The end is near for several weekly news magazines. They may stop publishing this year or next. I work at a public library and sometimes wonder what our extensive magazine shelves will look like when these magazines are gone. The magazine shelves are going to look like a first grader with seven missing teeth.
Suppose Newsweek were to stop publishing. Is there anything that could fill its place on the magazine rack? As it happens, there is. MAKE magazine, a quarterly do-it-yourself magazine out of San Francisco, has gained a very devoted following. If you haven't seen this magazine yet, check out the inspiring, amusing and instructive MAKE magazine blog. That same spirit of inventive adventuring bounces off every page of MAKE magazine. Whoever is editing that magazine has high standards. When I read MAKE magazine, I not only learn new things, I become more creative. That magazine puts me into a creative mood: It gets me thinking about constructing creative solutions to a host of different things in my life. The spirit of that magazine is “yes, we can,” which is why it's no surprise that our new president remarked in his inaugural speech: “... the risk-takes, the doers, the makers of things.”
It's clear to me that Phillip Torrone, the editor of MAKE magazine, deserves a cabinet level position – perhaps Secretary of the Tool Cabinet. And the neat thing is that we could Skype him in to the president's cabinet meetings on an ad hoc basis. So when the president needs advice from the Secretary of the Tool Cabinet, he could say, “Let's Skype in the Secretary of the Tool Cabinet to hear his (or her) take on this issue.” I can't believe that previous presidents made decisions – important decisions – without consulting the Secretary of the Tool Cabinet.
Getting back to MAKE magazine, though. If you're a fan of that magazine, please walk yourself over to your local neighborhood library and request that they subscribe to the magazine. If the library gets 5 or 10 or 20 requests, it stands to reason that when Newsweek stops publishing, MAKE magazine could take its place on the library shelf. Gee, the two magazines are even alphabetically close to each other.
The main reason MAKE magazine deserves a place in our local public libraries is that it brings real value to our communities. We want our children to be reading that magazine. We want our adults to be reading that magazine. We want everyone to be reading that magazine.
And if your local library is going to be constructing a new building, now is the time to suggest a Makers Room – a room with tools in it for community members to collaboratively dabble in small scale inventive projects. Some people call such a space a “hacker's space.” I've seen such spaces. They belong in a public library. Ask Thomas Edison, Wilbur Wright, Grace Hopper, Steve Wozniak, Esther Dyson, Bre Pettis, or Phillip Torrone whether they belong in a public library. They'll tell you whether they do or not. Inventiveness belongs in a public library because libraries are houses of ideas.
But before we establish hacker spaces in public libraries we need to get MAKE magazine onto the shelf of your local public library. You can change the world today by calling your local library and asking this question: “Does our library subscribe to MAKE magazine? (pause to listen to the response) Do I know the web site for MAKE magazine? Yes, it's ... makezine.com”
Hang up the phone. Feel the world change. You can rest assured the staff member at your local library noted your request. They may not have heard of MAKE magazine before, but they've heard of it now. Indeed, they have.
Answers don't change the world: questions do. To focus your mind on questions worthy of your time, start wondering. As one of the great hackers in history once noted, "Wisdom begins in wonder." (Socrates)
(The blogger works as the public geek at the Takoma Park Maryland Library and is an adjunct professor of education at American University. In his free time he delivers donated computers to children and adults who don't have them. He is reachable at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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