A space for creativity:
Slover Library Creative Studios

An updated library for a changing world

When Slover Library opened its Maker Studio, the sewing machines, laser cutters, and 3D printers available to residents represented the continued evolution of libraries from book repositories to centers of learning and creation.
Today, the Creative Studios at Slover Library comprise a Design Studio, Maker Studio, Production Studio, and a Sound Studio. These unique public spaces provide residents access to equipment and collaborative work spaces equivalent to that found in professional settings – as well as professional consulting.
"What we do isn't just provide resources," said Michael Willits, Programs Manager at Slover Library. "Everything we do is consultative. We are looking for an opportunity to build a relationship with that patron." Highly trained staff meet with residents to provide training and support for all of the cutting edge equipment, sometimes working with patrons for hours over the course of a major project. 

Information underload

When Willits (pictured at left) and the team at Slover set out to build, staff, and equip the spaces, he said, "We didn't have good data to gauge what we needed. Nothing that was organized and consistent and gave us a baseline."
And so, taking a page from their mission, Slover staff set out to create their own dataset. 
"We made it up as we went along," Willits said. "The result was this dataset. Ultimately, we decided that if we needed this data other libraries might need it, too."
Slover tracked multiple data points. Each row in its data set represents a studio appointment. Library staff tracked appointments by type such as consultation or a studio reservation, the type of equipment used and for how long, start times and end times.  
Tracking the data helped Slover staff to see its most used equipment:  
Typically when no equipment is specified (as in the top line of the chart), patrons need the environment to utilize with their own equipment or or project. For example, one patron uses the space to lay out, design and cut patterns and fabrics to sew at home for his business.  Some patrons book the space to use their own equipment integrated with the Slover studios. 

And what studio had the most bookings...
Data from the portal can be downloaded and analyzed. In this example, the Slover Data was pulled into the data analysis tool called Power BI to assess ...
How they were distributed by start times through business hours: 
As well as how appointments were distributed across the library's schedule.
Lynn Clements, Slover's Executive Director, said her team was inspired by the work of the Norfolk Animal Care Center in tracking and sharing its data. You can find NACC data and NACC data stories here in the portal, too. 
"I'm enthralled with presenting it to the public in an easily accessible way," Clements said. "The decisions we make as a community are based in data."

Resources for kids and companies, education and exhibits

Since opening, Slover's Creative Studios have hosted a former CNN producer and Girl Scouts making cookie sale videos in its production studios. Students at Old Dominion University's Darden College of Education designed and 3D printed educational toys in the Maker Studio for distribution to children who are undergoing cancer treatment at CHKD Cancer & Blood Disorder Center and the Henrico Refugee Clinic.
Organizers of the Dragon Boat Race worked with Slover to design and laser-cut the award paddles.
Slover partnered with The Hermitage Museum to offer a 3D printing workshop for middle school and high school teachers, and 3D-printed nine artifacts for a special exhibition at The Hermitage.
And Slover's studios collaborate with vendors from the adjacent Selden Market to prototype tools and product ideas. For example, Slover assisted Werther Leather Goods with designing and laser-cutting a special template for the handles of a new line of luxury tote bags, as well as diecasting templates to emboss leather.

Data to shape the world of knowledge

Now, Willits and Clements have four years of data to pull from to make decisions about equipment and staffing at Slover. Better yet: the entire universe of libraries has those four years of data to help make decisions. 
And that, Willits said, is the whole point.
"We'll be able to share this data with libraries around the world who need to know -- what is it that libraries can do?"

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