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MLIS class takes on 3D printing and other DIY projects

So, what’s in a squirrel? Well, orange plastic — if we’re talking about the one a student made with a 3-D printer in Anthony Molaro’s class this summer.

Molaro, assistant professor in the Master of Library and Information Studies (MLIS) program at St. Catherine University, is on a mission to empower librarians with skills in science, technology, engineering, math and art through making. His “Content Creation” (LIS7993) course, which is focused on the Do-It-Yourself culture and the maker movement, attracted 18 students.

Over seven weeks, the students created both physical and digital objects — including videos, podcasts, toy-sized 3-D items and laptop stickers — using a desktop vinyl cutter and 3-D printer, and CAD software. They also learned about photo editing, video and audio production.

“This class is the first of its kind for librarian and education students anywhere in the country that I’m aware of,” says Molaro. “It is receiving quite a bit of positive PR on the socialnets, and I have students already begging for enrollment in next summer's course.” 

According to the American Library Association, one in six libraries today dedicate some of its space to maker tools and activities. This space, known as “makerspace” allows library patrons to engage with 21st century technology. 

“A makerspace is a learning environment rich with possibilities,” explains Molaro, in his grant application to buy the 3D printer and other course-specific equipment. “As new tools for making, digital design and fabrication emerge, maker spaces work together, with teachers and community leaders, to place those tools into the hands of a wider audience so that people can do real and personally meaningful work.”

Even the White House has jumped on the “maker” bandwagon, hosting the first-ever White House Maker Faire in June 2014.

A 3D-printed orange squirrel.“Tony’s maker space, or Content Creation class, is part of an ongoing curricular initiative that we’re launching,” says Deb Torres, MLIS assistant program director, “that will include a partnership with St. Paul Public Library and an Institute of Museum and Library Services grant proposal [to recruit and train maker librarians].”

So, more forthcoming.

But for now, Molaro’s new summer class is inspiring — and fun — judging by the reflections on his students’ blogs. Each student was required to start a blog (15 percent of the final grade). Not a surprising activity, since Molaro — who joined St. Kate’s MLIS faculty in August 2013 and was named a “Mover and Shaker” by the Library Journal in 2011 — is an active blogger.

MLIS student Anita Montoya provides the most insightful summary of the class. In her July 21 blog post, she wrote:

“I’ve been awed this week at the level of creativity in our class. Seriously, we’ve all produced such diverse projects. I think I’ve seen many of the Maker Movement principles at work: the projects in class have been personally meaningful, and there is a big sense of play — people are excited and are feeding off of each other’s energy.”

In fact, the larger DIY/maker community is excited too, and particularly enamored by one final project: MLIS student Amy Vogel’s LED earnings.

Vogel’s attempt at jazzing up her jewelry-making skills earned her Editor's Pick on instructables.com. The website draws more than 22 million unique visitors a month; her project logged over 4,000 views in 72 hours.

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Aug. 1, 2014 by Pauline Oo

See also: Arts, Faculty, Liberal Arts, STEM, Students