Grant to help with mobile makerspace


JASPER — County librarians will soon be able to bring the library to you.

The Jasper Public Library recently received a $120,000 Ready Communities Implementation grant from Regional Opportunity Initiatives to bring a mobile makerspace to the county.

A makerspace provides science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) activities to the public in places such as community centers and libraries. A mobile makerspace takes the activities out of a building and puts them in a vehicle that can travel to community events and locations around the county to offer people the opportunity to try out the technology. Jasper Public Library plans to trick out a van with several items such as snap circuits, Makedo toolkits and Makey Makey invention kits. The van will also have a 3D printer, laser printer and a TV screen that can show how-to videos.

“We’re not looking at this as your traditional bookmobile,” Library Director Christine Golden said. “And it’s not designed to be that way.”

The library applied for the grant through the Dubois County Quality of Place Initiative committee, which grew out of ROI’s Ready Communities Initiative. According to the ROI website, the Ready Communities Initiative “provides counties and communities the resources necessary to strategically plan for, develop, and implement projects and programs that build quality of place, grow regional capacity for workforce development and attraction, and improve the attributes and amenities that make the Indiana Uplands a desirable place to live, work and play.”

The committee looked at the strategic plans of several municipalities and organizations to see where the plans overlapped. The group approached the library, Golden said, because of the makerspace planned for the Thyen-Clark Cultural Center. The committee thought the makerspace seemed like a good candidate for a grant because it fits goals in several organizations’ strategic plans. The grant would give the library the opportunity to expand the makerspace, and Golden already had something in mind.

The Los Angeles County libraries in California run mobile makerspace vans that go to schools, community events and other gathering places to bring the library to the people, and Golden wanted to bring that idea to Dubois County. Such mobile units are common around the country, Golden said, but not in Southwestern Indiana.

“It was just a really creative way, we thought, to get out to our patrons,” Golden said.

Golden said the library has seen a demand for STEM programs through its on-site STEM camps and activities it hosts at local senior living facilities.

In addition to the STEM activities, Golden said, the library wants to partner with local businesses to show short videos on the makerspace’s TV screen about job opportunities in the area that use the technology and skills that go with the STEM activities.

Beyond tech, Golden said, the mobile makerspace will have the ability to serve as a bookmobile, too, with the added capability of signing up people for library cards. That function will come in handy for events like the bilingual story time the children’s librarians host at Maple Grove Village in Jasper during the warmer months.

The mobile makerspace will not only serve Jasper. The Dubois County Contractual Library, which is connected to the Jasper Public Library, covers the rest of the county — except for Huntingburg — so the makerspace will be used in those areas as well. Golden said she’s also talking to Huntingburg Public Library Director Lisa McWilliams about how the two libraries can collaborate to bring the mobile makerspace to Huntingburg as well.

“We want this to be a Dubois County initiative,” Golden said. “We want everyone in the county to be able to take advantage of the opportunity.”

Golden expects the mobile makerspace to be up and running by the opening of the Thyen-Clark Cultural Center next fall.

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