...or why your library may soon have a 3-D printerVENTNOR – With the Internet becoming the prime source for timely information gathering, libraries across the nation are evolving into more collaborative learning environments called “makerspaces.”

Sometimes called hackerspaces and fablabs, makerspaces are public places, such as libraries, where people can create, invent and learn in an open environment using shared tools and resources for their own unique area of interest. The trend is redefining the delivery of library services and providing tools for people who can’t afford them or don’t have enough creative space at home.

The makerspace trend sweeping the nation means fewer books and more room to learn.

“It’s a new role for libraries,” Atlantic County Library/Ventnor branch manager Kim Stringer said. “Most people get their information from the Internet, so we no longer have to stock bookcases filled with out-of-date reference books. We are changing and adapting to the needs of the community, and, we have lots of space on our second floor.”

The Ventnor library celebrated New Jersey Makers Day on March 21 by hosting a showing of a YouTube video by videographer David Lee King who explains what makerspace is all about.

Children decorated and raced little “brushbots” they made from electric toothbrush heads and batteries.

“That’s the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) part of makerspace,” Stringer said.

Another activity had them “coding” jewelry. Stringer said children were asked to come up with a sequence of numbers, assigning a color to each number. The color-coded numbers were represented by different colored beads, which they strung in sequence to make a bracelet.

“It was like baby coding,” Stringer said.

Each branch of the Atlantic County Library System will determine what will be included in their own makerspace based on what the community wants, Stringer said.

“We are going to be doing a survey to find out what Ventnor people want in their makerspace,” she said.

The Hammonton branch has embraced STEM through a donation of a 3-D printer.

Earlier this year, Ventnor put out a call for pre-1985 sewing machines with all metal parts and had several donated. Now the library is looking for a volunteer to teach sewing in the fall.

 “This is the new trend in libraries,” the library system’s Community Relations Manager Bev Bird said. “It’s responding to what whatever the community is looking for. The trend is just hitting our part of the world.”

Makerspaces tools can range from mandolins for musicians and power tools for builders, to computers for gamers and craft supplies for artists. Users include children, parents, families, seniors, business people and inventors.

“Having this type of equipment in our libraries makes sense because libraries are centers of community,” Bird said.

“We need to find out what kind of activities and tools our community groups and residents are interested in. Do they want to learn Bonsai or use a 3-D printer,” Stringer said.

The library currently hosts a chess club, knitting group and has a fledgling writers group looking for more participants.

The Ventnor library, 6500 Atlantic Ave., will celebrate National Library Week April 12-18 with a presentation on makerspace.

“Why Your Library May Soon Have a 3-D Printer” will take place 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 15. The program is open to adults and teens. Participants explore the future of libraries and new ideas that are transforming libraries from information centers to creative centers and discuss possible new directions for the library branch. The program includes an introduction on the use of 3-D printers and laser cutters in libraries, as well as a discussion of makerspaces. Light refreshments will be served. Call the library at 609-823-4614.

...or why your library may soon have a 3-D printer