Welcome to The Library IT Crowd, a column brought to you by the Ontario Library and Information Technology Association (OLITA). We showcase some of the great library professionals currently working with technology, get to know them, and share their experiences. We hope we can inspire you and shed some light on what goes on behind the scenes with library tech workers.
Your name: Darin White
Your title: Communications and Cultural Programming Associate
Where you work: Wilfrid Laurier University Library: Laurier Library Makerspace
1) Tell me a little bit about your role. What do you do at your library?
I have a dual role in the library: The first part is communications work involving information sharing, promotion and social media; the second part is working with our keen students to invent and steer the Laurier Library Makerspace, a place equipped with tools and a mandate to encourage and to support hands-on making. While we do make tangible things in the makerspace, I like to point out that what we’re really making is a bigger learning capacity in people.
2) Is what you are currently doing different from what you initially envisioned when you applied for this job? If so, how?
Any role I have taken on in my career has come with varying degrees of uncertainty, particularly in the beginning. Because this is the first makerspace in the library, we could not have known exactly how the space would turn out or what would be involved. The huge positive response and engagement when we focus on people and action is something I had envisioned. Having completed the first half of my two-year contract here, I think it’s exciting to be moving from “start-up” to thinking about how we can scale up to serve more students, staff, faculty, and community members.
3) Tell me a bit about your background. What made you interested in libraries? In technology?
I come from a mashed-up background of tech, making and the arts. I did everything from software development to product management with companies like BlackBerry and IBM. I’ve also worked as a professional photographer and have been active in the arts community. Most relevant to my current role has been my experience working with great teams to found the Kwartzlab Makerspace here in the Waterloo Region in 2009, as well as Maker Expo in 2015, a recurring event celebrating makers of all kinds and inspiring people to do the making that interests them.
I’m carrying the ethos and learnings from those experiences forward to this effort in the Laurier Library. Working with students around the age of 20 seems like a good way to invest in the future. They’re heading out into the world and are making positive change. I want to support that. It’s why I’m here.
4) What projects over the past year are you most proud of?
I’m proud of this new makerspace in the Laurier Library, but I’m most proud of the students who have joined in to collaborate. Together, we steer the space to serve the makers who show up at our door.
5) What’s your favourite “shoestring” project that you could recommend to others?
Now that you mention shoestrings: A faculty member recently engaged me to include the makerspace in a campus-wide scavenger hunt, designed to encourage her students to find various resources Laurier offers. She wanted the students to actually do something in the space, but that something had to happen in under five minutes. With a dozen lengths of rope, I taught a lot of students how to tie three knots:
- Round turn with two half hitches
What I learned is that it’s challenging to teach knot tying!
6) Do you partner with community groups or other organizations in your current position? If so, what are those partnerships like? Do you have ongoing projects with them?
We enthusiastically partner with other groups. A particularly memorable partnership, from 2018, was with Laurier’s Office of Indigenous Initiatives. The office organized and found funding for a traditional drum-making workshop, which we hosted in the Laurier Library Makerspace. Having a room full of makers from different communities stretch wet deer hide over wooden frames was a unique and a special moment in my maker-movement travels. Up next in this great partnership is what’s being called “Rock Your Mocs,” a November workshop to create traditional moccasins.
7) What is the best part of your day in your current role?
The best part of my day is teaching people to sew, to do 3-D design, to shoot a better photo, to write some Python code, to hook up an Arduino device, to be and to feel more capable. Then they pass on these teachings to someone else in our space. This transfer of knowledge happens every day and is such a solid and a quantifiable contribution. Deeply satisfying.
Interview by Sarah Macintyre