Libraries Begin to Install Maker Spaces

group-projectThe definition of being a “maker” is a little fuzzy sometimes, but it’s more complex than it needs to be: In order to be a “maker,” it just means that you have to create something or participate in the act of making something, it doesn’t matter what it is. There’s no rules, there’s no definition other than that.

It means that manufacturers are “makers,” but so is the kid in the library using the 3D printer to craft or invent something new from his own design. To make something is an incredible gift, and it means that we’re able to produce something that has not previously existed in the world. That’s what’s at the heart of manufacturing, really. Manufacturers try to find the most efficient way to create, whether that’s on a large scale or small one. Thanks to innovation, this is becoming easier and easier for the average everyday person to “make” something, even without the resources of a large scale manufacturing plant at their disposal.

As it turns out, your public library may be a contributing factor to this. NET Nebraska reports that adding “maker spaces,” or spots in the library with computers and 3D printers for anyone to try their hand at creating something, is a growing trend across the country. For example, the University City Library has a new 3D printer that cost about $4,500, and was the first of two public libraries in the St. Louis area to set up a “maker space” for public use. According to the American Library Association, more than 250 countries across the US also have one of the printers.

“It’s actually part of a larger trend,” the ALA’s Sari Feldman told NET. “3D printers are just the newest example of the interactive spaces that libraries are becoming for their communities. So where we once thought of libraries as places where we had things for people, now we really do things for people- or do things with people. Libraries large and small across the U.S. are setting up ‘maker spaces,’ offering increasingly sophisticated hardware and software, including studio production equipment, design software, and in some cases, even laser cutters.”

The trend is certainly being reflected in Omaha, where the Omaha Public Library appointed their first digital librarian in February of 2015. The digital library, named Do Space, is “a technology library, a digital workshop, and an innovation playground.” Librarian Rebecca Stavick says that they’ll develop interesting and unique programs to serve everyone, from first-time computer users to those who may want to come in and use AutoCAD to design something or a 3D printer to prototype something. It will be completely free, they’ll have Macs and PCs available for everyone, an ebook kiosk and e-readers, and advanced software like the Adobe Suite and AutoCAD-type design tools. The 3D lab, according to Stavick, isn’t so much of a full maker space, but will instead focus on 3D technologies (Stavick is currently looking at machines that could help facilitate architectural 3-D modeling, medical prototyping, and more).

We can’t wait for more “maker spaces” to pop up in libraries around the country, so more people than ever before can start creating!

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