step by step computer building made simple), CamJam sets, such as the Raspberry Pi Robotics kit which includes the electronics and the coding factsheets.

Littlebits, Makey Makey, and micro drone – tools to support invention, electronics and basic Internet of Things experiments.

Virtual Reality goggles and Google cardboard – these use an app on a mobile phone so aren’t at all expensive, but have been hugely popular.

PCs, Laptops, tablets, 65” wall mounted screen and increased WiFi capacity – providing flexible use of technology within the space.

Software – we requested a unique image for the laptops, which included CAD software for 3D printing design and Minecraft.

Business resources – a suite of large colourful posters were designed to promote existing services such as Cobra, MINT and Access to Research, as well as online tools like the brilliant FutureLearn courses and British Library Business and IP webinars.

A full list of equipment and software is available on the website (www.somerset.gov.uk/glassbox).

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Challenges

IT – Working with our council IT provider was both helpful and difficult. No doubt we have asked them to innovate in a way other departments don’t. They stepped up, but time was left very tight and we had to step in at various times to find workarounds.

Staff time – We don’t currently have lots of frontline resource to support the project and there is more that we would like to do. The staff time we do have is spent upskillng and confidence building, as well as supporting the volunteer led events and activities.

A future uncertain – starting on this journey without an end game was a risk and at times it has felt like a big risk! And yet, for us, not running with this project would have been the biggest risk of all. In a time when digital technology is changing so rapidly we believe libraries will have an ever increasing role supporting people to navigate the digital world. The question is, are we able to mobilize, evolve and change quickly enough to support our communities with their digital learning needs?

Successes

  • Having a memorable, if slightly random, name for the project has helped. It seems to stick with people and many we talk to now say ‘oh yes I’ve heard of The Glass Box.
  • Colleagues in our Economic Development team have been incredibly supportive, and actually the relationship has been mutually beneficial – we have each made new connections as a result of working more closely together.
  • We brought in 2TimesDo to provide workshops for the library team in advance of opening. This helped staff by breaking the ice with some of the kit available in the space.
  • We have recruited a new development officer, who teaches the coding curriculum in school part time and works with us part time.
  • We have new volunteers and potential partners coming forward as what we are doing is very visibly.
  • Key decision makers within the council now see how libraries can contribute to economic growth and skills development and are supportive of what we are doing.

Our three month review showed we have had 5144 visitors, 170+ businesses engaged, 25+ events and workshops, 100+ young participants, 12 new volunteers have come forward and 10+ new partners.

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Top tips

If you would like to do something similar in your library, here are some tips:

  • Get out there and talk to people. Influence anyone and everyone who will listen about the benefits of a project such as this. Having advocates in the right places will open doors to further conversations (and maybe even pots of money).
  • Bring staff onboard early and keep in contact throughout. We adjusted how we developed aspects of the project, for example one of the team’s main concerns was around the 3D printers, which we ultimately decided to rent. This option included training, ongoing support and servicing (and also means we can upgrade after 3 years as technology will no doubt move on!)
  • Use digital tools to tell your story. We have used Piktochart to plot our ambitions, Storify to amplify our events and Prezi for exciting presentations.
  • Don’t worry about things not being perfect. Learn from your mistakes and understand that failure is part of the process.
  • Don’t limit your ambition. You may not manage everything you aspire to, but you’re more likely to get further by being ambitious about what is possible. As one local entrepreneur said to me ‘You have to visualise it if you want to make it happen”.
  • Do your research. Ask people who are already doing this sort of thing. Corinne Hill from Chattanooga Libraries (recommend you find out more) says ‘Innovation is on the edge of what is already happening’, so make sure you know what is happening! Libraries in the US are leading the way with digital making and we spent time checking out their websites. The Travelling Librarian blog is a really helpful source. And of course we visited the inspiration that is FabLab Devon and Business and IP Centre in Exeter (thank you neighbours!).
  • When it comes to digital making start with whatever you can manage. It can come in all shapes and sizes. The SCL Code Green Toolkit is a great place to explore.
  • Attend a few unconferences and digital making/ hack events. I’ve attended days like #CityMash at City of London and Things Camp in Plymouth to catch up with what others are doing with digital making (it’s great for inspiration, confidence building and creating a network of contacts). I’ve recently heard that I’m off to MozFest with library folk from across the country thanks to an SCL Digital Leaders bursary, so should come back with loads more ideas. And if you can’t get to the events yourself, jump onto Twitter and get chatting with those who are there using the event hashtag.