The Corvallis Benton County Public Library has launched a maker space in their downtown Corvallis branch. The newly constructed space will be the home for programs where participants of all ages engage in hands-on activities exploring science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics. Using low-tech crafting techniques blended with technology, the makers create items ranging from fun to functional.
“The only limit is the imagination. This space offers the public an opportunity to create and to explore different ways of learning,” explained Andrew Cherbas, the library’s Deputy Director for Public Services. “People have been asking for a maker space… I can’t wait to see what people construct and create.”
He mentioned that the library seeks input from the community about what kind of tools, equipment and programming they would like to use and experience in the Maker Space.
The facility currently includes access to 3D printers, Chromebooks, a vinyl cutter, Raspberry Pi, 3D pens, and a variety of tools and supplies. In addition, kids learn basic circuitry and robotics using child-friendly robotics and circuitry kits like Dash, Dot and Ozobots.
Makers are not new to the library. The Corvallis library hosts twice-monthly Makers Club events while the Philomath branch holds them monthly. Activities include learning circuitry, robotics, creating 3D designs, and trying out VR goggles. Each club session involves a takeaway making activity where attendees make items like LED bracelets or mini-catapults.
Digital Services Coordinator Jesse Adams said anywhere from 30-60 people attend each family-friendly session with most of the participants being kids aged 6 through 12. He hopes the highly visible new space will inspire even more people to give it a try.
Adams compared the new Maker Space to a tech petting zoo where people create and experiment together.
“I am always surprised at how quickly the kids get into it,” said Adams. “But the best part is when you see a parent get down on their knees to join in. The learning curve is wildly low for the basics.”
“We are trying to make it easy for people to jump in,” said Cherbas, “We learn a lot from failure. No one starts as an expert, we learn as we go.”
Future plans may include open lab style drop-in hours once staffing is available as well as regular events. Cherbas and Adams both serve on the board of annual Corvallis Maker Fair known as The Co. They said they support other local maker programs and see the library’s space as a gateway to learning and making.
The Maker Space was funded by a mixture of public and private sources. Corvallis-Benton County Library Director Ashlee Chavez said the recently constructed space was the result of planning, designing and budgeting that started over four years ago. According to the City of Corvallis 2019-2020 budget, $55,000 was allocated for its construction.
Additional private funding came from the Friends of the Library and the Library Foundation. These organizations purchased much of the program’s equipment, STEAM education supplies, and furniture.
The Friends of the Library’s support also enables the library to offer free 3D printing to members of the community. Kids and adults send design plans to the library to print. Adams who manages the 3D printing program said they print an eclectic range of items including board game pieces, items for classroom activities and even functional items like adapters and replacement parts.
The Corvallis Library Maker clubs meet the second and fourth Tuesday of each month. The next Corvallis event is Tuesday, January 28 from 5:30 to 7:00 P.M. For details about maker events in Corvallis and other library branches visit them online at cbcpubliclibrary.net.
By Samantha Sied