I caught up recently with the staff at Pikes Peak Library District (PPLD) in Colorado to learn more about their 21st century Maker spaces. PPLD’s Travis Duncan said, “We want to be on the forefront of continuing to make public libraries useful for their patrons in the tech age. This means in part, rethinking the ways in which we’ll serve our community. We need and want to be more than a repository of information… and to become useful as a community lab where new content of all kinds can be created, providing public access to the tools and resources of content creation.”
PPLD’s overall $13 million renovation of three library facilities includes the creation of a business center, a job search and career assistance center, computer labs, children’s education spaces, community meeting spaces, and the Creative Computer Commons (or C3) at Pikes Peak’s Library 21c. As described on their website:
C3 is a combination of spaces and resources dedicated to building skills, developing content, and encouraging enterprise. C3 has a Business and Entrepreneurial Center, Public Media Center, Makerspaces, gaming labs, galleries, and a large venue. It is populated by the latest technologies, exceptional professional staff, and cutting edge materials.
Becca Cruz manages the daily use of the Maker spaces, which opened about one year ago to the public. “We have two spaces,” explained Becca. “Make I is intended for creative projects that do not require hand or power tools, and so there you’ll find equipment such as sewing machines, soldering irons, glue guns, knitting looms, a stamp heating tool, and a wide variety of crafting tools.”
Make II is intended for fabrication projects that require hand or power tools, emit fumes, or use advanced machinery. That’s where you’ll find the ShopBot Desktop CNC along with…
• Epilog Zing 16 laser cutter
• Makerbot Z18
• Makerbot Replicator 5th generation 3D printer
• Afinia H480 3D printer
• Lulzbot TAZ 4 3D printer
• and other power tools and hand tools
PPLD’s Dan Raffin assists patrons with the use of the tools in Make II. Dan explained, “In some cases, I may just guide the patron. And in cases such as the ShopBot Desktop, I’ll do some of the fabrication work for the patron. It depends upon how comfortable the individual is with using the technology.”
The Maker space hosts regularly scheduled demonstrations of the equipment to introduce the community at large to the technology and encourage trial of the tools. Asked to describe some of the people he has assisted, Dan said, “The overall space is open to people ages 9 and up (with adult supervision for the young people). In Make II, the users tend to be folks in their 40’s, 50’s and up, equally men and women.”
Dan described some of the work being done on the ShopBot. “A woman came in, needing to cut parts for toys she’s designed. Another came in to cut out a sign she had designed. And recently a man visited the space who had designed a waterproof plexiglass container for his scuba camera gear. He wants to place a monitor underwater; so he cut out the pieces of plexiglass on our laser cutter, and then, to cut grooves in that plexi for the rubber gasketing, I helped him use the ShopBot Desktop.”
“So far, the CNC tool has been somewhat underutilized,” continued Dan. “I think this is because CNC technology is not all that well known. I’m hopeful that our continuing demonstrations will change this. Events like Maker Faires are a huge boost to public awareness.” To that point, last October, PPLD and the Colorado Springs Science Center co-hosted Colorado Springs’ first Mini Maker Faire, boasting more than 60 makers and 6,000 attendees at Library 21c.
The staff at PPLD report that interest and patronage continues to build for the two Maker spaces. They noted that there’s recently been interest expressed by an established manufacturer to support training there on the Desktop CNC and other digital fabrication tools for potential employees; as is often the case around the country, there are too few Americans being trained with the skills needed to perform 21st-century manufacturing tasks — and PPLD could help fill that gap.
We’ll close with a video that PPLD created to show off their new spaces…