Public libraries aren’t exactly seen as bastions of the latest trends and technology. In Nashville, Tennessee, at least, the public library system is working on changing that with the opening of a new makerspace as part of its Studio NPL initiative. But before all you makers rush over to the Downtown Library, where the new center is installed, know this: Its two 3-D printers, CNC mill, soldering stations, dozen or so computers, set of Kaoss Pads, other pieces of equipment and the mentors who are on hand to help you use that equipment? It’s all free, but it’s for teens only.
The Studio NPL initiative started as a way to help prepare teens for educational, economic and life skills opportunities, outside of what a typical school curriculum might be able to offer. The teens who go there have made everything from chessboards and jewelry to VR headsets, armor plates and even pinball machines.
Between the advanced (and expensive) equipment, free access to development software, and friendly professionals happy to teach you, it is by far the easiest maker space to use, perfect for the teens who are just getting started in the world of making technology. Not only this, but it also allows for meeting people—people who are already in the maker community—giving the space a feeling of connectivity.
But there’s just one problem: The space is woefully underutilized. On any given day, there might be only a couple of teens there.
One could blame the utilization problem on its teens-only rule. But there’s probably more to it than that. With the decline in the popularity of libraries—the Pew Research Center estimates only 44% of Americans visit a public library at least once a year—people probably don’t think that the Nashville Public Library has such advanced and modern tools, and everything you’d need to use them. In other words, no one really knows that the makerspace is there.