Ela Area Public Library opens its Forge makerspace lab
Makerspaces are popping up in libraries throughout the country and around the world.
One of the latest to latch onto the trend is the Ela Area Public Library in Lake Zurich, which held the grand opening Sunday for its new Forge makerspace lab.
Makerspaces allow library patrons to transcend their traditional role as users and tap into their creativity by actually making things.
On Sunday, Ela rolled out the technology that will enable this transformation to take place, including a 3-D printer that even contains 3-D-printed parts, a Silhouette Cameo vinyl cutter that creates computer- generated signs, cards and designs you can literally stamp onto a wall, and a sewing machine.
There also are kits for learning about circuitry, programming and electronics.
"It's a place where people can come and learn and design, create and build many different kinds of objects," said Matt Womack, the library's executive director.
A major inspiration for Ela's space was a public library Womack visited in Denmark in 2013.
One of the things that impressed him, he said, was the fact that the makerspace wasn't tucked away in an obscure nook in the library, but was front and center.
"It was so much fun to see people of all generations, all ages, all interests working together on projects," he said.
The makerspace at Ela is located right where patrons of all ages access materials.
"Forge was created with this specific community in mind," said Leah White, head of popular materials and manager of the makerspace. "The patrons of our library are already makers. We serve so many artists and engineers and crafters and programmers, and people who are into technology, and people who are into the arts.
"This space is also for people who just don't know that they are makers yet," she added.
Many visitors on Sunday clustered about the LulzBot Mini 3-D printer.
Since many of its parts are 3-D printed, replacements can be printed if something breaks down.
Among the curious were Lake Zurich resident James Polites, who visited with sons Daniel, 13, and Joey, 8.
"I'm an engineer," he said. "We have a 3-D Printer at work, and it's exciting to see some of this kind of stuff."
"This is a great place for the kids to learn some new activities," added Kim Bettasso, whose 3-year-old daughter, Isobel, was working with a Rainbow Loom, which makes bracelets and necklaces out of rubber bands.
Jean Weichel, who lives across the street in Zurich Meadows, a senior housing complex, was fascinated by the sewing machine.
"This is really fantastic. It is so amazing for a library to offer all of this," she said.