ALA Annual 2017

#alaac17 MakerLab for everyone

I joined three MakerLab tours -adults, teens, and children- at the Harold Washington Library on Thursday. These are the highlights I want to share with you:

The three labs appear to have a different role.

  • The adult lab contains the 3D printers, 2 full spectrum laser cutters, 10 computers, a scanner, and tools to building with wood and acrylic. Here users can participate in weekly programs -open for around eight clients- or use the room and the equipment for a maximum of two hours for private projects. A set of house rules is written in a wall whiteboard for all to read and a team of a MakerLab especialist and librarian are there to assist with machine safety and inquiries.
  • The Youth Media is the space for high school  teens. Age is highly regulated here, where teens must show their high school ID to enter the room. If you are older than 19 and not in high school you can not use the room. This room is equipped by multiple screens -located at different areas in the room -for video games, a photography set, recording studio, sewing table and materials, indoor garden, and multiple staff, volunteers , and teens trying out robots. This is the most invigorating teen space I have set eyes on. The room was full with high schoolers playing video games and engaging in STEM projects. Regardless, the one feature that striked me the most was seeing the teen print collection arranged throughout the room. In other words, the collection shares the space with the media and MakerLab. The MakerLab staff in charge of the tour told us that circulation went up 400% since this change was implemented. How phenomenal is that!
  • The Children Room serves youth ages 0-14. The first element you see when you enter the room is a MakerLab table always available to the public. Children can freely use materials to create. Apart from this, there are a number of smaller stations for hands on building with wood blocks, giant Legos, and an early learning station. The tweens have a space too equipped with a photography, film and editing set, microphones for podcast, a gaming unit, and their own printed collection.

One element in is common in these three MakerLabs is that they try to enforce the age requirement of the group they serve. Other group ages are welcome to retrieve books, but cannot use the facilities that are designedly for children and tweens, high schoolers, and adults.

Kathia Ibacache is a Youth Services Librarian at Simi Valley Public Library.

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