Exposing Amateur Radio to the Public A Case for the Public Library

Discussion in 'Amateur Radio News' started by KR9T, May 21, 2020.

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  1. KR9T

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    The face of Amateur Radio is changing. Keeping pace at warp speed with our hobby means keeping up with the times. And as Bob Dylan wrote, “the times they are a-changin”. One thing that hasn’t changed is the public’s perception of amateur radio. With the advent of the internet and cell phones, are ham radio operators simply a relic of the past? Are hams keeping pace with the changing technologies and are we capturing the changing demographics of our culture?

    Ham radio operators ask why more women and young adults are not in our hobby? A better question might be how do we get more women and young adults into our hobby? The answer is pretty simple and can be summarized in one word: “exposure”. Very few people even have a perception of what ham radio operators do, let alone have never seen one in operation.

    This is where the public library comes in.

    According to a recent Gallup Survey (ECONOMY

    JANUARY 24, 2020) visiting the library remains the most common cultural activity Americans engage in, by far. The average is 10.5 trips to the library U.S. adults report taking in 2019 exceeds their participation in eight other common leisure activities. Americans attend live music or theatrical events and visit national or historic parks roughly four times a year on average and visit museums and gambling casinos 2.5 times annually. Trips to amusement or theme parks (1.5) and zoos (.9) are the least common activities among this list. These data were collected in a Dec. 2-15, 2019 Gallup poll.

    Despite the proliferation of digital-based activities over the past two decades -- including digital books, podcasts, streaming entertainment services and advanced gaming -- libraries have endured as a place Americans visit nearly monthly on average. Whether because they offer services like free Wi-Fi, movie rentals, or activities for children, libraries are most utilized by young adults, women and residents of low-income households

    I am fortunate to live in the progressive community of Northbrook, Illinois where our Northbrook Public Library has been awarded the highest 5-Stars rating by the Library Journal Index of Public Library Service for delivering a strong return on investment to the community. What does this mean? In a one-year time span, library patrons visited our library 13 times, connected to Wi Fi 37 times, checked out items 25 times and attended 2 programs.

    In early 2019 I was invited to a grand opening event at the Northbrook Public Library of what was to be called its Collaboratory and more generally known as its “makers space”. I was immediately captivated by the novel equipment (3D printers, laser etching machine, soldering stations, raspberry pi and Arduino project kits, embroidery machine, etc.) and thought to myself, this isn’t the library I grew up with when I was a kid. Even more fascinating was my observation of everyone viewing this equipment and then in subsequent visits the absolute popularity of this makers space among the patrons. Young and old, male and female, everyone was crowding in to learn and invent things to make. For all intents and purposes, the idea of a library utilizing its space for this Collaboratory caught on like wildfire.

    The public library has always been receptive to new uses for its spaces. They have graciously allowed the North Shore Radio Club to conduct Volunteer Examiner (VE) FCC licensing exams for the public, which we have consistently done once a month, for the past year. In addition, we have put on “Introduction to Ham Radio” courses during this timeframe.

    So, this sparked an idea. What if this makers space contained an operating ham radio station that could be run by my ham radio club and expose this demographic to the changing face of ham radio? Would this attract people into the hobby and generally inform the public of the changing face of ham radio? Dane Malanoski referring to the Bible verse when Noah built the ark. Noah asked God where he would get all the animals for the ark, and the answer was “BUILD IT AND THEY WILL COME”.

    Luckily this idea was shared by managers of this maker’s space and a project was born. Create an operational ham radio station that could be viewed by the public, with demonstrations and classes to educate a new generation of hams.

    Operationalizing the idea

    In order to get the project underway, it was decided that we needed to formalize a project proposal that the library could view and discuss with its Board of Directors. The proposal contained the scope of what we wanted to do, how the costs would be shared, and the details of the space and equipment that would be required. Furthermore, we wanted to include safeguards so that only FCC licensed individuals would be able to transmit from this location and provide demonstrations to interested patrons. We also needed to work out possible liability concerns and make sure we had proper insurance coverage for both parties.

    After a few months of back and forth discussions, we drafted a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) making it clear who would be responsible for what, how the facilities would be utilized and who would pay for the equipment and its upkeep. While I would like to say this process went smoothly, I can tell you that each party had multiple concerns about everything from safety and liability to who would cover the initial costs of setting up the station. Months passed with much back and forth. We also decided that it would make sense for someone working in the Maker’s Space Collaboratory to be a licensed Ham. Luckily, we found a library employee interested in getting an FCC license and this objective was accomplished in short order.

    The finalized MOU was signed off on by both parties at the end of December, 2019. Because Northbrook ( a suburb of Chicago) is known for its harsh winters, antenna erection was delayed until warmer weather, but a grand opening date is scheduled for the Fall of 2020.

    My conclusion after this process is simple: It’s not your “grandfather’s” library anymore.

    Burt Krain, KR9T & Cathleen Doyle

    The North Shore Radio Club (NS9RC) & The Northbrook Public Library

    N8MGQ, DM4AB, M0DHA and 14 others like this.
  2. K4FMH

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  3. KG5THG

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    Your local library is also a good place to donate all the arrl books you no longer use. I donated all my license study guides plus a couple of extra books. Hopefully someone got some use. We also do our ve test sessions at the library.
    W3KW, NX6ED, KG5TON and 1 other person like this.
  4. KM6HBH

    KM6HBH XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    I like the idea..as I was reading, I kept thinking Field Day location.
    K7YB, W3KW and NF6E like this.
  5. K0UO

    K0UO Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Cv-19 locked ours down.
    KG5SFT likes this.
  6. G3SEA

    G3SEA Ham Member QRZ Page

    Worthy Idea ! :cool:
  7. N8DAW

    N8DAW Ham Member QRZ Page

    As an academic Library Director myself, I have advocated this position for many years now. In 2017, I even submitted an article to QST promoting this idea, but they had no interest in publishing it. This is great, and I would love to see more public libraries actively working with local ham clubs, not only to boost ham radio awareness but also to promote library use for men and boys. Pew Research has shown that men are among the lowest users of libraries nationally, and it would be great to see more fathers and sons using libraries across the country.
    N9CKZ, KI6BQL, KE4YMX and 2 others like this.
  8. K4FMH

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    Thank you for your efforts! The ARRL Delta Division announced the Plant the Seed! Sow the Future program last January...it’s outlined in my blog article I posted above. Libraries should be considered a “served agency” for the League’s educational outreach efforts.
  9. WD8ED

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    Should we really be "exposing" ourselves to anyone?
  10. W0MSN

    W0MSN Ham Member QRZ Page

    This is great work! Please keep us all posted as to How this is going. I know it will be a big commitment. Does your club have a way for hams to make a small donation to help support this worthwhile project?

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