It was this week back in 2005 when the newly refurbished, modernized and enlarged Centennial branch of the Winnipeg Public library re-opened as the Millennium Library.
A new floor had been added and a wall of windows replaced the entire back wall of the building. The light from the south east exposure illuminated every nook and cranny of the new library and enthralled everyone.
The renamed library boasted more of everything. A designated teen space, a Children’s Services Department, Aboriginal resource areas and a new auditorium were just a few of the new features.
Of course there were more books, computers and audio visual materials. The library increased the number of computers significantly in order to meet the changing needs of its patrons in a digital age.
In eleven years, things have changed.
Maker culture has arrived at the library.
Mobile Maker programming has been offered since 2013. If you’ve picked up Winnipeg Public Library’s free publication “At The Library” you’ll have seen classes like, Making With Magformers – “Get creative and make with Magformers magnetic construction sets. Build 3D creatures, cars, robots and rockets…or anything you imagine!”
It was highlighted this time last year when Millennium Library hosted a Maker Faire with many stations throughout the library to showcase the various Maker courses on offer and to celebrate the branch’s 10th anniversary. It was a resounding success with patrons enjoying the hands-on activities.
Branch libraries run any one of many different “Maker Kits In a Box” courses. Millennium Library then sends out a box of supplies or kit for each patron enrolled in the course. Paper Circuits, Cubelets Robotics, Making With Magformers and Lego Mindstormer all sound fun.
The Paper Circuits course is a little more traditional. It teaches you how to make light up Christmas cards with simple circuits using copper tape and LEDs.
Jar Lights is a basic Maker class currently offered where you combine a simple circuit with a jar to make an illuminated light that can be used as a holiday decoration.
Hidden Poetry is a decidedly non technical class. Uncovering “hidden” poetry involves blacking out most of the words on a page of a book, magazine or newspaper so that the remaining words that are visible become your poem.
Friends of the Winnipeg Public Library donated $5000 in September 2015 so the library could purchase more Magformer and Lego Mindstorm kits. They know that through these programs the library connects the community to expertise, information and resources that foster innovation and life-long learning.
Why are libraries focusing on new technologies instead of just lending books?
Transliteracy means being literate across many platforms. It’s no longer enough just to know Microsoft Office and be able to read. With all the recent tech advances, people are shooting videos on their cellphones, are always connected and sometimes know how to produce a mini version of themselves on a 3D printer.
Especially for youth, if you don’t have a basic understanding of the new technologies, you’re in danger of falling behind.
In order to engage the community and help patrons learn through active participation, the Millennium Library’s new Makerspace is slated to open next spring.
A Makerspace is a community operated work space where people with common interests, often in computers, machining, technology, science, digital art or electronic art can meet, socialize and collaborate. They are for people of all ages and with any skill level.
The new Makerspace will take up 3,500 sq ft. on the third floor where the digital media desk and the storage behind it is located for now.
Following Edmonton Public Library’s lead, the power supply will be wired on a grid with retractable power sources a foot apart in the ceiling. This allows for re-configuration of computers and other furnishings if for example someone was filming a movie or building a robot. It also lets numerous patrons plug in without power cords getting in everyone’s way.
There are slated to be at least two 3D printers as no Makerspace today would be complete without them.
The library is purchasing two prefab sound booths for podcasts and any type of recording. Two green screens will let people make some really interesting video. An interactive projector purchased with the help of Friends of the Winnipeg Public Library will turn a whiteboard into a giant table to use as an interactive white space.
Ten Makey Makey stations which connect to computers will let people do weird and experimental things like make an electric keyboard using bananas for the keys. It’s been called an invention set for the 21st century.
Many of the computers will be equipped with high-end creative software that can also be be used for software development.
It’s not going to be all high-tech. There will be digital conversion that will let patrons convert VHS and cassette tapes to CDs.
Crafters and visual artists will have a separate space with a sink and tile floor for easy cleanup. Friends of the Winnipeg Public Library will again be enriching the library by helping to purchase four sewing machines for the space.
No one will be thrown into an empty room without skills to use the new equipment. Library staff have held several Maker Faires of their own to become familiar with the new technologies and processes. As well, there will be a classroom area with ongoing classes, courses and demos.
One of the tenets of Makerspace culture is that it is collaborative learning so members of the community will be welcome to teach what they know.
If you want an introduction to the future, there will be an Intro to 3D Modelling class held at Millennium this Saturday 1-4 p.m. There will be lots of theory but you will also be introduced to free SketchUp design software to learn the basics of creating a 3D model. You will then see your own customized key chain being printed as Maker courses are always hands-on.
There is no charge for the class as all Maker programming is free to library patrons. When the new Makerspace opens in the spring you’ll be able to use all the new technologies for free (except for a small charge for materials used).
Thank you to Theresa Lomas, Administrative Coordinator of Information and Virtual Services at Winnipeg Public Library for showing me the space and describing the new Makerspace project. Many library patrons, myself included, are eagerly awaiting the opening slated for next spring.