Contact: Julianne Rist, Julianne.email@example.com
Community Partners: SparkFun Electronics, Warren Tech High School, Conoctory
In 2013 Jefferson County Public Library launched MakeSomething a Maker program envisioned as more than a place, more than a program, but a movement that organically creates a partnership between the library and the community.
MakeSomething formed when we were approach by SparkFun Electronics, a local firm doing national outreach to libraries around coding and creation. Our original target audience was teens which quickly evolved into intergenerational audiences, mostly families with school-aged kids learning to make together. Our program doesn’t have dedicated room or expensive equipment but still has been able to engage and promote STEM learning for all ages.
Classes are planned on a theme with each class having an open lab where people can practice new skills or help others learn. Participants learn the basics of how circuits work in the etextile programs where they make things light up with the simple circuits they build. They learn soldering skills and coding as they “pimp” their holiday lights. People not only learn about such things as squishy circuits, Makey Makey & Arduino boards in class, but they can also check out Inventor Kits to practice their new skills at home. All of the software we use is open source so that anyone in the community has access. No one needs to purchase their own software or equipment – our effort to ensure that anyone can participate and make something. Our environment supports creative collaborations, cooperative learning, and the importance of understanding the why and how behind technology.
MakeSomething became a new way to bring information and action together - a way for the library’s function to come alive in the community. The partnership formed between the library and an electronics firm expanded to the technical high school and then to a local hacker startup. The electronics firm donated hardware and provided training to library employees and the high school students, increasing technical competencies and forming new relationships between the technical community and the library. The partnership with the startup provided them a venue to showcase their hackerspace concepts and provided the library with outside expertise to support fledgling makers.
A new cadre of volunteers, students and library staff who are able to support creation by teaching free programs on coding, electronics and engineering was created. High school students gained experience working with an electronics company and built self-esteem and confidence by engaging with and teaching others in classes. Many of our individual programs are sponsored or taught by local businesses, creating another link from the library to the community. Another positive outcome of this initiative is the engagement between child and caregiver, particularly dads and their kids. The Maker movement has opened a door to some dads who had never been to the library with their child before: jeffcolibrary.org.