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Makerspace gives Monroe library creative options

February 26, 2019

MONROE — When the pipes burst a Edith Wheeler Memorial Library on Martin Luther King day last year, it was a disaster, destroying furniture, carpeting and flooring in part of library’s first floor. But from that disaster sprang an opportunity, said library director Lorna Rhyins.

“Instead of just putting things back the way they were,” she said. “we wanted to put things back in a way that helps the library meet the new needs of the public we serve.”

That included jumping on a trend that’s been popping up in libraries all over the country over the past few years — makerspaces. These are collaborative workspaces designed to bring together craftspeople to work on a variety of projects. Makerspaces often have areas for sewing, robotics, papercrafts and a variety of other disciplines.

Other Connecticut libraries already have makerspaces, including the Westport Library and the Ferguson Library in Stamford. Rhyins said she’s wanted to put a makerspace in Edith Wheeler for a while, and the fresh start provided by the flooding offered an opportunity.

“We still haven’t actually decided exactly what we’ll do there,” Rhyins said, but added there are lots of possibilities. “People could, for instance, work together to build a drone and that could be the library’s drone.”

To help figure out what the makerspace will look like, the library has turned to the public, putting out a survey asking people what equipment and materials they want in the space. Options include an embroidery machine, jewelry-making equipment, paper cutters, a video camera and animation software.

Rhyins said the space will be roughly 400 square feet and would cost about $80,000 to $85,000 to set up, all of which would come from fundraising. She emphasized that no town budget funds would be used for the project.

In addition to the makerspace, the library hopes to add a new teen space and a coffee lounge. The project could start as soon as this summer.

“My ultimate goal is to bring new services into the community and to bring the library into the future,” Rhyins said.

The library is accepting donations for the makerspace project. Anyone interested in contributing can call the library at 203-452-2850 or visit the library at 733 Monroe Turnpike.