Sue Considine, Executive Director, Fayetteville NY Free Library (FFL), described how her library became an early adopter of making in libraries. The power of fabrication is social, not technical or in the equipment or technology. The library creates an environment that promotes community engagement and connecting. Community members transformed their lives.
3D printers were initially embraced and were enthusiastically embraced by the community. FFL hosted makerspace labs once a month; hundreds of people who were very excited about the events came from the local community and surrounding area. The library staff soon realized that many talented people in the community wanted to share their talents, so an instrument to capture conversations and let people apply as a volunteer to get involved was developed. The library was opened as a platform for them to share their knowledge with no middleman involved.
Here are some of the programs led by community members:
These programs incurred small or no costs, and the community is getting the advantage of skills in it as a result of what the library did. The programs were led by participants, not library staff, and their number grew dramatically in the last two years:
The platform was openly accessible to an engaged community. It would not have been possible without the library’s involvement.
- Sewing: Classes, clubs, events, and spaces developed for community members by members. The library bought two inexpensive sewing machines and put notices in the restrooms, and the response was enormous, from people age 7 to over 84. Additional donations of machines and supplies were made. Here are the impacts of the sewing classes:
- Lego robotics: Community members said there was nowhere in the community where children could become members of the First Lego League. Over 30 families came to the initial meeting, and the library has now hosted 4 sessions. The coaches witnessed students who did not know each other working together and learned to have the mindset of an innovator and were not afraid to fail.
- FFL Geek Girl Camp: An informal STEM opportunity was provided for girls in grades 3 to 5. The camp sought to provide female role models and provided hands-on activities led by women in STEM careers. Here are the impacts of those camps:
- The FFL Fab Lab includes 3D printers, sewing machines, and much more equipment that people can use independently after they have completed a brief safety training class. Participants have led over 2,800 equipment certifications, 62 3-D modeling sessions. The impacts:
Every FFL staff member is empowered to capture users’ stories and share them with the community as powerful evidence that the library is having in the community by creating access to things that would not be accessible anywhere else. A local company used the lab to develop prototypes of products they were developing.
Having access to making in the center of the community contributes to discovery and having an impact for the 21st century. It results in new types of impacts, facilitation of the development of inventions, and spreading STEM technologies.