Most big cities these days have maker spaces—places that offer tools—soldering irons, 3-D printers, sewing machines—to build all sorts of things. Think of it as the backlash to a culture that places the digital world above all else. Joining these maker spaces, however, can be too expensive (a one month membership at San Francisco’s Tech Shop costs $175).
The Chicago Public Library is making the high-tech tools normally found in a maker space available to use for free, as part of a pop-up fabrication lab—created in partnership with the Museum of Science and Industry—that’s launching July 8 at the Harold Washington library branch. Crain’s Chicago Business says that the lab will offer a vinyl cutter, laser cutters, a milling machine, 3-D printers, and an array of design software (Trimble Sketchup, Inkscape, Meshlab, etc.).
The lab will feature open hours, where librarygoers can work with staff members on their own creations. But for people who need a bit more guidance, the lab will also hold programs and workshops—including special workshops for families on Sunday afternoons.
As the lab’s press release notes, this is not the only maker space in Chicago, though it is the only free one. The Chicago Public Library is also reportedly the first "large urban library to experiment with a maker space."
But it isn’t the only maker-oriented library out there. The local library in Westport, Connecticut (decidedly not a large urban library) opened a free maker space last year. The space holds all sorts of events: zombie T-shirt silkscreening, Nintendo console rehab workshops, and DIY computer building classes, among other things. The Fayetteville Free Library in Fayetteville New York also has its own "Fab Lab."
Chicago’s space will be open for six months. After that, the library may bring the lab to other branches around the city.