Riverside Public Library unveils its new makerspace, The Spot 


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May 20, 2023

Riverside Public Library unveils its new makerspace, The Spot 

Back in 2017 when Riverside Public Library officials were finalizing plans to

Back in 2017 when Riverside Public Library officials were finalizing plans to renovate the building's lower level, setting aside a dedicated area for a makerspace was not part of the plan.

At the time, makerspaces were still a novel idea in the library world, and according to Library Director Janice Foley, creating such a space was not something she’d heard much interest in.

That's changed.

Last month, Riverside Public Library unveiled its new makerspace, which it has dubbed "The Spot," in what is the rear half of the expanded public meeting room that was part of the 2017 renovation design.

"Libraries are not just books anymore," said Jordan Bravo, coordinator for The Spot, who also works as a librarian in Information Services. He's assisted by Children and Youth Services librarian Nikki Duran.

The devices in the space include 3-D printers, a Glowforge, a mold maker, a Cricut machine, an embroidery machine, a bookbinding machine, a button maker/graphic punch, desktop computers and lighting and greenscreen equipment for photo and video projects.

"I based everything off of research I’ve done on other makerspaces, not just in this area but across the country, because I really wanted to see what people really were using," Bravo said. "I just wanted space where people could come and be creative."

Anyone wishing to use The Spot's devices must make an appointment, which can be done at riversidelibrary.org/spot, where there is also information about the devices available, user guides written by Bravo and how-to videos.

"I really want this space to be where people can come in with their ideas and execute them," Bravo said. "I’ve made sure that if someone wanted to use [a device] they have everything they needed to come in here and just execute their dream design."

Diane Silva, the library's assistant director and information services manager who played a key role in creating the makerspace, said much of the software needed to create designs that are executed on makerspace devices is web-based and free of charge. People can use their own computers to make their designs or use the ones in the makerspace.

"The beauty of all this technology is that it's been around so long that you really don't have to design from scratch," Silva said. "There's free stuff all over the place for the Glowforge and 3D printer that you can download."

The dedicated makerspace also gives the library a place to host classes. Silva said the makerspace has 10 laptop computers that can be used for those classes. This summer the library will offer, for example, a 3D printing minicamp for kids and a Cricut minicamp for adults.

"So, kids can take a three-week course and Jordan and Nikki will teach them how to use the 3D printer, how to use Tinkercad [3D modeling software] to design a maze that then they can build and print with the 3D printer," Silva said.

Unlike some library makerspaces, The Spot as presently configured is a bit makeshift – having been assembled outside of the library's 2017 plan. But that will change later this year.

Later this month or in early June, the Riverside Public Library will seek bids to renovate The Spot to give it a real sense of purpose and belonging. A moveable wall separating it from the main meeting room means the entire space can be enlarged for bigger events, but the intention is to keep it a dedicated space day to day.

Part of the carpeting will be removed and replaced with laminate flooring that's easier to maintain, and new tabletop work surfaces will be installed, along with built-in storage for equipment and materials.

The makerspace renovation is part of a larger project that will include the creation of a private two-person study room inside what is now a storage space and the construction of a partial wall to screen the genealogy area from the corridor to the restrooms.

Work is slated to start later this year, Foley said, and be completed in late 2023 or early 2024.

The improvements will be funded out of the nearly $250,000 remaining from a $1.5 million bond issue approved by voters in 2020 to renovate the lower level. Last November, the Riverside Village Board, through whom the bond had to be issued, voted to allow the library board to use the leftover funds for additional lower-level improvements.