US: Library revolutionized: New space ‘sparks’ learning

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Imagine this: you walk into a room filled with some of the latest technologies, tools, and software available. You can design a cup to accommodate an individual with Parkinson’s and have it in your hands moments later after printing it on a 3D printer. You can record a demo in a professional sound booth to launch your singing career. You can make buttons to support a grassroots movement. You can sew a blanket, edit photos, design ads, solder jewelry, and even create an intricately carved wood piece with a computerized router. All of this is offered for free, or at a low material cost, and is just a small snapshot of what’s possible within this space.

What is this place? A makerspace.

A makerspace is an area dedicated to education through creation, where users can imagine, explore, and collaborate in hands-on learning, design, and production. The Dayton area is getting its first makerspace this spring, and its location may surprise you: the library.

The Greene County Public Library is unveiling its 760 square foot makerspace, called Spark Place, on April 11.

“Dayton has a history of inventing and making—the concept of makerspaces fits in very well with our community,” says Cara Kouse, innovation and makerspace manager at the Greene County Public Library.

The makerspace movement also aligns with the library’s mission to provide education and literacy to the community. Spark Place will teach patrons important skills that can be used in the workforce—from drafting and design, to the hands-on work of crafting circuit boards.

“One of the goals of the Greene County Public Library is to stimulate imagination and lifelong learning,” says Karl Colón, executive director of the Greene County Public Library. “Spark Place does this by connecting learners of all ages with a critical new literacy, using advanced technologies to reshape the world.”

The Greene County Public Library will have trained staff available to help people use all technologies and resources within Spark Place. “We invested in the space and the equipment but also in the staffing to ensure community members will have access to expert instruction,” says Kouse.

Regular classes will be offered at the Greene County Public Library beginning in the summer and will provide instruction on how to use equipment and create products. Each of the system’s seven community locations will benefit from Spark Place through rotational programming and mobile kits, called Spark Kits, that will share advanced technologies.

“We can help everyone from students, to small and emerging businesses, to adults who are looking for added skill sets or career changes,” says Kouse. “It is important to offer access from a young age, all the way through to the more mature population. We want everyone to be able to come in and get what they need out of the space.”

The Greene County Public Library and Spark Place are open to all Ohio residents. You just need to get a Greene County Public Library card, which can be acquired with a photo ID, proof of Ohio address, and completing a short application.

“Having a makerspace in our community will give everyone the chance to explore the kind of creativity that made the Miami Valley a global leader in invention,” says Colón. “Spark Place shows that the library is more than a place to take in ideas: it is a place to cultivate them and share them with the world.”

The Greene County Public Library and Spark Place are located at 76 East Market Street in Xenia. Other Greene County Public Library locations include Beavercreek, Bellbrook, Cedarville, Fairborn, Jamestown and Yellow Springs.