The Barrington Area Library is “taking over” 365 Barrington this week, (with permission from Liz Luby!) and I thought it would be a fantastic opportunity to tell you about some of the very new spaces and services we’re offering, now that our 14 month renovation project is complete. One of these new spaces just opened to the public last week – the new MakerLab.
You may have heard the terms makerspace, fab lab, hackerspace – they are all shorthand for the same concept. Wikipedia says a MakerLab “is a community-operated workspace where people with common interests, often in computers, machining, technology, science, digital art or electronic art; can meet, socialize and collaborate.” Makerspaces are popping up in communities all over the world, and given the very active arts/creative environment here in Barrington, it seemed like a natural fit. Why the library? Why not? We’re open seven days a week, and we have helpful and tech-savvy staff. We are already a place where Barrington residents come to meet, in our meeting rooms, study rooms, media:scapes and Zimmerman Smart Room. We’re already a place where the community comes to create – we’ve had a digital media lab for years, and now we have two – Studio 1 for teens/adults, Studio Kids for children. The MakerLab brings the creating and the collaborating together.
I could tell you about all of these things, but I’d rather let a real expert tell you – Mike Campagna, our Digital Services Manager. Many of you will recognize Mike from his years as a Youth Services Librarian. Mike was so good at teaching kids and teens about all things technology-related that when we needed someone to take charge of our many online, digital, technology-driven resources and services, we were happy to bring Mike over to the Administrative side of the house. Mike was instrumental in setting up the new MakerLab, so I asked him some questions about the lab and what our customers can expect to find when they visit.
Karen: Why did the library decide to build a MakerLab?
Mike: The act of “making” requires a great blend of imagination, problem solving, and hands-on learning. The library wanted to provide a space for Barrington Area Library cardholders to enhance those skills and also to expand on the concept of the library as a place merely to consume information and include options for people who want to work on new projects, independently or collaboratively, and produce something new.
Karen: Tell me more about some of the equipment in the MakerLab.
Mike: We have a wide range of equipment in the MakerLab. The machines you are likely to notice first are our two MakerBot Replicator Mini 3D printers. These machines are part of the newest fifth generation from MakerBot. Patrons can design their own 3D files in free programs like Tinkercad or Google Sketchup, or they can download a file from Thingiverse and print on demand.
Another exciting piece of equipment is our Silhouette Cameo. The Cameo is an extremely versatile cutting machine that can be used to cut out personalized stickers, stencils, or intricate scrapbook designs, to name a few projects. (Karen: We already have kids visiting the library who call the MakerLab “the Sticker Room,” so clearly they have heard about the Cameo!)
The last machine we have is our Full Spectrum laser cutter. This machine works similarly to the Silhouette Cameo, but can cut more rigid materials like acrylic and bamboo. The laser cutter is our most advanced piece of equipment, so we are going to have programs during which a librarian will be on hand for supervision and guidance.
Karen: What are the MakerKits?
Mike: MakerKits are a great way for Barrington Area Library cardholders to begin tinkering in the MakerLab. They feature hardware to support a range of technical abilities and can be checked out for use within the MakerLab for up to 2 hours.
The MakerKits vary from high tech kits like a Raspberry Pi (a computer you can hold in the palm of your hand) to equipment that doesn’t require any technology, like the knit & crochet MakerKit. We like when patrons pair the high tech kits with the analog kits to make cool creations. One of our favorite combinations is our littleBits circuits MakerKit paired with Strawbees, a kit that uses plastic pieces to connect drinking straws together.
Karen: Can you give me some examples of projects people might create in the MakerLab?
Mike: We have already seen a hand that waves hello when a button is pressed, a remote controlled car, and 3D printed bracelets as well as bracelets that were made on the library’s Rainbow Loom.
We don’t want anyone to be intimidated by the MakerLab, so we have linked out to project ideas for the 3D printers, Silhouette Cameo, & all of the MakerKits. Some ideas include building a digital camera, programming a robot, creating a 3D selfie, or knitting a coaster. Project ideas can be found on our MakerLab web page.
Karen: Who can use the MakerLab at the Barrington Area Library?
Mike: The MakerLab can be used by a wide variety of ages provided you have a Barrington Area Library card. We want adults, teens, & kids to come in and work on projects. Even if you don’t have aspirations to switch careers to become an engineer or the next big artist on Etsy, the MakerLab can still bring out new skills & provide hours of fun with friends, not to mention lead to some pretty cool projects.
Children 8 years old and under need an adult with them to supervise and there are also a few age requirements for the MakerKits. Please see the webpage for more guidance.
So, that’s a brief introduction to the newest, coolest space at the Barrington Area Library, the MakerLab. When you receive our fall newsletter next month, look for the page called “Maker Mondays” and sign up for classes like “Meet the 3D Printer,” “3D Modeling,” and “Laser-Etched Jewelry.” Speaking of jewelry, check out these awesome earring charms Librarian Gwyneth Stupar made as a test project in the MakerLab:
Those earrings have the Barrington Area Library written all over them. What will YOU make in the MakerLab? All you need is your imagination and your Barrington Area Library card!