Every Thursday, a small corner in the back of the teen room at the Lee Road Library is transformed into a workshop. Tables and supplies are brought out of storage, and teens crowd around to see what tools and or craft supplies may spark a creative idea. Needle and thread? Hammers, nails, and wood? Yarn, beads, or electric circuits?
Heights Libraries has joined the growing “maker movement” with its Maker Thursdays program for teens at the Lee Road branch. A March 17, 2014, Adweek article sums up the maker movement this way: “The maker movement… is the umbrella term for independent inventors, designers and tinkerers…. A convergence of computer hackers and traditional artisans, the niche is established enough to have its own magazine, Make, as well as hands-on Maker Faires that are catnip for DIYers who used to toil in solitude.”
Maker Thursdays is led by youth services associates Peggy Hull, a former Heights High English teacher, Cassandra Anselmi, a former teaching artist at The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, and Jessica Robinson, long-time youth services librarian at Heights Libraries. Hull, Anselmi, and Robinson are using their combined experience to create an experience for teens that will build strong critical thinking skills while providing a creative outlet.
“Our main focus is to foster creativity and nurture an environment in which experimenting and failing are positive learning experiences,” says Hull. “The program also teaches kids the importance of collaboration, and supports STEAM [science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics] programs in the local schools.”
During its first month, the Maker Thursdays program had over 100 teens participating. One of them, recent Heights High graduate Arnaz Simpson, has been to nearly every program. “You can create whatever you can think of,” Simpson says, while putting the finishing touches on a laptop bag he made with colorful fabric and a sewing machine, both donated to the library.
“Maker spaces in libraries is a newer concept nationwide that provides people, especially young adults, with exposure to tinkering, building, crafting, making, and doing,” says Anselmi. “We believe this program will benefit teens in our community by building stronger critical thinking skills and providing creative outlets to help them find their own voice.
As the maker program continues to grow, the need for donated supplies will continue to grow as well. Those supplies include tools and hardware (hammers, box cutters, rulers, screwdrivers, nails, glues, duct tape), craft supplies (yarn, fabric, notions, felt, leather, thread, needles, embroidery hoops, floss, beads, jewelry supplies, velcro, screen printing supplies, pencils, buttons, picture frames, magnets), miscellaneous mechanical parts and electronics (toys, typewriters, sewing machines, keys, clock parts, gears), and storage containers of all sizes.
Anyone interested in donating supplies is encouraged to drop off items in the collection box in the Lee Road Library lobby. To donate items too large for the collection box, call (216) 932-3600, ext. 1277.