I’ll tell you what, if your town still has a Radio Shack, it’s worth going in there every now and then. That’s the store I’d give a wide berth in the mall while Christmas shopping, and got sweaty palms just thinking about entering when there was something on my dad’s list that required a stop in there.
It’s a little like going into a comic book shop for me. I’m not a lifelong comics fan like some librarians, so when I started venturing into comic book stores, I was a little trepidatious, and worried that I’d ask stupid questions or, buy the wrong stuff, or well… have to deal with Comic Book Guy.
But really, the folks I’ve talked to are so glad you’re there and interested in doing some cool maker stuff. It’s not scary. It’s not intimidating. (It’s not busy, so you’ll get good customer service.) But you know what? The Radio Shack folks and the comic book store folks, they’re kind of like librarians.
They’ve got information about stuff in their collection that we want to know more about but are unsure about where to start. And I don’t know if it’s in their training manual or I’ve just gotten lucky, but every time I’ve asked for help (and that would be every time I’ve gone into one of their stores) they’ve moved out from behind the counter to show me exactly what I asked about. And when I ask what new cool robotics stuff they’re hearing about or have in stock, they’re happy to chat, and excited to hear that the Maker movement is happening in libraries.
So, if you see a project that you’re thinking about trying and you’re weighing a trip to Radio Shack or the shipping costs of ordering online, try stopping in to the brick-and-mortar store. Just like we want those local bookshops to survive, we should want local places with maker tools to survive too. You may be pleasantly surprised and encouraged to try more hands-on tech. Tune in later this week to see what I bought on my last trip and how the program I used it in went down.