One of MTSU’s most hands-on services has continued to serve students while readjusting to COVID-19 protocols.
Makerspace, the James E. Walker Library’s technological toolbox, has found ways to continue offering its equipment for creating and fabricating prototypes while maintaining social distancing and hygiene.
“One of the things that we really wanted to do whenever we rearranged this space for social distancing was to not leave big, empty places,” said Valerie Hackworth, assistant manager of technology services. “We didn’t want it to feel uninviting.”
Study tables are restricted to one person each, as is the case throughout the library, and every other computer cubicle is shut down to ensure proper spacing.
Vinyl cutter training continues with an instructional video and a checklist. At stopping points, students can ask people at the desk, which is six feet behind them and surrounded by plexiglass, any questions they have. Personnel use a 40-inch-long pointer with a nonabrasive tip to point to the computer screen.
Three-dimensional printer training also is offered with the same video and checklist process. Samples of the items created with the devices are available for viewing, but not for handling, at the desk.
“We have these items here that the person at the help desk can use as examples of the concepts that they’re explaining,” Hackworth said.
While the button-maker is not available for use, Hackworth said the caution tape that surrounds it was made part of Makerspace’s Halloween decorations. The Legos area also is not available because it has too many tiny parts to disinfect.
However, electronic components remain available by category in what once was a library card catalogue.
Students can place the tools they use inside a box on top of the catalogue. Staffers then clean the tools with antiseptic wipes.
One of Makerspace’s most popular aspects was the colorful array of figurines created with makerspace equipment that was displayed on the desk prior to the pandemic. These ranged from the MTSU horseshoe to mythical creatures.
“Those items, coming in the door, were very noticeable,” Hackworth said. “People would touch them all the time and stop, and they were conversation pieces.”
Hackworth said, while they are no longer available for touching, the plexiglass partitions and displays hanging from on high above the help desk enable people to see some of them even more clearly.
Even virtual reality remains a reality at Makerspace. Users must put plastic coverings over their hair and don face guards under their masks so that the reality goggles are not touching either hair or face. Staffers still use antiseptic wipes on the equipment when the user is finished.
Hackworth said students have expressed gratitude not only for being able to complete their classwork, but also their appreciation for being able to use an area that doesn’t cramp their style. This feedback bodes well for Makerspace’s continued usage in the spring 2021 semester, officials said.
“I think a lot of it has to do with how the patrons are using the space and then us adapting, as well,” Hackworth said.
— Gina Logue (firstname.lastname@example.org)