Maker Space at Harold Washington Library Center in Chicago

The space hosts a Maker Lab where visitors can learn how to use various new technology like 3-D printers and laser cutters. There are Maker Spaces in the city already, but this is the first free open to the public. Chicago Public Library Commissioner Brian Bannon and the Inventables CEO Zak Kaplan are telling us all about it.

Chicago Public Library's new Maker Lab opens at the Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State Street on Monday, July 8 and runs through December 31, 2013.



The Chicago Public Library is opening the CPL Innovation Lab at the Harold Washington Library Center. Already used by a variety of industries from retail to banking to universities, innovation labs offer organizations a place to test new ideas for services, programs and products. The third floor space at the Chicago Public Library will allow CPL to quickly experiment with new ideas and approaches in order to be more customer focused and able to adapt to the community's changing needs.

The first innovation experiment in the space is the Maker Lab, part of the growing movement of hands-on, collaborative learning environments in which people come together to share knowledge and resources to design, create and build items. CPL is the first large urban library to experiment with a maker space. Made possible with a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to the Chicago Public Library Foundation, the Maker Lab will be open to the public from July 8 through December 31, 2013. While a number of maker spaces exist in Chicago, this will be the first free maker space open to the public.

Created in partnership with the Museum of Science and Industry, the Library's Maker Lab offers the public an introduction to technology and equipment which are enabling new forms of personal manufacturing and business opportunities. After the six month run, the Library will evaluate the project to determine the fit with the Library's mission and the ability to bring the project, or elements of it, to a wider audience in the neighborhood branches.

The Lab will offer access to a variety of software such as Trimble Sketchup, Inkscape, Meshlab, Makercam and equipment including three 3D Printers, two laser cutters, as well as a milling machine and vinyl cutter.

In addition to Open Lab hours during which patrons can work with staff members to master new software and create personal projects, a variety of programs and workshops will be offered throughout the seven day schedule of the Maker Lab. Family workshops will be offered every Sunday afternoon to foster invention, creation and exploration of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math), the focus of this year's Summer Learning Challenge.

"We are thrilled to be able to offer Chicagoans the opportunity to learn firsthand new technologies and skills used in today's manufacturing at the library," said Commissioner Brian Bannon. "The Maker Lab is the first of several ideas we plan to test over the next few years in the Innovation Lab, as we focus on expanding access to 21st century ideas and information to our communities."

In developing the space and the programs, the Chicago Public Library created an advisory board comprised of City Colleges of Chicago, Northwestern University Department of Mechanical Engineering, Columbia College Chicago, Westport Public Library, Arts Alliance Illinois, San Francisco Children's Creativity Museum, New York Public Library, Ann Arbor District Library, Pumping Station: One and FreeGeek Chicago. All these organizations lent advice to the process as well as programming elements. The Chicago Public Library continues to encourage lifelong learning by welcoming all people and offering equal access to information, entertainment and knowledge through materials, programs and cutting-edge technology. Through its 79 locations, the Library provides free access to a rich collection of materials, both physical and digital, and presents the highest quality author discussions, exhibits and programs for children, teens and adults. For more information, visit


Brian Bannon: Brian Bannon is the Commissioner for the Chicago Public Library and in this capacity responsible for leading Chicago's 79 libraries that serve the 2.6 million residents of Chicago. Prior to this role, Brian held a variety of Leadership positions within the San Francisco Public Library, Seattle Public Library and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In 2009, Brian was honored as a Library Journal Mover & Shaker and was a Public Library Association Fellow at the Wharton Business School. Brian is very active in work related to information access, public technology, and the digital divide. He earned his BA from Pacific Lutheran University and a MLIS from the University of Washington iSchool.

Zach Kaplan: Zach Kaplan is the founder and CEO of InventablesTM, the hardware store for designers. Inventables sells machines and over 10,000 materials and supplies for designers to make products ranging from jewelry and signs to furniture. Kaplan was invited to speak on the main stage at TED. In 2006 he was honored by Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry as a Modern Leonardo da Vinci.

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