METRO/599 is a studio in Hell’s Kitchen that connects more than 250 of New York’s libraries, archives, and knowledge organizations. With 6,000 square feet of event and studio space, supporting projects in digital privacy, multimedia media archiving, metadata aggregation, and podcasting, and offering tools for everything from software preservation to signage prototyping to spaghetti and meatball crafting, METRO/599 is reinventing the multi-type library consortium as a metacommunity center. In this talk, Nate will give an overview of the programs at METRO/599, talk about the challenges associated with this organizational recalibration, seek input and ideas from the group, and extend an invitation to attendees to come take part in the fun.
Notes from the Talk
METRO 599 is a collaborative studio that connects New York's libraries and archives, offering support for a wide range of digital projects. Nate Hill, Executive Director of METRO 599, spoke about the studio’s unique ability to bring people together to learn, share ideas, and collaborate on important issues.
Hill’s introduction to the organization coincided with a location change. When he came on board, METRO was able to buy out of a previous lease and move to a 6,000 square foot space in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood. Hill had the opportunity to collaborate with architects on the studio’s new floorplan, deciding on the ideal layout, which would eventually include a stage, studio, kitchen, and other areas.
The impressive physical space allows METRO 599 to host a diverse series of events. Examples include educational programs on web literacy, ideathons to “hack” new product inventions with input from experts, classes on audio production, and a wide variety of other meetups and symposia.
For Hill, one of the most challenging aspects of directing Metro 599 is figuring out how to bring disparate types of organizations together. For instance, Hill must balance the needs and wants of well-resourced academic libraries with those of small, understaffed public library branches. For inspiration, he has recently turned to ecological theory. Specifically, Hill sees the way in which different types of static ecosystems interact at their edges as analogous to how METRO works. METRO is made up of a variety of subcommunities, and it is Hill’s job to figure out where they overlap. Ultimately, what brings everything together, he emphasized, is a shared system of values, and remembering that at its core, the studio not only serves institutions, but also people.
notes by Donica O'Malley
About Nate Hill
Nate grew up in upstate New York and began his career in libraries at Brooklyn Public Library’s Stone Avenue Branch. After almost ten years of service and several different roles within Brooklyn Public Library, he relocated to Silicon Valley to retrain and re-tool as a web designer and developer for the San Jose Public Library. Before joining METRO in June 2015, Nate served as Deputy Director of the Chattanooga Public Library, where he led the 4th Floor project, a 12,000 square foot library loft space featuring a public access makerspace, civic laboratory, and gigabit laboratory.
Nate was named a "Mover and Shaker" by Library Journal in 2012. He earned his undergraduate degree in art from Skidmore College and an MLIS from Pratt Institute’s School of Information. Nate currently serves on the New York State Board of Regents Advisory Committee on Libraries and the advisory board for the American Library Association’s Office for Information Technology Policy. His projects have been exhibited at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, and he has spoken about his work in Denmark, Scotland, Greece, Colombia, and elsewhere.
When he’s not busy library-ing, Nate enjoys hiking, gardening, carpentry, design, and tinkering alongside his wife and kids.