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Making space for makerspaces at the libraries

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Photo submitted The Hotchkiss Library sports a sticky-note graffiti wall.

There are many ways to use a library: bring a child to a story time, access resources through the library website, check out a towering stack of books, format a document on a library computer, attend a teen event, enjoy the summer reading program, read the newspaper in a warm corner. In recent years, many libraries have added a new element to library services which brings together creativity, education, entertainment and group dynamics, appealing to users of varying ages. This concept has been so popular that some libraries and other organizations consider it a movement -- the makerspace movement.

Defining a makerspace is challenging, as the movement encompasses a vast array of materials and projects, but generally a makerspace teaches a skill through hands-on experience. Some libraries focus on technology, utilizing 3D printers, robot parts, LED lights and computers. Others focus more on constructing with hand tools or craft supplies. Often with makerspaces, outcomes are not as important as the process of learning through experimentation and collaboration.

Eager to embrace new trends and fun ideas, Delta County Libraries is becoming part of this movement. Recently, several branches have offered ongoing creative projects to encourage patrons to try something new and hands-on while spending time in the library. These projects include opportunities such as chalkboards and colored chalk which Crawford Library had available over the summer, sewing classes at the Paonia Library, a sticky-note "graffiti wall" in the Hotchkiss Library, and an ongoing makerspace series at the Cedaredge Library.

Cedaredge librarian Cara Morton has been experimenting with makerspace programming to see how well the library community participates. She started in September with a simple technology project. In October, she invited people to decorate gourds with paints and other materials. During the month of November, interested patrons could come to the library to learn to make pasta noodles. Library staff provided the dough and the pasta maker, but did also include a disclaimer that read, "We don't recommend eating any of your creations; this is more of a chance to play and have fun with the process."

Morton has definitely made some discoveries in the last few months. "Some things are way more popular than others," she says, describing how more effective makerspaces seem to be those that have all the materials ready and obvious for patrons to use at any time. Upcoming opportunities will reflect this, as she plans to have card-making supplies available on a table in the middle of the library for the entire month of December, and painting materials for January visitors.

Inspired by the success in Cedaredge, Delta Library staff is about to join the makerspace fun with an ongoing program in the teen area, where Delta teen librarian Shayna Peters is preparing duct tape for artistic manipulation. Teen participants are invited to stop by any time the library is open between Dec. 14 and 23 to create unique gifts from different kinds of duct tape. Peters will set up a table with a variety of craft supplies and plenty of ideas.

"I am hoping that if the teens are here in the library during break, they will sit down and make something," says Peters. "I want them to use their imaginations and have fun with it."

Makerspaces provide opportunities for library engagement and creativity. They also allow for patrons to learn new skills in a safe and simple environment. As long as visitors participate and enjoy the projects offered by Delta County Libraries, staff will continue to incorporate makerspaces into the long list of library resources available to Delta County patrons.

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