DFL Makerspace initiative takes flight

While libraries are traditionally known for their extensive print collections and resource materials, Duxbury Free Library is thinking out of the box and paving the way for children and adults alike to collaborate, innovate, and, most importantly, tinker.


The DFL has started working on an initiative called Makerspace, a program that focuses on the importance of creation and innovation through hands on experiences. The idea came from teen librarian Ellen Snoeyenbos, who attended a conference at the Artisans Asylum in Somerville. Snoeyenbos sat down with Dale Dougherty, Makerspace pioneer, and discussed having the initiative integrated into the traditional library setting.

“He said the library is the hub of the community and having programs like Makerspace in this setting could reach a large demographic,” she said. “He envisions America becoming a manufacturer, aplacefornewideastobe fostered again and the library is a good setting for that.”

Inspired by the Makerspace initiative, Snoeyenbos worked with the other staff members at the library to create a mission statement for the DFL’s program. Ultimately they decided the DFL would be “a place where people can collaborate, innovate and create using information, resources, tools and collections provided at the library.” They also encourage people to “play, tinker, explore or pursue personal or professional goals.”

Library director Carol Jankowski said the rest of the staff was inspired by Snoeyenbos’ energy around the program and committed to developing as many programs around the initiative as possible.

“We are a library that is known for the amount of programming we do, but we decided that we wanted to ratchet it up a bit,” Jankowski said. “We took on this idea that the library is not just a place to come to passively receive information but to actually come and dig in.”

Snoeyenbos started working with her middle school group to see how they could use the ideas behind the initiative to explore various creative avenues. Their first project was working with cardboard and figuring out the various uses for the material. With the help of Chris Connors, a technology and engineering teacher at Duxbury High School, the first cardboard creation project was a success and the group decided to create a cardboard carnival, which will be held on Aug. 17.

At the children’s level, Nancy Denman, head of children’s services, said with hands-on projects. it’s more about the experience and less about the end product. Denman,who used to be a preschool teacher, worked on a superhero project this summer, where she let the children take the lead.

“We talked about what characteristics make a superhero and what types of materials we could use to create clothespin superheroes,” she said. “I didn’t make one to show them; I just let them figure it out. At the end, there were so many varieties, it was a great program.”

With a heightened focus on STEM (science, technol- ogy, engineering and mathematics) at the public schools, the library staff said they view the Makerspace programs as additional learning opportunities for students.

“As much as we like STEM, we’d like to make it STEAM, and add in the arts,” said resource librarian David

Murphy. “By adding the arts to STEM, we can help students create and innovate using all parts of their brains.”

Murphy said another important aspect of Makerspace is the community involvement. The library held focus groups to discuss what programs would be successful at the library and which were met with little enthusiasm. In addition, the library now has access to Lynda.com, which boasts over 1,700 tutorials for programs such as Word, Excel and Photoshop.

“We actually implemented a couple of ideas from that focus group,” Murphy said. “There is so much room to expand these programs and to have the community become even more involved as we work more on Makerspace.”

Makerspace programs will continue throughout the year and will remain somewhat open-ended so as to leave room for inspiration for new programs, Jankowski said.

“We want it to be very dynamic and organic,” she said. “We are on a great path so far.”