The Simsbury Public Library held an idea session on Nov. 7 to discuss the possibility of creating a space at the Library for innovation and creativity. A variety of community members, library and town staff were in attendance. Simsbury students, representatives from Simsbury Public Schools, Ethel Walker School and the leader of MakerHartford, the Hartford MakerSpace group also attended.
A number of public libraries have begun programs to enable innovation such as MakerSpaces. MakerSpaces are collaborative work spaces which foster hands-on learning and the sharing of knowledge and problem solving between individuals. MakerSpaces take on a wide range of forms, many focusing on technology such as 3D printers, however, others provide a variety of other options, including woodworking tools and hands-on learning projects. The success of the Westport Library’s MakerSpace is known internationally.
Library Director Lisa Karim noted that “Today libraries are about making connections. MakerSpaces help make those connections. Additionally, they support the new Common Core standards; the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) curriculum, economic development, and entrepreneurship, while also fostering inter-generational interaction.” She continues, “MakerSpaces have proven to engage middle schoolers, nontraditional library users, in the public library, and have the kids teaching adults how to use new technology, therefore building the confidence and abilities of both groups.”
Library Board Chair Marianne O’Neil added that the Library’s current Vision Statement lays a foundation for a MakerSpace. In fact, Simsbury Public Library programs already allow people to learn in the Library. There are piano lessons, craft groups and children’s cooking programs.
“The Business Resource Center fosters collaborations and connections with people," she said. "The Technology Learning Center enables people to connect electronically to the world. A MakerSpace is the next step – we are the stewards of information and access, not just the books. We want to enable all residents to access information and create an environment for learning. People think outside of the box when they’re leveraging off of other people. We think this is something that fits in well to our community.”
Idea session participants agreed. Joncia Lytwynec, Director of IT and CTE for Simsbury Schools, was pleased that a MakerSpace at the Library would offer a central location for all elementary school students to work together.
Simsbury High School students Shannon Cirilli and Matt Nardozza were excited by the prospect as the Library being open 7 days a week would offer greater access than the school’s Tech Lab to the technology they need for their projects. It would also allow them more time to dabble and learn outside of the curriculum.
Steve Yanicke of MakeHartford was quick to add that a MakerSpace also serves as “a valuable workforce readiness training tool” and that his group will be available to assist the Simsbury MakerSpace project.
"We believe this project can be a great boost for the Farmington Valley and the Simsbury Public Library" said Trustee Dave Blume.
"Innovation can be a key economic driver for the community" added Tom Cooke, Town of Simsbury Director of Administrative Services.
The next meeting to discuss Simsbury Library’s MakerSpace is scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 5 from 7 to 8 p.m. in the Library’s Program Room 2. Interested individuals are encouraged to attend.
The Simsbury Public Library is open 7 days a week and is located at 725 Hopmeadow St. Find the Library online at simsburylibrary.info.