MakerSpace: 3 Years Old (And 3.0)

It’s a toss-up who’s more passionated about the MakerSpace: Bill Derry, or the thousands of people of all ages who have embraced it as their own.

Derry is the Westport Library’s director of innovation. The MakerSpace is the large area in its Great Hall where an eclectic, ever-changing group gathers for creation, collaboration and entrepreneurship.

The Westport Library's Makerspace has a prominent position in the midst of the Great Hall.

The Library’s MakerSpace has a prominent position in the midst of the Great Hall.

Many folks — devoted users and head-scratching passersby alike — see technology and construction in the MakerSpace, and think of it as a place for “things.” But it’s also a tight-knit community — and a place where lives are changed.

Age does not matter there. Youngsters teach adults — including some old enough to be their great-grandparents — how to use 3-D printers and gaming consoles. Doing so, they gain important skills like public speaking. By thinking about how to teach, they crystallize their own ideas.

They also gain plenty of confidence.

A middle school MakerSpace aficionado spent 2 days teaching librarians how to create and print 3D models.

An older teenager built a gaming computer in front of an audience, then was invited to teach (for pay) at Southern Connecticut State University.

A boy who has difficulty speaking stands eagerly in front of an inter-generational audience. His speech problem vanishes at the MakerSpace.

Young people teach -- and learn from -- older ones in the MakerSpace.

Young people teach — and learn from — older ones in the MakerSpace.

That collaborative, across-age-lines sharing excites Derry. “Big companies talk about new ways of working — bringing together a musician and an engineer, for example,” the innovation guru says.

“That’s exactly what we’re doing here.”

The MakerSpace has been around long enough — 3 years — that some of its most avid users have moved on. One is studying engineering at NYU; another attends Lehigh University.

“It’s like any graduation,” Derry says. “We’re sad to see them go, and there’s a real feeling of leaving a community. But we’re happy they’re in a new and challenging place.”

MakerSpace users are not the only ones leaving the Westport Library. On October 31, Derry himself retires.

Bill Derry

Bill Derry

He’s had an “incredible” run, he says. His fulfilling career at the Library followed 3 years as information technology coordinator for the Westport school system, and 6 as library media coordinator at Greens Farms Elementary School.

Now he’s ready for the next challenge.

Before he goes though, there’s one more big event. On Thursday and Friday, September 24-25, the Westport Library sponsors “MakerSpace 3.0: Retinkering Libraries.” Panels will focus on imagination, education, economic development, and community engagement. On Saturday, September 26, there’s an optional bus trip to the New York World Maker Faire.

The public is invited to the bus trip (registration required). Including, of course, all the young people who make the MakerSpace such an exciting and innovative place.

11 responses to “MakerSpace: 3 Years Old (And 3.0)

  1. Bill is an amazing man. Having seen his work when he was with the Westport Public Schools and worked with him extensively during his tenure at the Library, I can attest to his contributions to the Town over many years.

    My most extensive experience with Bill is working with him as co-chair of the Westport Mini Maker Faire that started as a crazy idea that has grown to 6,500 attendees in its fourth annual event earlier this year, the largest event in Connecticut focused on creativity and innovation, and the catalyst for countless programs at the Library, community organizations, schools and even job creation.

    But Bill’s skills extend far beyond maker-related activities. In his role as Director of Innovation, Bill has had a major impact on all of the Library’s programs and has contributed significantly to the Library’s prominence on the world stage for how to evolve libraries into community powerhouses.

  2. Beth Goldstein

    Oh no, say it can’t be so… Congrats Bill! Westport is losing one of it’s BEST EDUCATORS EVER! HUGE, FUN retirement party is a must!

  3. Bobbi Essagof (Mrs. Essagof)

    Bill Derry is best teacher I have ever had. Working as Bill’s assistant for 6 years was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I learned more working for/with Bill than I did in all my years as a “student” Bill turned the GFS LMC into a magical place and I often said working there was a mixture of Disneyland and a Broadway show. Thanks for all the fun and memories. Can’t wait to see what’s next and don’t forget I’m always available to be your assistant again! Westport should not worry about losing you because you’ll be back!

  4. Steven Halstead

    I have known Bill from my Board of Ed experience and at the Library as well. Bill is a special person who always leaves a place better than he found it.
    Thank you Bill for your boundless energy, creativeness and inspiration.

  5. Bravo, Bill! You had a vision of what could be and helped to make it come true for the benefit of hundreds of Westport citizens young and old. What a fantastic legacy to leave behind when you leave this position.

  6. Bill has ignited so much creativity and innovation during his tenure at the Westport Library. Even more significant is the feeling of community and connection that he fosters, every single day, with old friends and new folks. Bill has been amazing to work with in the Maker Space, as part of the Westport Mini Maker Faire, in the Westport School District – so many roles! We adore Bill so much that we asked him to marry us! (As our officiant, of course…) THANK YOU, BILL! You are irrepressible and irreplacable!

  7. Jennifer Bangser

    That’s my nephew, Mathew Griffin, a Maker Space teacher and Coleytown Middle School Student, picture in the above photo!

  8. Thanks Dan! .. and to all who commented! Very appreciative — overwhelmed — and fully aware any success I have had is due to the good fortune of working with so many great people– Most recently from Maxine, the staff of the Westport library, the IMLS, many patrons and all of the coaches and users of the MakerSpace!!!!!! I have truly enjoyed my work in Westport.

  9. I’ve gotten to know Bill through my own kids and the students I coach on a FIRST Robotics team. Bill is an incredible resource. To him, no idea is a poor one, but every idea is one that he can help make bigger, better, and more successful! When the team asked if we could use the McManus room for a demonstration this summer, Bill said ‘the McManus room is booked, but why don’t you hold the demonstration in the Great Hall?’ He made it happen, and the results were amazing. People wandered by, and stopped to look, and next thing we knew there were two year olds and ninety year olds interacting with and driving robots.
    This is only one little example of Bill’s contagious enthusiasm and willingness to put the library and its equipment in the hands of anyone interested, and then to encourage them to do something new and creative. Thanks, Bill, we’ll miss you!

    Terry Sauer

  10. A visionary leader does more than establish goals, strategies, or mission statements, rather is persistently thinking about what an organization can be rather than what it is. That’s Bill Derry! With his infectious optimism for new possibilities, his enthusiasm for new ideas, and his knack for anticipating new trends and opportunities, Bill has shown us how libraries can ignite learning by leveraging their connections, capacities, and assets. He’s made an enormous contribution to the Westport Library’s flexibility in meeting the challenges of an ever-changing world.

    Although my time working with Bill will be brief, I know that I speak for many when I say that we will miss working alongside someone we trust, admire, believe in, and respect as much as we do Bill.

    Bill has indicated a reluctance to have a farewell party, however in staying true with Bill’s uniqueness and spirit of reinvention, I think we have convinced him to participate in having an “anti-party,” with a possible tie-in to the Halloween season. Stay tuned for developments!

  11. My son Miles started working in the Maker Space over two years ago, and from the beginning Bill was his friend, mentor, and champion. The things that Miles has learned in that space, and at Maker events outside the Library (and even out of Westport!), has been amazing: of course the different technologies, but also the chance to teach, to lead and to grow. Bill, we will miss you and wish you the very best of luck!