Library in Washington to add makerspace in basement

Cary Ann Siegfried, director of the Washington Public Library

WASHINGTON — Representatives from the Washington Public Library told Washington City Council last week that they plan to add a creative space in the basement of the building.

The design phase of the renovation comes with a cost of $69,500, which the institution plans to match with monies from the library gift fund, according to a memo shared with council members. This fund differs from the Public Library Foundation, which library director Cary Ann Siegfried said would likely be used later for construction costs.

Siegfried said there was strong demand for the project from community members. In a survey last fall, around 80% of those surveyed said that setting up a makerspace was one of the top three wishes for the library.

“The question was, ‘If we could change the library in any way and add some kind of future services or extensions… what would be your first choice?'” she said. “It listed about a dozen things that could be offered, and a makerspace was the top answer.”

Details for the creative area are yet to be finalized, but Siegfried said it could facilitate a variety of crafts, from 3D printers to sewing machines to laser cutters, saws and welders.

“It really can be anything the community wants,” she said. “That’s part of the beauty of a makerspace, you can go into the community and talk to people about what they want.”

The process of figuring out what that specific gear will be comes later. Siegfried said the library will seek more community input on what specific items to include.

“We’ve had a few different meetings with a few people who have expressed interest,” she said. “We’ll probably put together some kind of Makerspace steering committee or advocacy group over the next few months to talk a little bit more about this.”

Meanwhile, the library’s designers are keeping the space’s options open.

“We want a fairly large, flexible space so that we can incorporate as many ideas — technology, equipment, etc. — as people want,” Siegfried said. “The first step in this process is to get the room done and ready.”

The space would occupy approximately 3,000 square feet of the east wing of the library’s basement, an unfinished space currently used as supply storage and separated by drywall, behind an emergency exit door. The renovations are not expected to affect the nearby genealogy room.

The library tentatively hopes to open its planned makerspace to the public in 12 to 18 months, according to Siegfried, who said she’s already excited.

“[Libraries]are not just a place where the user comes in and consumes content,” she said. “Libraries are also becoming such places where users create content. And I think that makes the library a really active and exciting place.”

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