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The Workshop gears up for its first full academic year with the goal of building a community of makers

July 25, 2016

The new high-tech workspace on the lower level in Cabell Library has an official name: The Workshop.

The name conveys the active nature of the space, according to Innovative Media Department Head Eric Johnson. “Libraries always have been places where knowledge is created and shared. Now, tools are available that help people create and share that knowledge in ways other than text. We’re here supporting students, faculty and staff while they create multimedia projects, model their ideas in three dimensions, and explore emerging technologies. Creativity is a central twenty first-century skill and at the heart of what libraries do.” The Workshop, free and open to all in the VCU community, is part of a trend in libraries worldwide to provide free technology-rich workspaces.

VCU Libraries’ Innovative Media department runs The Workshop, filled with equipment and expert staff support for multimedia and three-dimensional projects as well as opportunities to explore new technologies. The staff is available to consult with faculty and students on the MCV Campus by appointment. The Workshop is open and staffed until 1 a.m. during the academic year 

As the semester begins, members of the academic community are encouraged to visit and get to know The Workshop.

  • Library Fest, Monday, Aug. 22, 2 to 4 p.m., part of Welcome Week for new students. Drop by for walk throughs and demos.

  • Grad Fest, Wednesday, Aug. 24, 1 to 4 p.m, part of Welcome Week, an orientation for new graduate students.

  • Wednesdays in the Workshop, beginning on Wednesday, Sept. 7, noon to 1 p.m., come by for a hands-on demonstration. The first session: "Introduction to 3D Printing." Check the Wednesdays in The Workshop items in the university calendar.

  • Faculty Open House, Friday, Sept. 9, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Drop by for quick tours, conversations and refreshments.

  • RVA Makerfest, Saturday, Sept. 24, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Science Museum of Virginia, provides an opportunity for on-campus makers to connect with over a hundred RVA makers, including the staff of The Workshop. 

Building a Community

“Our goal in this first full academic year is to start to build a community of people--faculty, students and staff--who can connect and learn about old and new technologies together,” said Johnson.

Focus groups with students and faculty were conducted as part of the ramp up to creating the new space. “One theme we heard again and again was basically the expression of a fear factor. Some people were wary of technology, afraid they couldn’t master it. Students from some disciplines were a little uncertain about how it would apply to their studies and scholarship. Other students expressed basic shyness, noting that they wouldn’t feel comfortable walking into the department they feared was full of techies,” said Johnson.

“We want to make sure everyone on campus knows that this space is for everyone.  The Workshop is part of a library--the most democratic of institutions and the intellectual crossroads of campus. We are here to help people learn and learn along with them; everybody has expertise and interest in particular areas and we can all teach each other.”

The Workshop’s staff will help people navigate the technology. The Workshop isn’t only a production space. It is envisioned as space for a growing community of supportive teachers and learners from across the university helping one another in discovery.

Inside The Workshop

Members of the VCU community can come to The Workshop to checkout multimedia production equipment for use on campus or at home. Equipment available for circulation includes: still cameras (including DSLRs with individual lenses), a range of camcorders, GoPro cameras and various GoPro mounts, digital projectors, a portable green screen and lights, a telescope, a microscope, sound effects CDs and much more.

Users will also find workstations with hardware and software to manage a range of multimedia production. Systems support capturing and editing video and sound files, scanning of flat images and slides, the creation of 3D animation and 3D objects, mapping and data visualization, and support for website and app building. Coming soon: the opportunity to explore a range of virtual and augmented reality systems.

Inside The Workshop visitors will also find a “makerspace,” a room dedicated to hands-on creativity. The makerspace offers 3D printers, a laser cutter, a styrofoam cutter, a computerized tabletop router and a paper/vinyl cutter, equipment with which users can create models and objects of all kinds. Visitors will also find handicraft supplies, sewing and embroidery machines, programmable electronics and emerging technologies to explore.

The Workshop also offers a video gaming and small group viewing room to support those researching virtual reality and virtual worlds, and the department soon will be opening a video recording studio (with 4K cameras, good for shooting video for the 98” Ultra HD multitouch screen found in the main room) and an audio recording studio.

Questions or to request a consultation? Contact: Innovative Media Department Head Eric Johnson, at or (804) 828-2802.

Hours and more information about the equipment and services  

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