A makerspace is a do it yourself (DIY) place for people to create, learn and invent independently or collaboratively. The popularity of makerspaces have been on the rise for several years. It seems like a number of makerspaces have been popping up all over America following the establishment of the Fayetteville (New York) Free Library Makerspace in 2011. However, the general idea is centuries old. Today makerspace workshops are equipped with a wide variety of tools and resources for DIY projects. Often they serve as incubators for technology and engineering ventures, but can also provide resources for craftier businesses and individuals.
Libraries are natural venues for makerspaces as they already provide a shared space for learning and creating. Some early libraries in North America were established by sewing, knitting or quilting groups such as the Gowanda (New York) Free Library while others like the Manitoba (Canada) Crafts Museum and Library were established to support craft and heritage in the community. Our own library system in Hernando County provides numerous crafting as well as technological learning opportunities. Adding a makerspace to the mix reinforces library curriculum with an additional hands on component.
Brittany McGarrity has been working tirelessly to organize the makerspace at the West Hernando branch of the library. They may not have a 3D printer, but it does have the next best thing: a super nintendo box. The “retro” themed makerspace is geared towards children outfitted with a robotics building set, a learn to code board game, lincoln logs, an erector set, a badge maker, a 3D pen, shrinky-dinks, a spirograph, a loom, speed stacks and a deconstruction zone where you can take apart a cell phone or other electronic devices..
Children 10 and up are given the opportunity to work independently in the lab for an hour at a time. They have the responsibility to follow directions provided for each activity and clean up their workspace. McGarrity often assists the children if they have questions, but won’t direct their learning. “I have some people that want me to hold their hand and walk them through it and I say ‘Sorry that’s not how this works…’ The whole point of the makerspace is to learn through creativity and exploration,” she explains. And it’s been working. “Most of the time the parents have to drag them away,” McGarrity laughed.
Although this makerspace is designed for kids, McGarrity stated, “We’ve been visiting a lot of makerspaces, we’ve been researching a lot… I’ve found that a lot of makerspaces are very kid heavy… [Alternatively], they also have very techie makerspaces with 3D printers [and] bandsaws. But this makerspace seems on the surface that it’s all for kids but parents become very involved.” While some do get involved, others take the opportunity to read and check out books.
One mother explained that the makerspace complements a homeschool curriculum and provides an incentive for her child to work hard during the week. She said that with the large homeschooling population in Hernando County, a child oriented makerspace is an asset.
The makerspace was made possible through a bequest by devoted library volunteer, Helen M. Card. Ms.Card was a familiar face at the Little Red Schoolhouse and Spring Hill Branch for many years, shelving and checking out books for patrons and answering the phones. Librarian Colleen Ludington worked with Ms. Card for 15 years and remembered her as very dedicated to the library with a lot of spunk, driving around in her red corvette. She was also a Master Gardener. Remembering the library in her will, allowed a great community asset to come to fruition, providing a unique and creative learning experience for our youth. The library depends on generous individuals like Ms. Card to create exciting opportunities like the Helen M. Card Retro Lab Makerspace.
You can check out the Retro Lab Makerspace at West Hernando Library during normal branch hours, which are Monday through Thursday from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm, Friday from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, and closed Saturday and Sunday. If your child is under 10, expect to accompany him or her in the lab. Also, expect to have a great time doing so.