Makerspaces: A Tale of Two Libraries Systems


A new wing is being designed to house a maker space for the Washington City library, says Joel Turner, Washington County library director. That space will include audio-visual equipment to record podcasts and a green screen to film movies.

The county has been building creative spaces over the past four years through a partnership with the Utah State University Extension. “We built a big maker space in our main branch, and wanted to do something in all of the branches, but the main problem is space,” Turner says.

So the county went modular, equipping carts with 3-D printers and VR equipment in its four smallest branches. Each is customized: The Hurricane branch has an arts-and-crafts focus with a variety of sewing machines, while the Santa Clara branch specializes in scrapbooking equipment. In contrast, the St. George Library has more industrial machines, including a laser cutter. 

The county has hired a full-time maker space administrator, Joe Larson, who calls himself the 3-D Professor in his instructional YouTube videos.


The Salt Lake Public Library system opened a Creative Lab with several 3-D printers in 2015, and through the years has expanded to offer sewing machines and photo and recording equipment. The WhisperRoom Sound Booth is particularly popular. “Audio engineers and enthusiasts flocked to that,” says librarian Alan Ly.

Maker spaces were designed as part of the new Marmalade and Glendale branches, and will be added as part of the renovation of the Sprague branch. “The philosophy I take when adopting new technologies is if there’s a barrier of access [to users], we should provide access,” says Ly, a librarian who focuses on technology.

In addition, the theme of last summer’s reading program, A Universe of Stories, included events spotlighting virtual reality equipment, available in kits that library users throughout the city can reserve. “It seemed like every age group went to those types of programs — children, teens, adults, even seniors,” Ly says. “Seniors, I think they’re more curious than anybody.”

Ly praises the ingenuity of one patron, who at Christmas used the library’s new laser cutter to cut out a dollhouse of balsa wood, and then took home the pieces for assembly.