The Allen County facility includes a CNC router, a computer-controlled power tool that cuts wood, plastic and some metals. The Maker Station also has a lathe, scroll and band saws, an electronics bench and an injection molding machine, which makes objects by heating up recycled plastic chips.
Like any hackerspace worth its salt, it has a 3-D printer, which can produce plastic objects based on a computer file. In recent years, there's been some chatter on the librarian blogs about the rise of 3-D printing. Meg Backus has a blog about "interventionist librarianship" and teaches a course at Syracuse University called "Innovations in Public Libraries."
"People in the library world have noticed that 3-D printers would be a fit for libraries or that libraries should be paying attention to this technology and how it develops, because this could be a really big deal," Backus says. "I'd be completely surprised if we don't all have 3-D printers in 20 years."
There's already a 3-D printer, donated by a local computer store, in the Fayetteville Free Library in upstate New York. Not only that, the library was recently awarded $10,000 for the creation of a hackerspace. Lauren Smedley, 29, is the librarian responsible for winning the grant and raising $3,500 in pledges for the hackerspace on the website IndieGoGo.
Smedley walks a visitor into an unoccupied wing of her library with 10-foot-high ceilings. She explains that this was once the home of the Stickley furniture factory.
"People used to make things in this very room, and we're going to offer this community the opportunity to once again make things here," she says. "And it's just a thrill. It's really exciting."
Smedley is calling the Fayetteville hackerspace the "Fabulous Laboratory." It will have about 8,000 square feet and be equipped with a number of sophisticated, computer-controlled power tools. This Fabulous Laboratory may not seem out of place in a library that has a cafe, video-gaming stations and iPads available for checkout, and regular author appearances via Skype.
"I really envision this space being a place for people to come and tinker and explore," she says. "We're really looking to have a peer-to-peer training that has proven effective in maker spaces, really, across the world, with some facilitation from the library staff. It's really whatever the community wants to use it for is how we'll support it."
The library is expecting a grant from the state of New York to renovate the wing for the hackerspace and a business incubation center.
Meg Backus teaches a course on "Innovation in Public Libraries" with colleague Thomas Gokey. They put together this video to explain more about 3-D printing and hackerspaces.