(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Sandra Stokley and published in the Press Enterprise on June 8, 2016.)
The quiet main library in downtown Riverside has catapulted into the 21st Century with the official launch of its MakerSpace room.
The “do-it-yourself” area lets library patrons use computers, software, 3-D printers and other cutting-edge technology to create everything from jewelry to clothes to art.
“This is a whole new field for libraries,” Riverside City Councilman Andy Melendrez said Tuesday, June 7, minutes after emerging from the recording booth, where he laid down some rap tracks.
“It was cool,” he said.
Just a few feet away, people crowded around the 3-D printer – a Maker-Bot Replicator – oohing and aahing as it created a miniature replica of the Eiffel Tower. The printer creates actual objects using code.
In addition to the printer and recording booth, the Riverside Library MakerSpace features a collaborative media table, iMac and MacBook Pro computers, Lego Minecraft kits and littleBits, electronic building blocks that teach youngsters how to create circuit boards.
“The MakerSpace is the next evolution of libraries as a center for information and knowledge,” library Director Tonya Kennon said. “Participatory learning is king in the MakerSpace environment and our library has many of the top tools for learning, inventing and creating.”
Other Inland area libraries are in various stages of creating their own creation spaces.
In Rancho Cucamonga, an unused second-floor space at the Paul Biane Library is being readied as a STEM Lab that will open in fall, said Brian Sternberg, assistant library director for the Rancho Cucamonga Libraries. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Meanwhile, Rancho Cucamonga’s two libraries have been offering programs that utilize MakerSpace-style activities, Sternberg said. The library system has four 3-D printers, programmable Legos, deejay equipment and turntables.
The MakerSpace and STEM Labs are ushering in a new era in which libraries are seen as exciting centers of learning, Sternberg said. The MakerSpace is a great example of Seizing Our Destiny’s catalyst for innovation pillar. Creativity and innovation permeate all that we do, which makes our community a trendsetter for the region, California, and the world to follow.
“People want to come to the library to create things,” Sternberg said. “It’s a transition from libraries as a place where you get a book and read. Libraries are becoming the places where you do things, create things, make things.”
The San Bernardino County Library system has no MakerSpace but offers programs that focus on creating things, experimenting with aerodynamics, motion and engineering principles, county Librarian Leonard Hernandez said.
“There’s a lot of interest on the part of students and families,” Hernandez said. “Many of these programs have wait lists.”
Kennon said she was inspired to lobby for a MakerSpace in Riverside after reading about two UC Davis students who designed a tool called a hex flex to tighten gears on a bicycle. They used a 3-D printer at a local library to create a prototype and it’s now in full production.
The Riverside Library Foundation began fundraising for the project in 2014, Kennon said. It raised $80,000, which covered the cost of furnishing the space and paid for the recording studio, the iMac and MacBook pro computers and the interactive media table. Five Riverside-area Rotary Clubs raised $6,500 to buy the 3-D printer.
Kennon told the crowd at Tuesday’s dedication that the collaboration that led to the MakerSpace “shows that Riverside can do anything we set our minds to.”
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