Arlington Heights library's Makerplace opens: 'Something that no other library has'
Arlington Heights resident Miel Johnson said she can see an immediate if horror-themed benefit from the Arlington Heights Memorial Library's new Makerplace: the ability to create a chain-saw hand to use in a Halloween costume for her son, who is about to turn 13.
"We are going to have the tools to make that here," she said.
Johnson and her family were among the guests attending the grand opening Sunday and touring the new facility at 112 N. Belmont Ave., on the former site of the village's first stand-alone library built in 1952.
They encountered a playground of cutting-edge technology, with rooms that offered not only 3D printers, laser cutters and forming machines, but also sewing machines and a kitchen outfitted with a commercial-grade stove and double oven, a blast chiller, a refrigerator, mixers and a dishwasher.
"I think it's going to be great for my kids, who are very creative, to have a space in the community where they can come and not only build things but also learn a number of things from people who are experts and can share their knowledge," Johnson said.
While other libraries have makerspaces, the Makerplace is something special, Arlington Heights Memorial Library Executive Director Mike Driskell said of the $1.4 million project.
"Being able to have a space -- an 8,000-square-foot makerspace -- is incredible," Driskell told the crowd gathered outside for the dedication. "Most other libraries, they range between a 500-square-foot (building) to maybe a thousand square feet, and they have a couple of 3D printers and a couple other tools. What we have is something that no other library has in this country."
The space and most equipment will be available to visitors from all communities, according to the library.
Users must be 12 years or older to be in the Makerplace without a caregiver. Users under 12 must be accompanied and monitored at all times by a caregiver.
For those who may be new to the concept, Driskell said, "a Makerplace is a place where people can come together, collaborate and turn an idea into something tangible."
Users can cultivate hobbies, build a business or become an entrepreneur.
"They could build something from a trinket or a product to a new recipe, or sew a new pair of jeans," he said. "Our space is here, our staff are here, and we have the tools to be able to help you realize your ideas and your dreams."
Library board President Greg Zyck said the Makerplace will offer opportunities for collaboration with the park district and local school districts, saying that if children want to be chefs, artists or engineers, "this is where they can start."
"We want to help youth build the next generation of makers," he said.
Arlington Heights Mayor Tom Hayes praised the new space.
"This is something great for our community. I would say that the quality of life is second to none here in Arlington Heights. That's because we do think outside the box. We provide something for everybody."