Boston Public the Latest Library to Seek Advice From Westport
More and more libraries are looking to Westport for guidance on a national library trend that is catching on like a hot new book title—Maker Spaces and innovative programs that go with them.
The latest library to visit? Boston Public Library.
Michael Colford, BPL's Director of Library Services, visited recently with BPL Director of Branches Christine Schonhart. He said he first heard about the Westport Library Maker Space last October, when it was featured on the cover of the preeminent national publication for libraries, Library Journal. He also tuned into an ALA (American Library Association) webinar later that month that was hosted by Library Director Maxine Bleiweis and Asst. Director Bill Derry, who spoke to over 800 attendees nationwide about the new structure inside the library’s main level designed as a place where people can connect, create and experiment.
The BPL visit to Westport follows trips by a string of other libraries—Larchmont, NY; Port Washington, NY; Trumbull, Darien and the CT state library. The Scarsdale, NY, school district sent representatives as well for a tour.
“It’s catching on. We believe in the Maker Space and its potential as a vital service and learning environment for library users,” said Asst. Director for Innovation and User Experience Bill Derry, who was recently interviewed on a NPR show called The Wonderful World of Tinkering. “The Maker Space merges industrial, creative and technology arts to offer something for almost everyone to participate as an observer or maker.”
Since its inauguration last summer with a press conference for members of the media as well as local and state elected officials, the Maker Space has been the venue for workshops, collaborative creating and a lab for learning about computer assisted design and 3D printing. Over 100 parents and children turned out for a recent session called “Making and Learning.” A local entrepreneur has produced a device to prevent teens from texting in their cars. Teen volunteers print out pieces for chess boards and name tags. A grandmother learned how to use a power drill. Passers-by can view 3D images in a photo gallery with 3D glasses, and learn how to view 3D photos in the nearby Annual Report. A solar panel on the roof of the Maker Space demonstrates how energy can be channeled to power a fan. And, plans are underway to install more 3D printers, with computers to go with them. Two state-of- the-art printers by Stratasys, currently on loan, quietly demonstrate the newest capabilities of 3D printing.
“The bigger picture of the Maker Space is about doing things differently,” said Bleiweis. “It’s an example of how we are evolving into a community think tank, answering a need for more democratic, participatory learning and creating.”
On April 27, the Westport Library will host the 2nd Mini Maker Faire, following Connecticut’s first Mini Maker Faire at the Library last year. Later in the spring, Library officials will speak at the Connecticut Library Association annual convention on the Maker movement, and innovative library services.