Library makerspaces offer public opportunity to create, innovate

ST. GEORGE — Not everyone has access to a 3D printer, laser cutter, soldering equipment or other tools that can help with the production of small-scale projects — or potentially create the “next big thing” that could prove highly innovative. This is why makerspaces are offered to the public across the county by the Washington County Library System.

Guests check out the makerspace at the St. George Library during and open house, St. George, Utah, Jan. 6, 2018 | File photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

“A makerspace is an area where people can go to make, create, to learn, to play with things they wouldn’t normally have access to in their home,” Washington County Library Director Joel Tucker said during a presentation Tuesday before the Washington County Commission.

“It’s a place where people can learn how to use the machines and maybe create the next big thing.”

Tucker compared the library makerspaces to the Dixie State University’s Atwood Innovation Plaza, except on a smaller scale.

Makerspaces are part of the “maker movement” – an encompassing term for people who create, build and innovate, often building small businesses around their products. Makers include independent inventors, tinkerers, designers, crafters, artisans and other innovators.

The library opened its first makerspace in the basement of the St. George branch in the beginning of 2016 as a collaborative effort between the county and the local Utah State University Extension.

Washington County Library Director Joel Tucker addresses the Washington County Commission, Oct. 15, St. George, Utah | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Since then, the library has added additional makerspaces in Santa Clara, Hurricane and other locations. Each space focuses on a different area of production: St. George focuses more on the technological side, while the makerspace in Santa Clara is geared to more crafts-related pursuits and Hurricane caters to sewing and fabric-related projects.

“I didn’t want to do the same thing at each location,” Tucker said. “It allows Washington County residents to come in and use the makerspace that they are interested in. If you live in Santa Clara but want to work on a sewing project, you just drive a little ways to Hurricane and check out their library.”

While there currently is not a makerspace at the Washington City library branch, Tucker said there are plans to expand the library to include a makerspace focused on audio-visual production.

A part of the makerspace at the Hurricane library, Hurricane, Utah, July 31, 2019 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

For the smaller libraries that do not have the space for a dedicated makerspace, Tucker said those locations have mobile makerspaces – basically a cart with a 3D printer and a virtual reality system attached.

County Commissioner Dean Cox said he is amazed by what technology can do, and he complimented the library system for their efforts in keeping up with trends.

“I think the library is doing an excellent job of staying abreast of the rapidly evolving technological revolution we’re experiencing,” Cox said.

Along with the makerspaces, the libraries also offer virtual reality headsets that patrons can use in-house to “explore the galaxy from the library,” Tucker said, and in addition to the traditional catalog of books, the libraries also feature a growing collection of e-books and e-audiobooks, portable telescopes, Go-Pro cameras and other services.

“We’re more than just an internet connection,” Tucker previously stated.

As for the makerspaces, Tucker said the ones hosted by the libraries are an introductory step to the technology and opportunities that can be experienced in greater detail at larger, fee-based facilities like DSU’s Innovation Plaza.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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