Editorial: Arlington Heights' big, new Makerplace fits library mission

Arlington Heights' new Makerplace fits libraries' mission of information, innovation

  • The Arlington Heights Memorial Library Makerplace, shown in this sketch, will be the largest stand-alone makerspace in the country.

    The Arlington Heights Memorial Library Makerplace, shown in this sketch, will be the largest stand-alone makerspace in the country. Courtesy of Arlington Heights Memorial Library

 
The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Posted6/3/2021 1:00 AM

How is a sewing machine or a 3D printer like a book?

Suburban libraries have plenty of answers to that question as they outfit so-called makerspaces with equipment intended -- like books -- to offer public access to new ideas, promote learning and innovation, and share a wide selection of items among people who otherwise wouldn't have them.

 

It's not so different from the philosophy of 150 years ago and the civic sentiments that led to the spread of public book-lending libraries across the land.

Now, Arlington Heights is opening one of the most ambitious makerspaces, housed in 8,000 square feet in a 69-year-old building that's come full circle since it was built as the village's original stand-alone library, as Daily Herald reporter Christopher Placek wrote.

The renowned main library now occupies a huge building a few blocks away, and the Arlington Heights Memorial Library Makerplace is about to become the largest self-standing makerspace in the country, Debbie Smart, longtime Arlington Heights library board trustee said.

Need a sewing machine and electric fabric cutter to start a quilt or a soldering iron to create jewelry? Looking to experiment with a 3D printer or laser cutter? The Makerplace will have the equipment.

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Contemplating a food startup? There's even a commercial kitchen that will be available for rent.

The "maker" concept isn't entirely foreign to libraries that long have placed art supplies and blocks in children's areas and years ago added computers and internet for community use.

And it's not new that they're branching out. Libraries in the suburbs check out telescopes, Roku streaming devices, ukuleles, board games, art work, tools and more.

The shared approach has appeal for those with an environmental mindset who don't want to accumulate a host of belongings.

But the Arlington Heights Makerplace is a big step up -- one that other suburban libraries will be watching.

Some of the equipment might seem novel, but it doesn't have to be intimidating. Residents can take a tour (they begin Aug. 1), sign up for demonstrations and lessons, visit to see what others are making and try out some of the offerings.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"It's a place for trying new things or honing a craft. It's a place for art, design, crafting, creating, learning, sharing ideas," library director of communications and marketing Mary Hastings said.

But what about the books?

Arlington Heights Memorial Library certainly isn't giving up on literature in all its hard copy and online formats. One library facility isn't meant to replace the other.

It's no surprise that we at the Daily Herald are big fans of the ability of the written word to enrich lives, broaden minds, solve problems and share ideas. But it's not the only way.

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