Library Meets Its Makers

The Westport Public Library is very popular. It’s definitely cool.

And incredibly innovative.

Its latest project is a new Maker Space, on the main level. Designed as a venue for creativity and production, it’s the 1st of its kind at any library in Connecticut.

The Maker movement — introduced in April at the Library, with a fair that attracted over 2200 people — is a reaction to a long historic period in which innovation and invention were reserved for specialists. As more individuals become inventors, Maker Faires and Spaces are popping up everywhere.

Though not yet in any Connecticut library.

Except ours.

The Westport Library Maker Space will be a place for anyone — and everyone — to create content as well as consume it.

Why the library? According to a press release, the Maker Space — like a library — is “an incubator for ideas and ventures.

“In this era of hands-on learning and interaction, libraries should provide experiences that take people from imagining to actually producing.”

And for those Westporters — you know who you are — who think the town spends too much money on unnecessary “stuff,” Maker movements are seen as economic engines. They encourage entrepreneurs to emerge and thrive.

The Westport Library’s 1st Maker project is the construction of two 15-foot wooden airplanes. Maker-in-residence and builder Joseph Schott invites anyone interested to help him craft these planes this summer. (Two random people have wandered in already, and joined him.)

Additional planning is underway. Library programs will feature talks by “Makers,” including a Westporter who made his own life-sized functional robot.

Also ahead: the purchase of a 3D printer (to print 3-dimensional objects from digital files).

The Westport Library will discuss all this — and more — at a press conference next Monday (July 2, 11:30 a.m.).

Can’t “make it” there? No problem. Our uber-technologically savvy library will live stream the event, at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/makers.

(For highlights of last April’s Mini Maker Faire, click the YouTube video below.)

16 responses to “Library Meets Its Makers

  1. Library Bat

    This is all kind of cool, but the construction noise in the library is really distracting.

  2. Annoyed lIbrary user

    Amen, Library Brat. It’s ridiculous in there. Libraries are supposed to be quiet places to study. Between screaming children, construction noise and people’s iPhones, I think Starbucks might be quieter!

    Very annoying.

    • Babette d'Yveine

      If you want a quiet place to read and study, I’d suggest the Pequot Library in Southport. It’s delightful, and I go there all the time. The only time I go to the Westport Library is to take out or return books, and then I leave as quickly as possible. i don’t know why the librarians don’t make the screaming brats quiet down. They’re usually there with their nannies who are too busy gossiping among temselves to pay attention to the kids.

    • Don’t think of it as a library; think of it as play space.

      • Library Bat

        Play Space, that’s funny. Did you know that the library now has a ping pong table?

        • I am not surprised. Next maybe a sand box, or a dance floor, and music. Whatever it is, it is less and less like a library every day. But then, if you want books, you can download them in most cases for less than it costs for gas to drive to the library.

  3. Mark Mathias

    Whenever I see a home in my neighborhood that has a dumpster in the driveway, I dislike the noise and dust that goes along with same, but am pleased knowing that improvements are being made to the neighborhood.

    What the Library is doing with the Maker Space is a bold step and I applaud their efforts. Once all the dust settles and the new events and programs are in full swing, I believe we will see our already progressive Library in a way that others only dream of.

  4. Maker Faire is an important idea and it certainly makes sense to see such a cutting edge project at our cutting edge library. Our country needs more people who make things and want to make things better.

    There are abundant quiet areas in our wonderful library and I’ve never, never seen those spaces completely full. The main area is quiet enough to find what you want, and not so quiet that HS kids can work on projects, others can have quiet meetings, and the little ones don’t get shushed every time they ask a question. I be they have a lot more questions when they see the maker space, and to me, that is a very good thing.

  5. (Now less) annoyed library user

    You’re all very correct! I don’t mean to overlook the value of the other work that this library does; it is certainly exceptional. Maker Faire IS amazing. I would argue that the main area is not really quiet enough to do any real solo studying of the intensity I require, but there is probably more value in conversation and group work than there is in pleasing my study habits. It is, after all, 2012 and for libraries to survive they need to do exactly what this library is doing. It’s great!

    But… perhaps I will try the Pequot library.

  6. Westport Convert

    I agree with those who find it to be incredibly noisy. It is shameful that our fabulous library, which I am personally proud of, fails to enforce a quiet policy in the main area.

    I have been to several other public libraries in Fairfield County and prefer those over ours simply because of the noise level. How sad.

    WC

  7. What happened to that beautiful–quiet–reading room overlooking the Saugatuck River? Has it been taken over for some other purpose?

  8. Thanks for a great post on the new Maker space at the library, Dan. It’s an excellent addition to our community. What the changes will bring is a space in which innovation can take center stage in our community in a venue synonymous with both learning and community cohesiveness.

    Some generations ago artists made their way to Westport to bring creativity and innovation as a legacy to our town, a legacy that made its reputation as a place that was truly distinct and vibrant in comparison to other “bedroom communities.” Today the innovation technology inspired by the Internet and related technologies is attracting many of the same type of leading-edge creative people. Their medium may be different, but the message is the same: Westport needs creativity on all fronts to fuel its distinctive advantages.

    At a time at which I know dozens of Westporters who are underemployed or underemployed, any advantage that we can give to our citizens through programs that can lead to better jobs and new companies that create better jobs is all to our advantage. I applaud our library and community leaders who have been brave enough to strike out in this bold direction. Why wait for others to catch up – Westport can go places now!

  9. maxine bleiweis

    Public libraries are challenged to serve all the people who need and want to use them within their space. On any given day, 1400 people come into the Westport Library to read, study, learn, reflect, discuss issues, practice language conversation skills, devise business plans, meet others and attend programs.

    The Westport Library has spaces designated as quiet for most hours of the week overlooking the Saugatuck River. The children’s library also has quiet spaces along the river.

    But the largest space has always been acoustically lively despite efforts to mitigate it. Depending on the activity level in the library, that space can be quiet or not. The simple acts of staff answering incoming calls, helping someone find a book, or explaining how to navigate the print and electronic resources can be overheard. We work with what we have right now, but the option of not going forward to bring Westport the best learning environment and new things to discover is not one this community has indicated it wants to select.

    I invite people who want a quiet space to seek out the rooms along the river. And for those who want a break from that quiet, come and check out the new Maker Space and other services.

    As always, I welcome the opportunity to talk. Email me, Library Director Maxine Bleiweis at mbleiweis@westportlibrary.org.

  10. With its sinking upper parking lot, maybe an outdoor pool after heavy rains?. Hey, this is a library, not a Pratt & Whitney ,manufacturing site!

  11. Why not swap the second floor balcony books with the Maker Space. At least, it would make the second floor books more easily available, especially when the elevator ain’t running