Echoing trends by public libraries across the world to give people free and open access to new technologies, Multnomah County Library opened the 1,000 square foot collaborative space in 2016 with the support of The Library Foundation and the Mount Hood Cable Regulatory Commission. The Rockwood makerspace is the only space in Multnomah County that provides youth with free and open access to these cutting-edge technologies.
On any given day, teens are huddled together on Macbooks, coding new video games or designing items in CAD software to produce on the space’s 3D printer; building robots; sewing costumes; or just hanging out and being teens. The space is comfortable and inclusive, offering numerous open labs throughout the week for teens to drop in and use the space however they choose. The makerspace has been so popular with the community that it recently opened limited times for adults to use it, including offering some bilingual adult programs.
In addition to needing dedicated, and specially trained, staff and volunteers, the makerspace requires thoughtfully designed infrastructure to operate successfully, including open and powered spaces and separate ventilation for heat-producing equipment such as laser cutting machines. Due to space constraints across the library system, the library is only able to offer one makerspace for the more than 800,000 people it serves.
The Rockwood makerspace has become a community, providing young people opportunities to explore science, technology, engineering, arts and math, while having fun. While the access to new technologies and creative space helps teens develop skills that may contribute to their future career path, it most importantly offers them the freedom to try new ideas, to fail without judgment or consequence, to build their confidence, and to be who they are.
“It has changed my life, actually. It’s taught me to not be scared, to just try new things,” said Mariah, a Rockwood makerspace participant.
Currently, the Rockwood makerspace is the only space of its kind at a Multnomah County Library location. Multnomah County Library is working hard on a plan to bring these kinds of creative and modern spaces to other libraries and communities. Learn more at multcolib.org/planning.